Customizing a Linux Live Distribution


Here's how to take a Linux live distribution that runs off a USB keydrive, add/remove applications, customize other settings such as the background desktop picture, and save the changes into a new ISO file.


  1. Two options at boot time: Just report hardware (monitor + video card, Ethernet/wifi: lshw or dmidecode) or launch full distro
  2. Mature distro, with active development + following
  3. UI must look good and be available in French, from boot prompt all the way to the GUI
  4. To maximize chances of success running on laptops, distro must come with a lot of device drivers
  5. Must provide way to customize live ISO to add/remove applications
  6. In case has trouble booting due to video/network driver, must report infos

The only distro officially available in French is Mageia. Others can be available as unofficial distros built by users but not officially endorsed by the distro team.

Problematic devices

Video: Intel, AMD/ATI, nVidia, Radeon. Try VESA instead (doesn't require video driver?)

SATA hard drive: data storage drivers much more important for data recovery solution than video drivers


Wifi: Realtek USB wireless adapter: WIFI not needed to recover data -> hook up USB key or external hard drive



Add menu to run lshw/dmidecode. How to e-mail infos?

Read up on VESA

Choose distro that satisfies requirements, and experiment with customization

Ask ?s on Slax


DONE Mainstream live distro with French UI?

DONE Linux live CD persistence - How to

Recommended tool to remaster live distro?

[remastering] Which application?

Bonne distro recovery en français?

Distro légère en français?

Good Linux live distro for USB?

Slax 7.0.5

More information here.


Saving customized live instance to ISO?



Customize ISO (a bit) for use as live USB?


ToutouLinux 4.3.1

French version of PuppyLinux

UI so-so

How to set options on USB: boot options (FR, ACPI on/off, Xvesa/Xorg, monitor definition, etc.)?

How to customize UI: double-click on icons instead of single-click, apps installed in menu, UI colors, etc.?

How to mount NTFS hard disk partitions automatically at boot time?

Damn Small Linux

Available in FR?

UI not as nice as Slack


Like Slax, based on Slackware. Last updated 2010.


Last updated Apr 2012


Fedora Revisor

Ubuntu Customization Kit

To customise the Ubuntu Desktop LiveCd. To create a LiveCD from an existing installation, check Remastersys.

Ubuntu Builder


Remastersys is one of the tools available to customize an installed Linux system, and save it into an ISO file that you use to install that release on other PC's. For Debian/Ubuntu


As Remastersys is a GUI application (Python + Glade) you will have to run it in an X session.

  1. wget -O - | apt-key add -
  2. vi /etc/apt/sources.list

    #Remastersys Oneiric
    deb oneiric main
  3. apt-get update
  4. apt-get install remastersys
  5. vi /etc/remastersys.conf
  6. remastersys dist



Before running Remastersys, you might want to remove stuff you don't need.

Find space used in each directory

du -sh /*

Cleaning application cache

To make sure there are not .deb package files left in the cache in /var/cache/apt/archives, since you can (re)install applications by fetching them from a depot on the Net:

apt-get clean

Removing unneeded packages
  1. apt-get install debian-goodies
  2. dpigs (-n 20 to display the twenty biggest packages)

Note that uninstalling in application through apt-get won't remove the icons in the Unity bar.



"backs up your GNU/Linux server or workstation to tape, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R[W], DVD+R[W], NFS or hard disk partition. In the event of catastrophic data loss, you will be able to restore all of your data [or as much as you want], from bare metal if necessary."


"originally used primarily for the Debian distribution, but has since become available prominently on all distributions"


For Ubuntu


"Unlike Remastersys, does not use your running system to build the image. Instead, you follow a “wizard” and choose your configuration options as you go"

For Debian/Ubuntu

GUI frontend to the live-helper tool



Relinux – A way to create a bootable ISO out of your system


How to add one's own applications?

How to add/remove modules?

What are VESA, framebuffers, video drivers, Xorg?

VESA is the most basic video mode available, and doesn't require installing hardware-specific drivers (Intel, NVIDIA, ATI/AMD). In Linux, VESA is provided by the xf86-video-vesa module (no hardware acceleration besides shadow frame-buffer (ShadowFB) on CPU, no support for X-Video, no power management.)

What is ACPI?

What is casper-rw filesystem?

Alternative to creating an extra partition on your USB device and use it for data storage.

What is SquashFS?

"SquashFS is a compressed read-only file system for Linux. SquashFS compresses files, inodes and directories, and supports block sizes up to 1 MB for greater compression. [...] SquashFS is intended for general read-only file system use and in constrained block device/memory systems (e.g. embedded systems) where low overhead is needed. [...] It is often combined with a union mount filesystem, such as UnionFS or aufs, to provide a read-write environment for live Linux distributions"