Linux runs great on netbooks, but unfortunately most of them come without an optical drive of any kind which can make it a challenge to install an operating system on them. Unless you have an external DVD-ROM or CD-ROM drive to connect to them, the ideal solution would be to boot from a USB stick.

Since most modern computers, if not all of them, permit booting from a USB device, this makes for a simple solution. Not only that, USB devices can be used multiple times, unlike the DVD you burn an ISO to and use a handful of times.

Fedora makes it very easy to create a bootable USB stick with the Live USB Creator tool. You can use an existing Fedora installation, and probably any other Linux distribution, to run the tool. There is even a Windows application to allow for creating a Fedora-based bootable USB stick as well.

To begin, install the liveusb-creator package on Fedora:

# yum install liveusb-creator

or download the Windows installer from the project page. When it is installed, execute the liveusb-creator tool (it must be started as root, in Linux):

# liveusb-creator

Here you can use an existing downloaded LiveCD, or the tool can download a Fedora image for you to burn. You can choose which version of Fedora to install (10, 11, or 12) and also for which desktop: KDE or GNOME. You can also download the Sugar on a Stick operating system, which is an educational Sugar environment meant for children to be able to boot any computer into their own personalized Sugar environment.

You can also tell the tool how much persistent storage to reserve on the USB stick. This space can be used to save files and make modifications to the LiveCD image, allowing you to boot and run Fedora with any changes you make.

Insert the USB stick to use (should be at least 4GB in size), and when you have chosen which version of Fedora or Sugar on a Stick to install, or have supplied your own LiveCD image, click the Create Live USB button. Make sure that the target device shows up properly; if it isn’t already selected, make sure you select the correct device (i.e., /dev/sdg1 on Linux or ‘E:’ in Windows). Note that the install is completely non-destructive, so the device can contain other data as well.

Depending on what you have chosen to do, the installation can take some time, especially if you need to download the LiveCD image first. A progress bar on the screen will indicate how far along it is, and the text pane indicates exactly what it is doing at any given point in time.

When the Live USB Creator is completed, you can eject the USB stick, insert it into your other computer (or reboot the existing computer) and indicate in the BIOS or via boot selection at startup which device to boot from. Select the USB stick and watch Fedora boot, at which point you can either select to use Fedora as installed on the USB stick, or use it to install Fedora onto the computer.

Get the PDF version of this tip here.