LilDeb is a computer software system, based on Debian GNU/Linux and Debian Live, that can be run on x86 PCs from USB flash drives as small as 256MB. LilDeb is designed to provide a reliable system for occasional convenient or emergency use, and to be easy to update. LilDeb is intended primarily for technical users, and secondarily for casual users who merely want to run, say, a Web browser or a messaging program.

For reliability, changes made to the LilDeb filesystem while it is running are not saved to the USB drive, except for changes made to a persistent "Saved" folder on the desktop. The "Saved" folder is also accessible as a normal FAT filesystem when the drive is plugged into computers without booting from the drive.

LilDeb was started in 2010, when the developer received a keychain Swiss Army pocketknife with a 256MB USB drive.

NOTE: LilDeb is currently an alpha release, for testing purposes only.

Included Software

LilDeb includes the following software, some of it in nonstandard configurations:

Saved Folder

For the most part, no changes made to the LilDeb's filesystem are stored to the USB drive, to provide a consistent configuration and to avoid wearing out the flash media. One exception to this is that some installations of LilDeb have a "Saved" folder on the desktop that is stored on the USB drive. This "Saved" folder may be created by update-lildeb when doing a clean installation of LilDeb to the USB drive.

Download and Installation

LilDeb is currently an ALPHA RELEASE. If you are a Linux techie and you are willing to help test LilDeb, here's how:

  1. Go to a GNU/Linux system. (The updater is being developed on Debian lenny; we don't yet know how well it runs on other distros.)

  2. Download the updater/installer and the distribution disk image:

  3. Plug in a USB flash drive that does not have any data you want to keep.

  4. Unmount any filesystems from the USB drive that your computer just mounted.

  5. Run the updater/installer something like this:

    sudo /home/myself/update-lildeb \
        --new-install-so-delete-all-my-data-please \
        --image /home/myself/lildeb-20100530.img \
        --device /dev/disk/by-id/usb-Pocketknife-256MB-1234-0\:0

    (Note: You must specify the device through /dev/disk/by-id/usb-*, to help avoid accidents of writing to the wrong device.)

    (Note: You could instead simply dd the image to the raw USB drive, but that doesn't give you a _Saved_ partition, nor does it set up the partitioning for easy future updates.)

  6. Try booting from the USB drive.

Please send any feedback to neil AT neilvandyke DOT org.



The contributors to Debian GNU/Linux and Debian Live, and to the individual software packages used by LilDeb, must number in the thousands. Although LilDeb makes some new contributions of its own, it is very much a product of standing upon the shoulders of giants. Also, when LilDeb was first being developed, ASJ, DG, DJ, GB, HPA, JHM, JT, MG, PP, and PZ (names obscured to protect the guilty) had helpful comments. LilDeb itself is developed by Neil Van Dyke.


The software created specifically for LilDeb is copyright 2010 Neil Van Dyke. This is Free Software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License (GPL 2), or (at your option) any later version. This software is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but without any warranty; without even the implied warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. See for details.

Other software included in LilDeb, which makes up the vast bulk of LilDeb, is copyright its respective owners, and is under various licenses. Documentation of the various copyrights and licenses can be found on the Web site. Copyright © 2010 Neil Van Dyke