Free Linux LiveCD Distributions - Live Linux on a CD or DVD

Bootable Linux Distros to use without installing Linux

Free Linux LiveCD Distributions - Bootable Live Linux on a CD or DVD

Unlike the regular Free Linux Distributions, the distros listed on this page provide a Linux distribution that runs directly from a CD or a DVD. Basically, once you download the ISO file and burn it to a CD or DVD, you can simply boot from the Live CD and run a complete Linux operating system directly from that media. The Live CDs do not modify your hard disk or any other part of your computer (unless you explicitly do it yourself).

Such distributions have many uses. It allows you to try Linux without installing anything on your computer, test your website using Linux browsers without installing Linux; run Linux applications on a computer that is set up with Windows (or some other system) without affecting the existing system, run diagnostics or forensics on a compromised system such as one infected by viruses or malware like spyware or trojans without having the infection interfere with your scans and repairs, run a web server without having to worry about security compromises affecting your system permanently (simply reboot and all worms and whatnot will be gone), etc.

Update: some of the regular Linux distributions now provide their own Live CDs, so you may also want to check the listing there as well.

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Free Linux Bootable CDs and Live Operating System CDs

Knoppix - Live Linux Filesystem On CD

Knoppix is probably the progenitor of all Linux "LiveCDs", and is still the source on which many of these live-Linux-on-a-CD distributions are based. There are two versions currently offered, a live CD and a live DVD, with the DVD version offering many more applications and tools than the Knoppix CD. Both the CD and DVD versions offer a general purpose Linux distribution when you boot from them. That is, you can write documents, surf the Internet, play music, watch videos, play games, edit graphics, rescue data from a hard disk, and so on. The distribution uses the KDE desktop, and allows you to install Linux onto your desktop if you wish. One of the well-known strengths of Knoppix is its superior hardware-detection ability - it is often able to recognize and automatically load drivers for a huge variety of hardware on-the-fly.

Damn Small Linux (a.k.a. DSL)

Damn Small Linux, or DSL, is a very small live Linux distribution on CD that is designed to fit a 50 MB business card CD. Despite its size, it still provides web browsing facilities, music playing, word processing, graphics editing, games, the ability to run your own SSH, FTP and web server, etc. It works on a computer with as little as 128 MB RAM (yes, that's MB), and as old as the Intel 486DX. You can also install DSL onto a USB flash drive. It uses the Fluxbox and JVM window managers.

S-T-D - Linux-based Security Tools Distribution

S-T-D is a Linux-based security tools distro that resides on a live CD. The website states that there are hundreds of security tools on the CD, if not thousands. You can turn this bootable CD into a firewall, a web server, an IDS box, a honeypot, a recovery disk so that you can perform data recovery on an existing system, perform an autopsy on a compromised machine, etc. Note that this is not a general distribution; it is not designed for newbies.

Morphix LiveCD (Morphix LightGUI, Morphix Gnome, Morphix KDE, Morphix Game, Morphix LiveKiosk, etc)

(Update: Morphix, as their website amusingly states, is currently in coma. That is, no major new versions are planned.) Morphix is a Linux LiveCD that is designed for users to make customizations before burning to a CD. Derived from Knoppix, it was created to be hackable, so that you can easily remaster a Knoppix-like liveCD without having to delve too much into the intricacies designed for the ubergeek. It is modular, so that you can include only the modules you want in your version of Morphix. With this live CD distro, you no longer have to be content in accepting whatever the distribution author puts on their liveCD offering.

INSERT - Inside Security Rescue Toolkit

(Update: INSERT appears to be no longer maintained or updated.) INSERT is a complete, bootable Linux system on a CD. It is primarily designed as a rescue CD, for example, to recover data, to partition hard disks, to backup and image hard disks, to scan for viruses, etc. You can also use it to do a network analysis, do computer forensics, surf the Internet, etc. It has full read-write support for NTFS file systems, so you can also use it to work on your Windows NTFS partitions when booted into this LiveCD.

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