Install Puppy Linux Tahr on a USB Drive

Create a portable Puppy Linux installation

Tux the penguin is the official Linux mascot

John Coulter / Getty Images

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.

This guide covers a severely outdated version of Puppy.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.

UNetbootin is the recommended method for creating your Puppy Linux USB drive, but there are other methods. If you prefer something else, use whatever you're most comfortable with.

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 shows you the correct way to install Puppy Linux Tahr to a USB drive.

Download Puppy Linux Tahr

Screenshot of desktop Puppy Linux Tahr
  1. 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. 

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

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

  4. When the above screen appears, select the Universal Installer.

    Puppy Linux Installer
  5. The Puppy Linux Universal Installer gives you options for installing Linux to a flash drive, a hard drive, or a DVD.

    Puppy Tahr Universal Installer

    Make sure that the USB drive that you want to install Puppy Linux to is plugged in, and select USB flash drive.

  6. Press the USB device icon, and choose the USB drive that you wish to install to.

    Puppy Linux Universal Installer
  7. 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.

    Puppy Linux Universal Installer

    Select the little icon in the top right corner next to the words ​Install puppy to sdx.

  8. A window will appear confirming the drive that you intend to write Puppy to and the size of the partition.

    Press OK to continue.

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

    Where Is Puppy Linux

    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.

  10. 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 where you extracted the ISO to.

  11. By default, you will want to install the bootloader to the master boot record on the USB drive.

    Install The Puppy Tahr Bootloader

    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.

  12. 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.

    The recommendation is to just leave the "Default" option selected, and press OK.

  13. A terminal window will open with one final message telling you exactly what is about to happen to your USB drive.

    Puppy Linux Tahr Installer

    If you are happy to continue, press Enter on the keyboard.

  14. 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.

  15. There is one final screen after this which 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.

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

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

  18. Puppy Linux should now boot up.

  19. 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 whilst using Puppy Linux. It is Puppy's way of adding persistence.