• Boot USB

last modified November 13, 2017 by strypey

Warning: Making Boot USBs doesn't yet work smoothly with all distros, and can create issues, so as of 2016, using an optical disk is still the most reliable method. I suggest using rewritable CDs or DVDs for this, to reduce waste.

How Do I Make a Boot USB?

USB creator apps

There are a couple of "Live USB Creator" tools, like those built into Ubuntu and Fedora, but personally I quite like UNetbootin. It's not as pretty, but it can make bootable USB sticks out of a wider range of GNU/Linux distributions. You can download and use UNetbootin on any GNU/Linx distro, MacOSX, and even Windows. I have also had some success with the Universal USB Installer from Pendrive Linux.com. This site has a few resources for running OS and portable applications off USB. 

Disks utility on the Control Panel/ Centre

I've successfully booted and installed from boot USBs created using the Disks utility on the Control Panel that comes with Trisquel and Linux Mint (and possibly other distros). When making a boot USB, I strongly recommend starting with a USB stick with a single partition, formatted as Fat32 (like a brand new USB), and I've been using Disks for a while to restore USB sticks to that state. More recently, an option appeared that allows me to "restore image". I simply select my USB drive in the list, select "restore image", and point it at the .ISO I want to use for the install. Usually there is a warning that the target drive is smaller than the image, so I just click 'Start Restoring...', and it seems to work.

This worked fine for a while, but then I started to hit weird errors where I couldn't restore an image on a USB I'd already used as a live disk, and couldn't fully remove the partitions the restore process created. I found a solution, which I describe in detail in a post on the Trisquel Forums.

Writing directly with DD

Folks on the Trisquel forums suggest that more reliable results can be obtained by writing the GNU/Linux installer .ISO directly to the USB using a command line tool called DD. One method for doing this is described in the Trisquel Documentation; scroll down to Terminal (dd of GNU Coreutils). A trial-and-error experience is shared by on the forums by user Adfeno.

Multiboot Experiments

I haven't tried this yet, but I have found instructions for using GRUB 2 to make a multi-boot USB stick which can boot or install a number of different GNU/Linux based tools from their .ISO. I'm curious to know whether this method could also be used for non-Linux free code operating systems like HURD, BSDs, OpenIndiana (formerly OpenSolaris), Haiku, and Sylabble. According to the Ubuntu Community Documentation on GRUB2, it "has native support for FreeBSD, NetBSD and OpenBSD, and can boot any OS which complies to the multiboot specification".

Created by Strypey - 13/09/2012