What linux distribution do you suggest?

I’m a moderately competent computer user (electronic engineer) and my notebook is acting funny. I suspect it may be compromised in some fashion. I’d like to setup linux on a USB stick and was wondering what a good distribution to use is. I’m a windows guy, and if it looks similar to Win10, that would be great.

My go-to distro for “just needs to work” is Mint. If you do the KDE version of Mint the UI will look familiar to you coming from Windows.

https://www.linuxmint.com/download.php

Ubuntu or any of its derivatives, such as Mint (as suggested by zwede,) Elementary, Kubuntu, etc.

Thanks. I’ll give mint a go!

Puppy linux boots well from USB.

I love Mint except for one thing: they don’t support automatically upgrading to the next release. They call this a feature (and they have some valid reasons) but in the end I went back to Ubuntu, so I would suggest Ubuntu.

Previously they only supported upgrading within a version, like 17.1 to 17.2. As of Mint 18 they will support upgrading from the previous version, so Mint 17.3 (the current version) to 18 will be supported.

Ah, nice. I dropped out while trying to upgrade from Petra to Qiana. Are they basing Mint versions on just Ubuntu LTS now?

Lubuntu works great from USB and runs fast and clean.

Yes. The major Mint versions (17, 18 etc) are based on Ubuntu LTS. Then they do refreshes in between that are optional. They also make it easy to go to a newer kernel, even on older Mint releases, in case you need support for some particular piece of hardware.

There’s nothing wrong with straight Ubuntu.

Agreed, straight-up Ubuntu is pretty and works, and fairly reminiscent of Windows.

If you’re looking into something that just runs from a CD or USB stick, you might want to check out the Ultimate Boot CD
It’s free and includes “Photo Rec” under the HDD section, which runs on Parted Magic.
Depending if it runs on your machine or how good it runs on it, you can do a lot or little with it.

I originally switched to Mint after the Gnome/Unity fiasco but now MATE (and Cinnamon, I believe) are officially supported in the Ubuntu packages so I’ve switched back. I’ve been really happy with Ubuntu since 14.04 except for some small issues that came out in 15.10. I may stay on LTS version for now.