Portable SUSE

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PortableSUSE is a converter script which converts an existing system (the one currently running, or one on a seperate harddisk) to a system which is able to run off a USB-HDD or USB-ZIP drive.

PortableSuSE Releases

There is currently no script available for openSUSE 11.1. In order to install openSUSE 11.1, follow these instructions:
  • Download 11.0 Version
  • Rename the lib/mkinitrd/boot/84-mount.sh to lib/mkinitrd/boot/83-mount.sh (in the data.tar archive)
  • Run the PortableSUSE installer
This software is no longer available (the links originally provided no longer work).

Latest Release Features

  • Gives ability to use EXTLINUX instead of GRUB (better chance of boot)
  • Modifies INITRD, so that the root=???? option to the kernel is not required. Instead, the root device is auto-detected.
  • Manages NVIDIA drivers so that you can have legacy and modern drivers installed on the same system, and still have NVIDIA 3D Acceleration no matter what NVIDIA card.

Installing (for BETA version)

  • Extract the contents of the .tar.gz file to a directory.
  • Open up a console as root, and goto that directory.
  • Type ./installation and follow the prompts.
If you run this script from your normal 11.1 desktop system hoping it'll create a bootable system on a mounted USB stick, it will damage your running 11.1 desktop system without even asking about it. At least it did for me in Mar 2009, and I had some adrenalin time cleaning up my boot-related packages. Explanations of what exactly this script does _before_ doing any damage need to be much clearer.

Configuring your hardware

Unfortunately PortableSUSE is unable to automatically detect some types of hardware, in particular displays and screens. This section contains information on how to use SCPM to maintain hardware profiles for different situations.


Josef Haider made setting up the hardware on a new computer easier by writing this small script. Just save to your computer, and when you need to create a new profile, run the script and enter the information.

 echo "Enter profile name:"
 read pname
 echo "Creating profile..."
 scpm add $pname
 scpm switch $pname
 echo "
  title Profile $pname
  root (hd0,2)
  kernel /boot/vmlinuz splash=silent showopts vga=0x366
  initrd /boot/initrd
  " >> /boot/grub/menu.lst
 echo "Setting up SaX..."
 sax2 -r
 scpm save
 rcxdm restart

Using SCPM/Managing profiles

SCPM is a hardware profile manager, and PortableSUSE installs it so that you can manage your hardware between computers. Most often when you encounter a new computer, you'll be dropped back to the console because the X server isn't configured correctly (see below for this). To setup a new configuration for this hardware, login as root and type:

 scpm add <profile name>
 scpm switch <profile name>
 vi /boot/grub/menu.lst

You'll now be looking at a text-based editor called VIM. In this case we need to add a boot entry for our new configuration. To begin typing, press I. Move the cursor below the first entry with the arrow keys, and copy the first entry. Use the arrow keys to move to the line that begins with "title" and change the text that follows it (on the entry you just created). Now use the arrow keys to move to the line the begins with "kernel" (in the entry you just typed out), and at the end of the line, add


followed by the profile you just created. Now press ESC and type ":wq". Upon next boot, you'll have a new boot entry that allows you to boot to this configuration.

Whenever you change your hardware configuration you MUST type in a console as root

 scpm save

otherwise, when you next boot, your hardware settings will have reverted.

If you ever boot into the wrong configuration, just type in a console as root

 scpm switch <correct profile name>

You'll probably also need to restart the X server (see below).

X Server

The component of hardware that is most likely to affect the system the most is the graphics card. That's because the X server won't automatically configure itself. When you encounter a new computer, you'll almost certainly have to configure the X server from the command line. To configure the X server, save the profile and restart the X server, type the following:

 sax2 -r
 scpm save
 rcxdm restart


  • 11.0 Release Update (07/07/08)
    • Miscellaneous
      • Added failed/done detection on some script steps.
  • 11.0 Release
    • Nothing changed for the INITRD patching.
    • Bootloader installation
      • Disabled until I get a response from the SYSLINUX mailing-list.
    • NVIDIA management
      • Had to be redone because Zypper no longer provides a Ignore option.
      • The download now shows a progress (because it is done manually)
      • It will now only download the RPM if it hasn't been already downloaded
    • Miscillanious
      • Script now checks for architecture, and will warn if a 64-bit system has been installed.

Known Bugs

If you have found a bug, please add it to this list:

  • Beta download link returns 404 not found. Fixed.
  • Bootloader installation bugs. Fixed.
  • NVIDIA Management would crash if repository did not already exist (asked for verification on the fingerprint). Fixed.
  • NVIDIA GLX module does not work for new drivers. Should be fixed.
  • Major problems after NVIDIA released new drivers. Fixed.
  • Bootloader will wipe MBR in 11.0 Bootloader installation disabled.


Have a suggestion? Add it here.

  • GUI version. Possibly in the future. I've tried using Kommander (in the first release), but the results weren't as good as what the console version provides. If I was to rewrite it in GUI version, I would do it in Qt, but unfortunately, these days I really don't have the time to rewrite this script in Qt. (Although if someone wants to do it, the source is there, and you are free to convert it to a GUI.)
  • Ability to use this from a Windows Desktop and using the OpenSuse CD - in other words: users don't have to install Linux on the computer... it would copy the system directly from the CD into the PenDrive. Unfortunately, this software is more of a patch than an install. It would require the script to be rewritten in a format that Windows can run, as well as performing all the tasks that the YaST installer normally does.
  • Ability to do installations on Pen/Flash drives. There is a nice walkthrough on how to install PortableSUSE to a USB flash drive which can be found at http://www.pendrivelinux.com/2008/03/28/usb-suse-flash-drive-install/.

Release Log

  • Alpha Release on 27/08/07
  • Beta Release on 05/10/07
  • Beta Re-release on 06/10/07 due to major script bugs
  • Beta Re-release on 07/10/07 due to bootloader installation bugs
  • Beta Re-release on 14/11/07 due to NVIDIA problems.
  • Beta 2 release on 28/01/08 after upgrading my NVIDIA card to a modern card and found major problems with the script. So I updated it and it should work correctly now. It is recommended you download the new installation program and run it (it will automatically remove existing versions before installation).
  • Release for 11.0 on 05/07/08. Bootloader installation disabled until further notice.
  • Release Update for 11.0 on 07/07/08. Bootloader installation still disabled.


James Rhodes (Contact me at jrhodes@roket-enterprises.com with the subject PortableSUSE)