How to create a bootable USB flash drive with Linux

To run Linux on your computer without any virtual machines, you need a bootable USB stick. For this task, a medium with a volume of 4 GB or more is suitable. All data from it will be erased, so first copy the necessary files somewhere else. After that, use our instructions.

1. Download the ISO image

To create a bootable USB stick, you need one of the Linux distributions. They are distributed in the ISO disc image format. So that you don’t rack your brains on which distribution to choose, we have collected proven options.

Take Ubuntu as an example because of its popularity, but for other Linux the steps are identical. Open the Ubuntu website, go to the Download section and click on the green button to download the system ISO file. If the developer offers to download the ISO via torrent, take this opportunity. It will come out faster this way.

2. Burn the image to media

The steps will vary slightly depending on the operating system of your computer.

Windows

Perhaps the perfect tool for burning bootable ISO files to USB sticks on Windows is Rufus. The program is fast and can run even without installation.

  1. Download Rufus from the official site, install and run. Or just open without installation if you chose the portable version.
  2. Specify the medium where you want to burn the image. If a single USB stick is inserted into the computer, then Rufus will select it by default.
  3. Select the downloaded ISO image. Most likely, it will be located in the Downloads folder. Don’t touch the other parameters for advanced users: Rufus knows what to do.
  4. Click on the “Start” button. If you need confirmation, click “Yes” and OK. And wait until Rufus is done.
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MacOS

  1. Download the balenaEtcher application and move it to the programs folder, then launch it.
  2. Click Select Image and select the ISO you downloaded.
  3. Click Select target and select the desired medium.
  4. Now click Flash to start recording.

You may need to enter your macOS superuser password. Do this and wait for the process to complete.

Linux

There are as many as three ways to create a bootable USB flash drive on this OS.

Startup Disk Creator

It is a built-in tool for creating bootable USB drives. Ubuntu and many of its derivatives have it. The program can be found in the startup menu under the name “Create Boot Disk” or Startup Disk Creator.

Open the app, click Browse and browse to the ISO image you want. Then select your media and click Create Bootable Disk. If prompted, enter your Linux superuser password.

Etcher

Another option is the cross-platform Etcher.

  1. Download the program from the official site, unpack the ZIP archive and run.
  2. Click Flasf from file and browse to the ISO you downloaded.
  3. Click Select target and select the desired medium.
  4. Click Flash to start recording.
  5. Enter the superuser password if prompted by the system and wait.

dd

It is a Linux terminal command that works on all distributions. Useful if you want to quickly create a bootable USB drive without installing anything.

  1. Open “Terminal” and enter the command lsblk… You will see the names of all your drives as sda1, sda2, sdb1, and so on. Remember the name of the flash drive, for example sdb1.
  2. Enter the command sudo umount /dev/sdb1 and the superuser password. This will disable the USB stick, making it writable.
  3. Now enter the command sudo dd if=путь/к/образу/ubuntu.iso of=/dev/sdb1 bs=4M.

Instead of путь/к/образу substitute the address of the folder where the ISO image is located. Or, to avoid confusion in addresses, transfer the image to your home folder. If the file is called ubuntu-20.04.1-desktop-amd64.iso, the command will look like this:sudo dd if=ubuntu-20.04.1-desktop-amd64.iso of=/dev/sdb1 bs=4M.

Wait a few minutes. When the cursor appears in the command line again and a report on how much data was copied, you can remove the USB flash drive.

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3. Boot from the USB stick

Now you need to start Linux from the USB stick. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Insert your Linux bootable media into your computer.
  2. Reboot your device. When the computer starts to boot again, click on the go to BIOS settings. This is usually F2, F8, F9 or F12 – depending on the hardware manufacturer. Most often, the desired key is highlighted on the screen during BIOS boot.
  3. In the BIOS menu, go to the Boot section if the system did not redirect you there immediately.
  4. Select your USB stick, save your settings and reboot.

After that, the computer should boot from the selected flash drive.

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