Since I don’t have admin access to windows on this laptop I decided to use a live USB of Fedora. There are a number of tools for windows that I could have used to create the bootable USB, unfortunately they all require admin access to install. Luckily I found a writeable DVD and was able to install Fedora 21 (the latest version) on that.
After that, I tried to install it on one of my USB drives, which I did successfully using the liveusb-creator tool in Fedora. Booting from the USB was many, many times faster than booting from the DVD, which was painfully slow. But whether using the DVD or the USB stick, the most annoying problem is that every time you start it up, you have to reconfigure everything again from scratch. This means, for example, every time you boot you must configure the wifi, re-install any packages you need, etc. This combined with frequent crashes has proved to be a real pain.
The good news is that I discovered that you can configure the USB live installation to contain a “data persistence overlay” which allows changes you make to the configuration including installation of software, to be saved. The problem is, I’ve been working on this for a couple of days now, without success.