What is the difference between a live cd/usb and bootable cd/usb? Most of the times when I have a live cd (in general of Linux distributions), I have the option of installing from it as well.

  • Seems like you know the difference between the two already. – Ramhound May 23 '15 at 20:06
  • @Ramhound No I was quite confused actually. I mean I had an idea of what the Live CD did - creating file system on RAM instead of disk, but whenever I searched for "bootable", it mostly showed me pages of how to make bootable drvies, not the concept of it.. The answers here, as usual, were very helpful. Thanks! – Lavya May 23 '15 at 21:37

You can boot up an operating system from a Live CD/USB.

A bootable CD/USB just means you don't have have to have an operating system (running or even installed), to use the disk.

  • 2
    To elaborate: a live CD (or USB drive) is always bootable, but not vice versa. To give an example of a bootable CD which isn't a live CD, consider an installation disk that does not let you boot directly into the OS. You can boot from the CD, but from there you can only access the installation program. Another example is a bootable system repair disk that brings up a menu of tools, but doesn't load a full OS. – pyrocrasty May 23 '15 at 20:33
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    To further elaborate: It’s my understanding that live CDs typically create a “RAM disk”; i.e., they allocate part of the system’s memory for disk-like purposes.  They then install themselves onto that RAM disk and give the user an interface that allows file manipulation; but, when shut down, no traces remain (unless the user explicitly accessed the local disk).  A boot CD may also establish a presence on a RAM disk, but, as @pyrocrasty says, it does not let the user access that system.  You can interact only with the installer, whose job, of course, is to install the OS on the fixed disk. – G-Man May 23 '15 at 21:26
  • But see also Wikipedia. – G-Man May 23 '15 at 21:26
  • Thanks guys. The answer as well as both your comments were very helpful. I think it's much clearer to me. I haven't been coming across any " an installation disk that does not let you boot directly into the OS" but now I realize I was creating the usb's using unetbootin whose website says "UNetbootin allows you to create bootable Live USB drives". They always asked the option of whether I want to install or run live cd so I mixed the two. I understand now that there can be an installation CD which may not be able to run live. Can all live CDs install the OS on the disc or they also may not? – Lavya May 23 '15 at 21:33
  • There are some LiveCDs that are made to do specific things which are generally some flavor of linux, but they're not what you would call a general operating system. So as they're not meant for every day use, they give you no option to install the OS. – leetwanker May 23 '15 at 21:39

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