LinuxLive USB Creator is an open-source tool which makes it easy to run your favourite Linux distro from a USB stick (maybe without even rebooting your PC).
There's a lot of complexity in what the program is trying to do, but a sensible wizard-type style ensures it's still fairly straightforward in operation.
You'll choose your USB stick first, for instance, then select the Linux distro you'd like to try. You'll find plenty of big names on the list: Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, OpenSUSE, Mint, CentOS, Gentoo and more, as well as a range of rescue discs (Hiren's Boot CD, Parted Magic, Avira).
LinuxLive USB Creator is then able to download the appropriate LiveCD for you automatically, even quickly testing several mirrors to find the one that's fastest for your location. (It can also use a disc or a disc image as your source.)
If your chosen distro supports persistence - the ability to install software and save your data - then you're able to allocate some space for this just by dragging a slider.
And most handily of all, checking "Enable launching LinuxLive in Windows" caused the program to download and install a portable version of VirtualBox on the key. And that enabled us to run our test distro (Ubuntu 12.04) without having to reboot Windows: we just double-clicked "Virtualize_This_Key", clicked "Try Ubuntu" when the option appeared, and were able to see and work with Ubuntu in a VirtualBox window on our Windows 7 desktop.
Version 2.90 includes support for the latest distros, and makes the following significant improvements:
•Improved support for 64-bit variants
•Support for ReactOS / OpenMandrivaLX / CDLinux
•Smarter autodetection of Syslinux version, INITRD and VMLINUZ files
•Retry to format 5 times instead of 1 (with 5 seconds delay)
•Retry to install boot sectors 5 times instead of 1 (with 5 seconds delay)
•Error is returned to user when formatting failed
•Autorun creation has been disabled (can be re-enabled in the advanced options)
•Code has been simplified and commented
•Storage controller in virtualbox is automatically changed to the best one (IDE or SCSI) to improve chances of booting
•Type of VM automatically set (useful for 64-bit Linux)