Install Linux from USB Device or Boot into Live Mode Using Unetbootin and dd Command

Installing Linux from a USB mass storage device or logging into Live Linux Environment is a cool Idea. Booting from a USB mass storage device is sometimes necessary, especially when the ROM media device is not working. Booting Windows from a USB mass storage device is not difficult, and with the availability of various software it has been just a few clicks away. Booting into a windows machine requires only three files, namely boo.ini, ntldr and ntdetect.com. But booting into a Linux machine is a complex process which requires a whole lot of files and process in well defined execution manner. The booting process is complex but creating a boot-able usb media is very interactive and fun.

We will be creating USB boot-able image in two different way
  1. Unetbootin (An Open Source Project, freely available)
  2. dd (Data Description)
For creating a Usb boot-able image, certain basic requirements are:
  1. Usb Mass Storage Device (Pen Drive)
  2. Linux Image in CD/DVD/ISO or Internet connection (Not recommended for large images)
  3. Windows/Linux Platform

Let us start with Unetbootin

Use Apt/Yum to get the required Unetbootin package or download the tar-ball from the below link for your platform.

  1. http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/

Insert Your USB pen-drive into the Windows/Linux machine and Launch Unetbootin, you will be greeted with a windows similar to.

Unetbootin Create Bootable Linux

Check the content above the red line. Type should be Usb Device, strictly and if more than one usb device is plugged in you need to know the name of exact Usb device you need to work upon. A wrong selection will lead to wipe your hard disk, so be aware. You can browse to the stored disk image on your hard drive, from the Unetbootin window.

Unetbootin

Or alternatively download from the internet, in real time. Although it is a time taking process and may result into error, when larger image is downloaded.

Unetbootin Bootable USB Device

Click OK, and the process of downloading and/or extracting image will start. It will take time depending upon the size of download and/or the file size of ISO image. Once completed, click ‘exit‘.

Plug out the usb storage device safely and plug it into the machine you want to boot. Restart it and set that usb storage device to boot first from the BIOS menu which may be F12, F8, F2 or Del depending upon you machine and build.

You will be greeted with a window as below, from where you can boot into Live Linux Mode and/or Install on Hard Disk from there, directly.

Unetbootin Boot Screen

Pros of using Unetbootin
  1. Most of the processing is automated.
  2. Easy to use.
  3. Make it possible to create boot-able stick from windows/Linux.
Cons of using Unetbootin
  1. One wrong selection of disk and all your Data and Installation on primary HDD is wiped.

Creating Boot-able USB Device using dd Command

dd command originally was a part of UNIX, which is implemented in Linux. The dd command is capable of striping headers, extracting parts of binary files. It is used by the Linux kernel Makefiles to make boot images.

The basic syntax of dd command is
dd if=<source> of=<target> bs=<byte size>; sync

The bite Size is generally “some power of 2, and usually not less than 512 bytes i.e., 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192, 16384, but can be any reasonable whole integer value.

sync option allows you to copy everything using synchronized I/O.

Run the below command with modification depending upon your source and destination.

# dd if=/home/server/Downloads/kali-linux-1.0.4-i386.iso of=/dev/sdb1 bs=512M; sync

It will take time to create the boot-able disk depending upon the size of ISO image and your RAM capacity.

Don’t interrupt the boot stick creation, once the process is completed, you will get something like this in your terminal.

4+1 records in
4+1 records out
2547646464 bytes (2.5 GB) copied, 252.723 s, 10.1 MB/s

Now safely eject the disk, plug it into the machine you want to boot with Linux, and Yup don’t forget to change the booting option in your BIOS, setting your flash stick to boot primarily.

When USB is booted, You will be greeted with a window similar to.

Unetbootin Installing Linux

Pros of the above method:
  1. Least possible error in making copy
  2. No extra/ third party tool required
Cons of the Above method:
  1. No room for error, an error and everything is wiped.
  2. Non-interactive way.
  3. You should know, what you are doing, as you won’t get any manual/prompt/help at run time, you must be good in terminals.

Remember, All the distro don’t allow Live Environment, but most of the today’s distro does. You will be able to log into a live Linux Environment only if supported.

The above article do not aims at comparing the two method. Before writing anything we gives hours in testing and executing the process to ensure you get 100% working solution.

If you gets stuck at somewhere, feel free to contact us in comment section. For any damage to data/disk, as a result of above method neither the Author nor Tecmint is responsible.

That’s all for Now. I will soon be here again, with another interesting article, you people will love to read. Till then stay healthy, safe, tuned and connected to Tecmint.

If You Appreciate What We Do Here On TecMint, You Should Consider:

TecMint is the fastest growing and most trusted community site for any kind of Linux Articles, Guides and Books on the web. Millions of people visit TecMint! to search or browse the thousands of published articles available FREELY to all.

If you like what you are reading, please consider buying us a coffee ( or 2 ) as a token of appreciation.

Support Us

We are thankful for your never ending support.

RedHat RHCE and RHCSA Certification Book
Linux Foundation LFCS and LFCE Certification Preparation Guide

You may also like...

29 Responses

  1. afolabi says:

    can you assist with links to a linux distro that has live ,install and other options

    • Ravi Saive says:

      @Afolabi,
      Not all Linux distributions provides USB Live installs, but some do, you can find them in their official download page..

  2. Anuj Sharma says:

    Hello Avishek brother,

    Can you please explain me about 6 options of boot menu such as live, install, graphical, etc.

  3. gonbow says:

    Install with none at all. Neither USB nor CD: https://linuxwithoutcd.wordpress.com/

  4. Rosli says:

    I have problem of imputing the source the directory. As newbie can you direct me of how to get the copy and paste as it is in my download file

    • Avishek Kumar says:

      your source then should be

      /home/Rosli/Downloads/name_of_iso.iso

      Don’t forget to replace Rosli in the above example with your User_name and name_of_iso.iso with original iso name

  5. Droggi says:

    I got a funny dd write just now. On an old USB stick i wrote 621 Mb in 1,27 seconds or 486 Mb/s if I am to trust the dd report. However the terminal has not finished the job, so I wonder why the report was made before the write was complete.
    Now its finished after about three minutes of writing.

    • Avishek Kumar says:

      No Droggi,
      It says it will be writing xy blocks. It don’t returns the prompt which means the command has not completed yet, and it simply means dd is still in action. It is not funny at all.

  6. Rafiq says:

    Hi Avishek Kumar
    can i use dd command in windows OS?

  7. Glenn says:

    Trying to install linux in a laptop with WIN8 pre-installed. Used Unetbootin, enabling CSM, disabling secure boot and fast start-up, chose C:/ within Unetbootin as the program would not detect my external usb HDD. Upon reboot, it loads Windows bootloader and allows either Windows or Unetbootin, when I try Unetbootin I get a 0xc0000007b error, thus not allowing me to install linux. Please help!

    • Avishek Kumar says:

      any chance you are running 32 bit windows? and the binary is 64 bit version?
      0xc000007b= “STATUS_INVALID_IMAGE_FORMAT”
      wrong binaries(32 bit vs 64 bit) or corrupt file I would think.

  8. Jim says:

    Hello,

    My PC seems to get stuck in a “rebooting” loop when I try to boot Ubuntu from my flash drive. It opens the main menu (as shown in your last screenshot above), but once I select any option it just reboots again. The BIOS is set for USB Device first. Any suggestions?

    Thanks you

    • Avishek Kumar says:

      Try making your flash drive boot-able again.
      checksum you image file to confirm your iso is intact.
      Use iso as per you architecture.

  9. DON says:

    The ISO image should be in DD or in USB,and thank you

  10. Rob in Madison says:

    Avishek: Thanks for the very clear instructions. I have an old Compaq desktop with Debian 6 running. I downloaded a Debian 7 live image and installed it to a USB thumb drive using dd just as you described it here.

    If I change the boot order in BIOS to place the USB drive first in line, and restart, the machine does boot into the USB drive’s OS. BUT! something very weird happens: the power supply fan slows way down, and after about fifteen or twenty seconds, the mouse no longer gets responses when I click on menu items, and the mouse pointer freezes.

    At that point I have to turn the power off and on manually to restart.

    Any ideas?

    Regards
    Rob

    • Avishek Kumar says:

      Check two things.

      1. md5 hash of the ISO image you are using with that of official release.
      2. (if the first step is ok) try making the USB bootable again!

      Let us know where you are?

Got something to say? Join the discussion.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.