A USB drive with persistent storage is also called a Computer on a Stick. This is very similar to using a Live Stick to install Linux Mint to the main computer hard drive. Only instead of installing Linux Mint to the computer hard drive, you stick another USB stick in a second USB port and use the Mint Live Stick to install Linux onto the Linux Persistent Stick.
This method of creating a computer on a stick is ideal for teachers and students because it allows them to use a school’s computer lab without altering in any way any of the computers in the lab. Students can save their work and bring their Linux Mint Persistent sticks home and continue to practice using Linux on any computer they may have at their home.
All that is required is about $10 for a USB 3 drive that is 8 to 16 GB to create the Mint Live Stick and about $20 for a USB 3 drive that is 64 GB to 128 GB to create the Mint Persistent stick.
The normal way to install Linux Mint onto a laptop involves four steps. First, get and use a 64 GB USB 3 drive to save all of your documents and programs from your laptop’s current file manager. Second, go into your laptop BIOS settings and set the laptop to boot from a USB Live Stick. Third, download the latest Linux Mint Cinnamon ISO file from the Mint website downloads page and use the ISO file with a free online program called Etcher to turn a 16 GB USB 3 stick into a Linux Mint Live USB stick.
Fourth, insert the Mint Live stick into the laptop USB port and then turn on the computer. This will bring up an Mint install screen. You can use this screen to practice using Linux Mint, including installing programs from the Software Manager, creating documents and saving them to the file manager and using web browsers to view websites online. However, all of the changes you make will be lost when you turn off the laptop or install Linux Mint.
Clicking on the Mint installer will begin the installation process.
When it is finished, you can then install programs and create documents and have these changes saved to the laptop hard drive. In short, you have now turned your laptop into a Linux laptop.
However, if you do not have a computer that you want to permanently turn into a Linux Laptop, and you still want a persistent Linux computer that can store your documents and programs, there is another option. This option is called a Persistent Live USB. A persistent live USB allows you to save any changes you make to the live system, so the they are still present the next time you boot into the persistent live USB. Another name for a Persistent Live USB is a computer on a stick. Remarkably, a persistent live USB can work on any computer that is set to boot from a USB stick.
How to Create a Persistent Live USB
The initial steps for creating a Persistent Live USB are the same as for using a non-persistent live USB to install Linux Mint onto a laptop. First, you should use a 64 GB USB 3 stick to backup all of your documents and programs (in the rare event that you make a mistake).
Second, create a non-persistent Live USB 3 stick.
Third, set the BIOS for your computer to boot from a USB, insert the Live USB into a port and turn on your computer.
Then we need to add a couple of additional steps. First, you need a 128 GB USB 3 stick. This will cost about $20. After starting your computer with the Linux Mint Live Stick, go to the Mint Menu and open the Mint USB formatter.
Then insert the 128 GB USB 3 stick into another USB port and use the Mint USB formatter to clean and reformat the USB stick into a FAT 32 formatted stick.
The Mint USB formatter will also “unmount” the USB stick once it is formatted. Leave the stick in the USB port. Then start the Mint Installer just like you were going to install Mint onto the computer.
Go through the first four screens to set the language and connect to the Internet and install 3rd Party extras. You will then get to the main install screen where you will have the choice to install Mint alongside the existing operating system or replace the existing operating system. But instead of choosing either of these options, select the last option which is called Something Else.
Click Continue. Then a more detailed Installation Type screen will appear with three partitions called sda, sdb and sdc.
The first thing to do is use the bottom drop down arrow to change the boot loader installation from sda which is the computer hard drive to the sdc which is our USB stick.
Then change the selected Device from sda to sdc1 which should be indicated as formatted with fat 32.
Then click on the CHANGE button to bring up a small partition edit screen.
Change the format option from "do not use the partition" to EXT 4. Then change the mount point to root (slash) and then check the reformat box.
Then click OK. This screen will appear:
Click Continue. This will change the sdc1 partition to ext4 but also change the select Device back to sda.
Change the selected Device back to sdc1 ext 4.
When you are certain that the selected partition is sdc1 and the boot loader is sdc. Click install now.
This will bring up the normal Time Zone installation screen shown above. From here it is the normal install process with the exception that instead of installing Linux Mint to the computer hard drive, Linux Mint will be installed onto the USB drive.
Having both root and boot set for the sdc USB stick will install Linux Mint onto the 128 GB USB stick rather than onto the host computer hard drive. You will next see the root user name and password screen.
Then the normal install process will begin. Once it finishes, use the Mint Menu to turn off the computer. When the remove installation media warning comes up, remove both the Live USB and the Persistent USB. You can then turn your computer back on with both USB sticks removed just to confirm that your normal hard drive and boot loader was not affected. Then turn off the computer and insert the Persistent USB into the USB 3 port. Then power on your computer. The Grub 2 screen should appear. Click on the first option which will start Linux Mint. You can now configure the USB stick just like it was a computer hard drive. Before updating Mint, change the settings to disable the screen saver and power settings. Then run through the updates.
You can then turn off the computer and remove your new computer on a stick. You can then set any other computer to boot from a USB stick and insert your computer on a stick into it.
Note: USB 3 is ten times faster than USB 2: It is important to use only a USB 3 stick for this process and always insert the USB 3 stick into a USB 3 port. Using a USB 2 stick of a USB 2 port will result in data transfer at a rate that is only one tenth of the data transfer via a USB 3 port with a USB 3 stick.