Tutorial: How to use Monero from a Live USB (Beginner’s Guide)


Hardware Requirements

  • x64 computer that can boot from a USB flash drive
    • Most modern Windows and Mac computers should work
    • Chromebooks are beyond the scope of this tutorial
  • Two USB Flash Drives
  • USB Hub (optional)
  • Linux Compatible USB WiFi Adapter (optional)
  • USB Mouse (optional)

Create Live USB with Etcher

  • Download an Ubuntu MATE .iso file from https://ubuntu-mate.org
  • Download and install Etcher from https://etcher.io
  • Launch Etcher and select the Ubuntu MATE .iso file
  • Insert USB flash drive and select it
    • Important: Make sure to select the correct drive. You do not want to accidentally erase the wrong drive.
  • Click "Flash!" and wait for it to complete
  • Shutdown computer

Boot from Live USB

  • Power on the computer while the Live USB is plugged in
  • During startup, press the key that will display a list of bootable devices
    • For Windows, you usually press a specific function key ranging from F1 through F12 during startup
    • For Mac, you usually press the "Option" key during startup when you hear the chime sound
  • Select the Live USB from the list of bootable devices and Ubuntu MATE will start
  • Choose "Try Ubuntu MATE"
  • Close the welcome message

Create Encrypted USB with GNOME Disks

  • Launch Gnome Disks
  • Insert USB Flash drive and select it in Gnome Disks
    • Important: Make sure to select the correct drive. You do not want to accidentally erase the wrong drive.
  • Format the USB Flash drive using "LUKS + Ext4"
  • Choose a strong passphrase
  • Format the drive and wait for it to complete
  • Important: Only open the encrypted USB from the live USB

Create Wallet with Monero GUI and Remote Node

  • Insert USB WiFi adapter if needed
  • Connect to the internet
  • Download the Monero GUI for Linux from https://getmonero.org
  • Copy the compressed Monero GUI .bz2 file to your encrypted USB
  • Extract the .bz2 file to your encrypted USB
  • Run Monero GUI with start-gui.sh
  • Go to https://moneroworld.com to find a remote node
  • Enter a custom daemon address you got from moneroworld like these…
    • node.xmrbackb.one:18081
    • node.moneroworld.com:18089
  • Create a new wallet and give it a name
  • Store your wallet on your encrypted USB
  • Choose a strong passphrase
    • You can use the same passphrase that you used to unlock the encrypted USB
  • Wait for the "Network status" to go from "Synchronizing" to "Connected"
  • Important: Do not start funding your wallet until you have properly backed it up and restored it successfully
  • Important: Only open your Monero GUI from the live USB

Backup Wallet with 7z and Dropbox

  • Close Monero GUI if it is still running
  • Go to the wallet folder on your encrypted USB
  • Compress the wallet folder with 7z
    • Choose a strong passphrase. You can use the same passphrase that you used to unlock the encrypted USB.
    • Choose "Encrypt the file list too" to prevent anyone knowing what is inside the .7z file
    • Important: Only open the .7z file from the live USB
  • Upload the .7z file to Dropbox
    • Sign up for Dropbox if you don't already have an account
    • Important: Your encrypted USB, Monero GUI, and 7z file may use the same passphrase since they are only opened using the live USB. Your Dropbox password should be different since Dropbox is used on devices other than the live USB.
  • Download the .7z file to your phone using the Dropbox app and the "Available offline" option

Following the 3-2-1 Backup Rule, you should now have 3 copies of your .7z file in the following places…

  1. Local copy on your encrypted USB drive
  2. Local copy on your phone
  3. Remote copy on Dropbox website

Test the Backup

Let's imagine your USB drives and phone are no longer available due to a natural disaster.

Let's say you already did the following…

  • Recreated the live USB
  • Booted from the live USB
  • Recreated the encrypted USB
  • Downloaded Monero GUI to encrypted USB

Here's what you would do to restore your wallet…

  • Copy the backed up .7z file from Dropbox to your encrypted USB
  • Extract the .7z file to your encrypted USB
  • Run the Monero GUI and connect to a remote node
  • Choose "Open a wallet from file" and select the extracted .keys file

Normal Usage

Now that you are confident the backup works, you can start funding your wallet.

From now on, all you need to do is…

  1. Boot from the Live USB
  2. Run the Monero GUI from the encrypted USB
  3. Connect to a remote node and open the .keys file

Important: If you want to just check your balance to make sure the Monero is still in there, you don't need to backup your wallet folder again. However, you will need to backup the wallet folder again with 7z and copy it to Dropbox and your phone if you make changes to the wallet like sending/receiving new transactions.


Your day to day operating system has more chance of being infected with malware. Since the live USB is non-persistent, it does not save any changes to the operating system. It is like booting from a freshly clean installed operating system every time which is less likely to contain malware. Also since it is non-persistent, a second encrypted USB is needed to secure the Monero wallet files.

Some people say all you need to backup is your seed. However, backing up just your seed does not save all transaction details.

Restoring from seed also takes much longer if you simply want to check your balance from time to time.

There is a more secure procedure for advanced users that involves air gapped cold storage wallet, view only hot wallet, offline/online transaction signing, key images for balance, running your own remote node over tor, and two-factor authentication with keepass, but that is beyond the scope of this tutorial for beginners.

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