Install Qubes on a USB key for testing on a laptop

Hello Qubes Community !

When I first found out about Qubes - some time ago - I went through the all website. Coming back to my memories of that day I thought I had seen somewhere explanations about installing Qubes on a USB key to be able to test it on a computer without having to install it.

This evening I finally decided to move on and test my laptop.
According to the hardware requirements, I believe that my laptop is fit for Qubes (ASUSPRO B9440FA). Hopefully I am right …
However before installing Qubes directly on the laptop I rather test the compatibility using a Qubes installation done on a USB Key.

Unfortunately, it seems this article I had seen disappeared.
Hence my questions (be comprehensive I am not an expert although quite familiar with computer) :

  • Did I “dream” when I first went through Qubes website and found out about this article and possibility ?

  • Is it still possible ?

If yes :

  • Is it still an acceptable way to test a computer with Qubes without installing Qubes on the computer ?

  • Is it possible to install Qubes on USB key from Windows (by mean of Rufus?) ?

  • Is there a place where I can find an explanation on how to proceed ?

  • Are there any risks for the OS already installed (Windows) on my laptop using such method (I mean that whether running Qubes from the USB key is successful or not, is it possible for Windows to end up corrupted and not working when I go back to normal use) ?

  • Likewise are there any risks for the hardware of the laptop (configuration settings, usb ports, etc. that could be modified and thus alter the launch and normal execution of Windows) using such method ?

If you have any other thoughts about this that you think I should be aware of, feel free to let me know.

Thank you

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  1. Yeah, as far as I know, as long as your USB (or any external disk) is greater than 25~32 GB, it would be able to let you install the base system.

  2. You mentioned Rufus, yeah, the installation guide recommends it. Note, you ideally shouldn’t install it onto the same installation usb.

  3. Don’t worry about corrupting windows, don’t mount it or tinker around with the drive which has windows on it, so you don’t mess up your data. As long as you’re booting from an external drive, it wouldn’t harm windows.

  4. It might change the boot sequence, or in other words, if you plug in the drive with qubes on it, it will boot from qubes, but if it isn’t plugged in, it will boot from windows. To my knowledge everything else should stay as it is, if you wish to go back to using windows as it was.

Note: In the Installation summary panel, when you boot the installation, click on Installation Destination to the middle left of the screen and ensure that you have selected the USB Drive.

Note: If this is your first time using Qubes, try sticking to the defaults.

Happy tinkering lol

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@qeewee Thank you very much for your answers !

The Note on point #2 remains unclear to me. Are you trying to say that I should make sure not to store the Qubes iso on the usb key that will receive the final installation ?

Thanks !

oh, yeah, it’s generally a bad idea … especially if you’re just starting out with qubes and don’t want to mess around with partitioning and so on. In other words, yes, you should make sure not to store the Qubes iso on the usb key that will receive the final installation. (It’s not impossible, just a bad practice)

Let me know if there’s anything else haha.

Following my questions and your answers I was trying today to figure the overall process to install Qubes on a usbkey.

1/ download Qubes on any support (verification, etc.)

2/ Using Rufus, create a bootable usbkey with Qubes (Qubes is not installed on the usb key but is ready for installation as the usbkey is bootable)

3/ Check bios to make sure the boot sequence allows to boot on usb key

4/ shutdown computer, plug bootable Qubes usbkey, power on computer

5/ the bios should recognize the bootable usb key and launch the installation process of Qubes

6/ somewhere at the beginning of the Qubes installation process, as you mentioned

click on Installation Destination to the middle left of the screen and ensure that you have selected the USB Drive.

The USB drive you refer to is obvioulsy not the one used in step 2/ but another one (32Go min) already connected to the pc

7/ Once all of this is done, to test my computer with Qubes, I only need to leave the usb key with Qubes installed on it (not the one with the iso) plugged in, reboot the computer and we’ll see …

Is this correct ?



That’s absolutely right :smiley: … although, in step 5, you might have to press f7 or something (would probably be a different key for you) to show the boot menu, where you would select the bootable disk. If this is your first time booting up a usb, you might also have to turn off secure boot in the bios.

Also, I would recommend Tails for your purpose … it’s specially created so that you could run it off of a usb drive, and leave no traces on your host computer. And it’s a lot less configuration than qubes would require.

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