Install Linux Onto a USB Stick

Thursday, August 11, 2011

HP v165w 16 GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive P-FD16GHP165-EF (Blue)Okay, so I wrote about using the Universal USB Installer to create a bootable virtual CD-ROM on your USB thumb drives. That was a few weeks back, but I've been busy with a lot of other things so pardon the delay. If you want to go back, I wrote about it here: Install Ubuntu 11.04 From a USB Stick. So you might ask, "Why would I use this?" I covered some of the reasons in my earlier post. Another reason I do this is I usually get asked to help out friends and relatives with their computers. I used to bring along this small zip up sling bag that was a CD wallet inside. I have all my rescue CD's in there. I also have a precision screw driver set in there. That's all I need to be a one-man geek rescue squad. Well now that USB sticks have increased in capacity and tools have been made available online, it's now possible to chuck those CD rescue disks and use USB thumb drives instead.

Well after posting that, I felt it was a bit unfair if I didn't post about how to do this over on the Linux end with UNetBootin. And yes, it is as easy as downloading the application, choosing settings and rebooting your computer. Let's get to it.

1. If you're comfy with using commands on the terminal, just open one up and type in sudo apt-get install unetbootin. You'll be asked for your password, as always:

2. You can also launch the Synaptic Package Manager (available in many Linux distributions) and download it from there. Just fire up Synaptic, click Reload and once everything's updated use Search to find UNetBootin. Tick the check box and click Apply:

3. After installing it whichever way you want, launch UNetBootin :

4. You can have UNetBootin download the ISO image of the Linux distribution you want by choosing the Distribution and use the drop-down menus to choose your flavor of Linux and version of choice:

5. If you already downloaded the ISO of your Linux of choice, just click on the Diskimage option and tell UNetBootin where it is on your computer.  :
By the way, I would recommend connecting one USB thumbdrive so it doesn't get confusing when you choose the device to install everything on. If you're all good with that, click on the OK button.

6. This here is my favorite part. I let the app do it's thing automagically and I get to get up and grab a cup of coffee:

7. Once the install is complete, just click on the Reboot button:

When the computer reboots, go into BIOS and change the settings to make the USB stick the first thing it will boot to. On certain computers, you have function keys (F1 to F12) that you can use it brings up your booting options. This is different from computer to computer, even from motherboard to motherboard. So consult your handy user manual.

16GB USB Flash DriveSo now that I have a bootable Linux rescue CD installed on my USB thumb drive, I can ditch the real CD's. And I can ditch the sling bag too. I still need to bring along my screwdrivers though. But what if I have several rescue CD's I need? Well, I'll cover installing multiple live CD's onto a single USB stick on another post. Yes! Multi-boot is possible on USB sticks too with the right tools. Stay tuned in for that one.

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