Creating Live CDs

Using Ubuntu

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If you are using Ubuntu as a live CD, there are a couple of things to be aware of:

  1. DO NOT CLICK THE INSTALL BUTTON ON THE DESKTOP unless you want to erase the hard drive and install Ubuntu. If you do click that button, it will warn you first. It will also give you the option to shrink the Windows partition (section) of the hard drive and install Ubuntu next to it. But if you want to make a dual-boot system, only do it to your own personal computer, and be sure you follow dual-boot instructions carefully, backing up the files first and defragmenting the hard drive.

Ubuntu Linux CDs for Sale on


You can now order Ubuntu CDs on

Even better, you can order your Linux live CDs from a place like If you don't have high-speed Internet, or don't want to take the time to make a Linux live CD, you can order a cheap copy of Linux from them.

You can also order Ubuntu CDs for free at, but they can sometimes take a few weeks to arrive. You can probably get express shipping with the Amazon CDs.

More information can be found on the web site. I believe that this is the same version that you get if you download it. If it is the same as the downloadable version, it will run as a live CD as well as an install CD.

Screenshots of the Ubuntu Live CD (6.06)


Free Programs for Windows on the Ubuntu Live CD

Before you reboot your computer with Ubuntu, put the Ubuntu live CD in your drive while running Windows. If your computer is set to autorun CDs a browser will open and give you the option to install free software on your Windows hard drive. The screenshot below shows what it looks like:

Free programs for Windows on the Ubuntu live CD

Booting the Ubuntu Live CD

To boot your Ubuntu live CD, put the CD in the drive and turn the computer on. Most computers will automatically boot from the CD drive if there is a CD inserted. If the computer doesn't boot from the CD automatically and you see Windows booting then you will have to change the BIOS settings so that it boots from the CD drive before the hard drive.

Burn the Downloaded Ubuntu File to a Blank CD


After you have checked the integrity of your downloaded file with md5gui or md5sum, you are ready to burn your Ubuntu file to a blank CD-R.

I mentioned earlier that the Ubuntu file is an ".iso" file. An ISO file is a disk image and you have to burn it to a CD in a certain way for it to work. You need to have a program that can burn disk images to a CD. Windows does not come with a program to do this. If you don't already have a program like Nero or Sonic RecordNow!, you can download a free program called CDBurnerXP Pro.

Check the Ubuntu Live CD File for Errors


After your file is downloaded you should check it to make sure that there were no errors created during the download process. This following section is written for Windows. If you have a Mac, skip the part about downloading the MD5 GUI program. You can use the terminal to get the md5sum. Basically you want to open a terminal on Mac OS X, navigate to the directory where the downloaded Ubuntu file is, and type:
md5sum [Ubuntu filename]. Then just match the number given with the md5sum from the download site as shown below. If you have difficulty with it, you can ask questions here.

Download the Ubuntu Live CD


Like mentioned elsewhere, you can order free Ubuntu CDs by mail at It takes several weeks for the CDs to arrive, so if you have access to a high-speed Internet connection you can download the Ubuntu live CD.

First go to You are going to download the desktop edition of Ubuntu. I've highlighted that section of the page and pointed to the link with a blue arrow in the image below. The Ubuntu page layout may change in the future and be different than what you see below, but it gives a general idea of what to look for:

Ubuntu Live CD Guide

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This section of shows you how to create and use an Ubuntu Linux live CD. This tutorial is written for Windows, although the basic process is similar for Mac and you will probably be able to follow along. All screenshots are from the latest Ubuntu 6.06 release.

UPDATE: You can now order Ubuntu CDs from Check this news post for more information. If you don't have the bandwidth or time to download an Ubuntu CD you can pre-order one from Amazon. Currently the Ubuntu CDs are $9.99 (USD).

Ubuntu Linux is generally used as a regular desktop operating system, but the live CD so good that I'll use it as an example of how to make a live CD.

With the Ubuntu live CD you can surf the web securely with Firefox, edit office documents (including Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint files) with OpenOffice, edit digital photos with the GIMP, make Internet phone calls with Ekiga (compatible with SIP, H.323, Microsoft NetMeeting, etc.), and much more. Unlike with Windows, viruses are not a serious problem with Linux, and since the operating system runs from a CD-R, you will have a fresh operating system on every boot.

Ubuntu Linux is free. The download is almost 700MB so you should have a high-speed Internet connection, or you should go to an Internet cafe that has a high-speed connection. If you don't have access to a high-speed Internet connection, you can order Ubuntu CDs online here and get them shipped to you by postal mail for free.

Ubuntu Linux live CD running GIMP

When To Use Linux Live CDs


Linux live CDs are the best solution to secure online transactions on public computers, but there are a few limitations on when they can be used.

The best conditions for using Linux live CDs are these:

The Internet cafe doesn't use billing software
If the Internet cafe uses billing software you will not be able to boot your live CD, unless they give you permission (which is unlikely). If they keep track of your Internet usage time on paper, then this requirement is met.
There is an "Always On" Internet connection
Using a live CD is much easier if you are on a computer with a high-speed "Always On" Internet connection.

If those two conditions are met, you can probably boot up your Linux live CD successfully.

Step 4: Boot the computer from the CD using Knoppix as an example


  • Since your computer's operating system will be running from the CD, any files that you save while using the live CD will be erased when you turn off the computer, unless you save to an external device, like a USB thumb drive or another CD.
  • These live CDs will not let you write to the computer's hard drive unless you specifically give the computer instructions to do so. I'm not going to explain how to do that here just yet. The warning I want to give is that if you do figure out how to write to the hard drive do not write to a Windows NTFS formatted hard drive. Linux can write to Windows FAT32 partitions with no risk, but cannot safely write to NTFS parititions. If you don't know what any of that means, you don't need to worry about it — the computer will prevent you from writing to the hard drive unless you give it specific instructions to do so.

As soon as your CD is ready you can start using it. Put the CD in the drive and reboot your computer. Most new computers will automatically boot from the CD. Depending on your distro, you should see a screen something like this example from Knoppix:

[Knoppix boot screenshot coming soon]

If you reboot your computer and end back up in Windows then it didn't work and you need to go into the BIOS and change the order of booting, so that the computer boots from the CD drive before the hard drive.

[instructions for changing boot order in the bios coming soon]

Unlike Windows or Mac, Linux has many different kinds of desktop environments — programs that manage the look and functioning of the basic desktop, windows, and menus. Knoppix by default uses a desktop environment called KDE which requires a lot of computer resources. If you are trying to run Knoppix on an older computer that doesn't have much memory, it may have trouble running KDE.

Changing the Knoppix desktop manager to run on an older computer

(NOTE: You don't have to worry about this with Damn Small Linux or Puppy Linux since they already run lighter-weight desktop environments.)

To get Knoppix running on an old computer, or if you just want it to run faster, type the following at the boot prompt when Knoppix pauses just after booting: knoppix desktop=fluxbox.

Fluxbox is a very bare-bones window manager. But the purpose of using Linux while traveling is not to be fancy. You want to get online and surf the Internet securely and without any spyware. Fluxbox will get the job done. This is a screenshot of Knoppix running Fluxbox:

Knoppix running Fluxbox image

To find the menu on Fluxbox, just right-click on the desktop. If Fluxbox is to bare for you, there is also a desktop manager called ICEwm built into Knoppix. ICEwm will look more familiar to you, but still be able to run on older PCs. To use ICEwm, type knoppix desktop=icewm at the boot prompt instead. Here is a screenshot of Knoppix running ICEwm.

Knoppix running ICEwm

Step 3: Burn Linux to a CD

A disk image in .ISO format cannot just be burned to disk like any other data file. It has to be burned as a disk image. Windows cannot do this by itself so you need a special program. There are many programs that will do this but I'm only going to give one example here because it's a free program and it works well.

If you don't already have a program like Nero that will burn a disk image to CD, download a free program for Windows called CDBurnerXP Pro.

Start CDBurnerXP Pro and click on top option that is presented, which should say something like "...burn an ISO image...".

Then on the menu, choose File –> Write Disc from ISO File, and follow the directions presented.

It is best not to use the computer for other tasks while the disk image is burning to CD. It can require a lot of the computer's memory to burn the disk image to CD.

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