How to Install Puppy Linux Tahr on a USB Drive

Create a portable Puppy Linux installation

Puppy Linux is a lightweight Linux distribution designed to run from removable devices such as DVDs and USB drives. There are a number of Puppy Linux variants, including Puppy Slacko, which is based on the Slackware Linux distribution, and Puppy Tahr which is based on Ubuntu. Other versions of Puppy Linux include Simplicity and MacPUP.

UNetbootin is the recommended method for creating your Puppy Linux USB drive, but there are other methods. Puppy Linux works great on older laptops, netbooks, and computers without hard drives. It isn't designed to be installed on a hard drive, but you can run it that way if you want to.

This guide covers a severely outdated version of Puppy. You can find the latest release of Bionic on the main site. The instructions here may vary slightly, but should be similar to the latest version.

Download Puppy Linux Tahr

This guide shows you how to install Puppy Linux Tahr to a USB drive.

  1. First, download Puppy Tahr.

  2. If you choose to, you can use UNetbootin to write the Puppy Tahr ISO to one of your USB drives.

    Note that Puppy doesn't play well on UEFI-based machines. 

  3. Boot into Puppy Linux using either the DVD or USB that you have created.

  4. Select the install icon on the top row of icons.

  5. On the install screen, select the Universal Installer.

    On the install screen, select the Universal Installer.
  6. The Puppy Linux Universal Installer gives you options for installing Linux to a flash drive, a hard drive, or a DVD. Make sure that the USB drive that you want to install Puppy Linux to is plugged in, and select USB flash drive.

    Make sure that the USB drive that you want to install Puppy Linux to is plugged in, and select USB flash drive.
  7. Press the USB device icon, and choose the USB drive that you wish to install to.

    Press the USB device icon, and choose the USB drive that you wish to install to.
  8. The next screen shows you how the USB drive will be partitioned. Generally speaking, unless you wish to split the USB drive into partitions, it is safe to leave the default options selected. Select the little icon in the top right corner next to the words ​Install puppy to sdx.

    Select the little icon in the top right corner next to the words ​Install puppy to sdx.
  9. A window will appear confirming the drive that you intend to write Puppy to and the size of the partition. Press OK to continue.

  10. If you have followed this guide from the beginning, the files required for booting Puppy will be on the CD. Press CD.

    The files required for booting Puppy will be on the CD. Press CD.

    The files will also be available from the original ISO, and you can always extract the ISO to a folder and navigate to that folder by selecting Directory.

  11. If you chose CD, you will be asked to make sure the CD/DVD is in the drive. Press OK to continue. If you went the Directory route, you will need to navigate to the folder from where you extracted the ISO.

  12. By default, you'll want to install the bootloader to the master boot record on the USB drive. The other options listed are provided as backup solutions for when the USB drive won't boot. Leave the Default option selected, and press OK.

    Leave the Default option selected, and press OK.
  13. The next screen asks you to "JUST KEEP GOING." It seems a bit pointless, but if you have been through the process before, and it didn't work, it gives you a couple of extra options to try. Leave the Default option selected, and press OK.

  14. A terminal window will open with one final message telling you exactly what is about to happen to your USB drive. To continue, press Enter on the keyboard.

    To continue, press Enter on the keyboard.
  15. The final sanity check isn't the final check, however, as the next screen tells you that all the files on the drive are going to be wiped. In order to continue, you have to type Yes.

  16. There is one final screen after this that asks whether you want Puppy to load into memory when it boots up. If your computer has over 256 megabytes of RAM, it is recommended that you answer Yes. Otherwise, enter No.

  17. Pressing Enter will install Puppy Linux Tahr to the USB drive.

  18. Reboot your computer and remove the original DVD or USB drive and leave the newly created Puppy Linux USB drive inserted.

  19. Puppy Linux should now boot up.

    Desktop Puppy Linux Tahr
  20. The first thing you will want to do is reboot again, as this will ask where you want to save the SFS file.

    An SFS file is a large save file that is used to store any changes you make while using Puppy Linux. It is Puppy's way of adding persistence.