A few years ago I used to keep spindles of blank CDs and DVDs next to my computer because I was frequently burning discs, but over the last year or two that has drastically changed. Now I have my discs tucked away since I barely burn one or two discs per year. Since I love playing around with different Linux distributions I went looking for a way to test them all out without needing to use CDs or DVDs.

One tool that has helped me alleviate my reliance on burning discs is UNetbootin. It’s a free utility that supports dozens of different Linux operating systems and makes them runnable off of your USB drive. What’s even better is that it can actually download the ISO file that it needs to deploy to your USB drive for most of the popular Linux variations. Here’s a list of the distributions where automatic downloading is supported, and in the list you’ll notice that there are also some utilities such as Ophcrack thrown into the mix:

  • Arch Linux
  • BackTrack – a utility used for network analysis and penetration testing.
  • CentOS
  • CloneZilla
  • Damn Small Linux
  • Debian
  • Dreamlinux
  • Dr. Web Antivirus – remove malware from Windows installs.
  • Elive
  • Fedora
  • FreeBSD
  • FreeDOS – which can run BIOS flash and other legacy DOS utilities.
  • FreeNAS
  • Frugalware
  • F-Secure Rescue CD – remove malware from Windows installs.
  • Gentoo
  • gNewSense
  • Gujin – a graphical bootloader that can also be used to boot various operating systems and media.
  • Kaspersky Rescue Disk – remove malware from Windows installs.
  • Kubuntu
  • LinuxConsole
  • Linux Mint
  • Mandriva
  • NetBSD
  • NimbleX
  • NTPasswd – a utility which can reset Windows passwords and edit the registry.
  • openSUSE
  • Ophcrack – a utility which can recover Windows passwords.
  • Parted Magic – a partition manager that can resize, repair, backup, and restore partitions.
  • PCLinuxOS
  • Puppy Linux
  • Sabayon Linux
  • Slax
  • SliTaz
  • Smart Boot Manager – which can boot off CD-ROM and floppy drives on computers with a faulty BIOS.
  • Super Grub Disk – a boot utility that can restore and repair overwritten and misconfigured GRUB installs or directly boot various operating systems
  • Super OS
  • SystemRescueCD – a system repair, backup and recovery tool.
  • Ubuntu
  • xPUD
  • Xubuntu
  • Zenwalk

Thanks to UNetbootin you should be able to boot any of the above Linux distros from your USB drive as long as your BIOS supports being able to use the USB drive as a boot drive. The homepage also says that it should work with just about any any Linux ISO that you have saved on your computer regardless of whether it is in the list above.

UNetbootin Homepage (Windows/Linux; Freeware)