Linux Live CDs and DVDs

Try out the Linux Operating System

What are Live CDs and Live DVDs ?

The name "Live CD" or "Live DVD" is the name generally given to a fully bootable operating system that can be loaded from either CD or DVD. Generally the operating system is loaded into memory and no information is stored on your hard disks. The advantage of having a live CD or DVD is that it allows you to try out an operating system first before installing to your hard disks. Often this method is used to check compatibility with hardware or to check out new functionality that may be in a new release. Quite often a live CD or DVD is used where no storage is available (no hard drive). There are also many live CDs and DVDs that have been created for specific purposes such as data recovery on a system that can't boot. These discs are often referred to as a rescue discs. These rescue discs can be loaded with an operating system that runs in memory. You will then often find special utilities that allow you to fix partitions, recover data and remove malware.

Most Live CDs and DVDs give you an option to install to a hard drive. A slight variation on the live CD theme are bootable USB sticks that contain a full operating system. Many of these give the option to also save data. Puppy Linux is one of these such operating systems.

Some operating systems were designed only to run as a Live CD or Live DVD. One such famous operating system is "Knoppix". Knoppix was designed to run as a live CD/DVD. The Knoppix disk is loaded into memory, then any subsequent applications are loaded as they are selected into a ram drive. Knoppix is known for its vast selection of software available on its disk. For example the CD edition contains around 1000 packages and the DVD edition contains over 2500 packages. Newer releases of Knoppix boot into the LXDE desktop. Older versions of Knoppix use the KDE desktop. Knoppix is an excellent Live CD/DVD for any administrator to carry around with them.

Downloading a Live image - iso files

Most major operating systems have a Live "iso" image that can be downloaded and burned to a CD or DVD. Some of the more popular live images available are:

Knoppix - can be downloaded from Knoppix

Puppy Linux - See Download Puppy Linux

Kali Linux - A superb penetration testing distribution. Created by the people who made "BackTrack". This distribution is a must for any Security Analyst. You can download Kali Linux from Kali Linux

Ubuntu Linux - A very popular Debian based Linux distribution. Download and full instructions can be found at Ubuntu

Linux Mint - Another very popular Linux distribution which allows you try before installing. Image files can be downloaded from Linux Mint

Fedora Linux - Download the popular Linux distribution Fedora. Download and instructions can be found at Fedora LiveCD

CentOS Linux - Popular Red Hat based community driven Operating system Live images can be found under the download section at the CentOS website.

The above are only a very small selection of some of the popular Live images that are available. Most Linux distributions offer a live try before you install option. To find more, search for "Linux Live Images" in the search box above.