Non-toaster work computer


New Member
Hi everyone

I'll get straight to the point:
For a couple of reasons, I have to work from a company provided laptop. It usually isn`t a problem. However, I will soon have to travel quite a bit for work, meaning the laptop goes with me. I really wanted to avoid bringing 2 computers, as my personal laptop is closer to a George Foreman grill (in terms of size) and weights quite a bit. That said, I am quite a bit limited with what I can do with my company's computer, meaning I almost got no choice but to bring both. UNLESS...
I`ve been searching the topic and stumbled on live persistent USB Linux versions that can boot from a flash drive. I tried it out with Mint, but it runs incredibly slow, to the point where it's less frustrating to not use it at all. The computer itself isn't awful, but I guess it has more to do with running from a USB stick than anything else. Here's where it starts to get tricky: I've been searching for a distribution that:
1- Is persistent and lightweight enough to run from a USB stick (Maybe load into RAM?) while not being as sluggish as my first few attempts.
2- Can handle some kind of non basic text editor/IDE AND compile and run codes; as I am learning to program, wanted to keep learning while on the go
3- (And this might be asking a little too much from it) IF POSSIBLE - can run some light games for when I go to middle of nowhere with no internet (plenty of those in my itinerary...)

The specs on the computer are:
8gb of ram
Some kind of 4th or 5th gen Intel i5 processor
Some kind of integrated nvidia gpu (my guess is it can`t be older than a GeForce 800M)
Not sure what motherboard it uses
Might be relevant, might not be - It uses a Brazilian ABNT2 keyboard

Sorry about the very imprecise specs, but I can't exactly poke around this stuff to find out more. I was actually very surprised it allowed me to boot Mint from a USB...


Well-Known Member
I was actually very surprised it allowed me to boot Mint from a USB...
Me too. I would guess a lot of IT departments would lock up the BIOS/UEFI settings to prevent that.

I'd guess an important thing to be successful is to be sure to get USB 3.0 flash drive and be sure to use USB 3.0 port on the laptop. The laptop specs look great, so I'm surprised by the sluggishness. Further, the brand of USB drive can make a big difference, so you might want to experiment with 2 or 3 good quality drives.

Linux Mint XFCE would probably be the best choice of the Mint family, but there are certainly more lightweight distros that would run even better. Again, I think you should experiment with some to see what you like and which will fulfill your other needs best. Linux Lite, Zorin Lite, Lubuntu, MX-Linux, and antX are just a few that I think would be lighter than Mint. Peppermint OS and Zorin OS are both due for a new release soon, with any luck, so you might want to watch if you want the latest versions of those.

The kernel option TORAM would probably load any of these into RAM at boot, but I'm thinking it would hurt more than help (others may correct me on this). I think you would want the most RAM possible available for compiling code and/or running games... and not being needlessly trapped by the OS. I don't code or game, so I can't really give any tips on these.

A common limitation on a USB is that it will only store up to 4 GB of persistence (the OS is stored separately) when you create the USB, so you would want a 8GB or larger flash drive. If you think 4GB is not enough for games and programming tools, there are ways to make it larger but it will take extra effort. I would stick with the 4GB limit to be easier unless you're really sure you need more. I don't think huge USB's are worth the cost... 32GB or 64GB is a nice size to compromise with and very cheap if you shop around.

Another option is that you could use an external USB SSD instead of a flash drive. It would be more clunky to use, but you could actually do a "full install" on it and have a much larger capacity.


Active Member
You might give MX Linux live USB a try. I am liking it on 1 Laptop and one Former desktop made into a franken-semi-portable box (Need a TV with HDMI)

You could also do this:


Super Moderator
Staff member
Gold Supporter
With an i5 and 8 GB of RAM, you *should* be getting an acceptable level of performance in a live environment, though we may differ greatly on the meaning of acceptable.

First, it will load the OS and any startup applications. At that point, everything is resident in RAM. After that, opening applications will take a bit - but once open they should be pretty performant. In fact, some applications may technically run faster as they're entirely in RAM and don't page the disk for anything.

You'll need to pay a bit of attention to what's open, because once you run low on RAM it'll get dog slow if it needs to page things in and out of RAM. This is one of those instances where you want to not use all your RAM, but to leave a bit available in reserve.

You should be able to have a browser session open with some tabs and maybe stream a single source of video or play music files. Applications will open slowly, but once open should be 'not too terrible'.

Also, you can install Linux on an external disk (not a live instance, a full installation) and run it that way. USB3 is pretty quick.


Well-Known Member
I have used persistent USB installations when traveling in the past, back then USB2 was my only choice, yes it is slower than a HD/SSD installation, now you can improve that by using USB3 [up to 5 times faster] if your works lappy is compatible,
for a full OS i would choose MX-linux, for an older machine I would consider Antix [although i have had occasional peoblems with it] but for basic home style computing Puppy would be my choice, all the installed applications are chosen to be as small as possible to run faster

EDIT.. with puppy If your not going to store a lot of data can be run from a 1Gb usb which would also effect overall speed

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