Live image

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A live image, historically referred to as LiveCD, Minimal Installation CD, Admin CD, LiveDVD, LiveUSB GUI or LiveGUI USB Image, or other similar names within the Gentoo ecosystem, is a concept that describes the medium by which a ethereal or disposable operating system environment is created. It is typical for live images to be image files created in the ISO 9660 (ECMA-119) file system format using either El Torito or Joliet extensions and represented by a .ISO file extension.

Gentoo live images are hybrid, meaning the image is capable of being can be burned to optimal media or directly written to a USB drive using a data dump tool such as dd.

Live images create a live environment, which then can be used for installing or maintaining a Gentoo-based operating system.

Live images offered by Gentoo

The Gentoo release engineering project produces live images for installation of or maintenance to Gentoo-based operating systems.

Featured live images include:

  • Minimal [live] image - A minimal Gentoo environment useful for testing if the Gentoo runs on host hardware and installing Gentoo, but not much more.
  • Admin [live] image - A Gentoo environment that contains tooling useful for administrative functions. The file is larger than the Minimal live image.

Occasionally RelEng team members will release a more fully featured operating system environment. In the past, some of which were produced by the loosely affiliated, community run "Gentoo Ten" project. The latest effort was created by Andreas K. Hüttel (dilfridge) , entitled LiveGUI USB Image. This image contains a fully functional KDE Plasma desktop environment.


Live images are used for a variety of useful purposes such as:

  • Installation of a Linux or other operating system
  • Demoing features prior to installation
  • System rescue
    • Failed disk drive hardware
    • Failed or corrupted file system
    • Corrupted or missing kernel binary or modules preventing normal use of the system. In particular when missing a network interface driver or a filesystem required to mount rootfs
  • Digital forensics
  • Development
    • Kernel driver development
  • "Portable installation"
  • Accessing/controlling physical hardware resources with an unlocked bootloader without needing special credentials for login :)
  • Testing
    • Hardware testing
    • Software testing

  • LiveUSB — explains how to create a Gentoo LiveUSB or, in other words, how to emulate a x86 or amd64 Gentoo LiveCD using a USB drive.
  • Live environment — a term that describes an ethereal or disposable operating system environment, typically created from a live image.