How to Create a Linux Bootable USB Drive Using Linux

Easily create your own live Linux USBs

What to Know

  • Download a Linux ISO file. Then, download balenaEtcher, use the unzip command to extract it, and open and run balenaEtcher.
  • Insert a USB drive into the PC. Click Select Image, then navigate to the Linux ISO file. balenaEtcher chooses a USB drive automatically.
  • Select Flash and enter your password. The image is written to the USB drive. Boot from the USB drive to test the process.

This article explains how to create a Linux bootable USB drive using balenaEtcher, a graphical tool that creates Linux bootable USB drives within Linux. BalenaEtcher works well on older machines with a standard BIOS and newer machines requiring an EFI bootloader.

Download and Extract Etcher

BalenaEtcher is a graphical tool that is easy to install and use on any Linux distribution. To start, visit the balenaEtcher website and click the Download for Linux link.

  1. Open a terminal window and navigate to the folder where balenaEtcher was downloaded to. For example:

    cd ~/Downloads
  2. Run the ls command to make sure the file exists:

  3. You should see a file with a name similar to the following:
  4. To extract the files, use the unzip command:

  5. Run the ls command again:

    Linux unzip Etcher AppImage
  6. You will now see a file with a similar filename:

  7. To run the program, enter the following command, replacing your actual filename:

  8. A message may appear that prompts you to create an icon on the desktop. Choose Yes or No, depending on your preferences.

Create the Linux Bootable USB Drive

When you create a Linux bootable USB drive, use a blank drive as all the data will be deleted.

  1. Insert a USB drive into the computer.

  2. Click Select Image, then navigate to the Linux ISO file you downloaded previously.

    Select Target button in Linux
  3. balenaEtcher automatically chooses a USB drive to write to. If more than one drive is installed, click the change link below the drive and choose the correct one instead.

  4. Select Flash.

  5. Enter your password to give balenaEtcher permission to write to the USB drive.

  6. The image is written to the USB drive, and a progress bar shows how far through the process it is. After the initial flash part, it moves to a verification process. Do not remove the drive until the full process is complete, and it says it is safe to remove the drive.

Test the USB Drive

Reboot your computer with the USB drive plugged in. Your computer should now provide a menu for the new Linux system. 

If your computer boots to the Linux distribution you currently use, then you may wish to choose the Enter setup option that most distributions provide in the GRUB menu. This takes you to the BIOS/UEFI boot settings. Look for the boot options and boot from the USB drive.

Choosing the perfect Linux distribution isn't easy, but we have a guide that will help you choose a distribution. This guide also has download links for the ISO images required to create a bootable USB drive.

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