How to Create a Multiboot USB Drive Using Windows

Boot Multiple Linux Distributions
Boot Multiple Linux Distributions.

This guide will show you how to install multiple operating systems onto a single USB drive.

There are many reasons why you might want to do this. If you are going to use Linux on a powerful computer then you might use Ubuntu or Linux Mint. This tutorial will teach you how to create a multiboot Linux USB drive using Linux. However, if you are using a less powerful computer you might want to use Lubuntu or Q4OS.

By having more than one Linux distribution installed on a USB drive you can have Linux available to you wherever you go.

This guide assumes you are using the Windows operating system to create the USB drive and the tool that is highlighted requires Windows 7, 8, 8.1 or 10.

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Introducing the YUMI Multiboot Creator

Tools For Booting Multiple Distros
Tools For Booting Multiple Distros.

In order to create the USB drive you will need to install YUMI. YUMI is a multiboot USB creator and, if you aren't familiar with it, you should read up on YUMI before continuing.

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Get the YUMI Multiboot USB Creator

How To Get YUMI
How To Get YUMI.

To download YUMI visit the following link:

 Scroll down the page until you see the 2 buttons with the following text on them:

  • Download YUMI
  • Download YUMI (UEFI YUMI Beta)

You can choose to download either version but I recommend going for the UEFI YUMI Beta version despite it having the word beta in it.

Beta generally means that the software isn't fully tested yet but in my experience it works very well and it will allow you to run the Linux distributions you install to the USB drive on all computers without having to switch to legacy mode.

Most modern computers now have UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) as opposed to the old school BIOS (Basic Input Output System).

Therefore for the best results click "Download YUMI (UEFI YUMI BETA)".

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Install and Run YUMI

Install Yumi
Install Yumi.

In order to run YUMI follow these instructions:

  1. Insert a formatted USB drive (or a USB drive where you don't care about the data on it)
  2. Open Windows Explorer and navigate to your downloads folder.
  3. Double click on the file UEFI-YUMI-BETA.exe file.
  4. A license agreement will be displayed. Click "I Agree"

You should now see the main YUMI screen

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Add the First Operating System to the USB Drive

Install The First Operating System
Install The First Operating System.

The YUMI interface is fairly straight forward but lets go through the steps to adding the first operating system to the USB drive.

  1. Click on the list under "Step 1" and choose the USB drive where you wish to install the operating system to.
  2. If you can't see your USB drive place a check in the "Show All Drives" and click on the list again and choose your USB drive.
  3. Click on the list under "Step 2" and scroll through the list to find the Linux distribution or indeed the Windows Installer should you wish to install it.
  4. If you don't already have the ISO image downloaded to your computer click on the "Download the ISO (Optional)" checkbox.
  5. If you have already downloaded the ISO image of the Linux distribution you want to install click on the browse button and navigate to the location of the ISO image of the distribution you wish to add.
  6. If the drive isn't empty you will need to format the drive. Click on the "Format drive (Erase all content)" checkbox.
  7. Finally click "Create" to add the distribution
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Install the First Distribution

YUMI Install Distribution
YUMI Install Distribution.

 A message will appear telling you exactly what will happen if you choose to continue. The message tells you whether the drive will be formatted, a boot record will be written, a label will be added and the operating system will be installed.

Click "Yes" to start the installation process.

What happens now depends on whether you chose to download the distribution or install from a pre-downloaded ISO image.

If you chose to download then you will have to wait for the download to finish before the files are extracted to the drive.

If you chose to install an already downloaded ISO image then this file will be copied to the USB drive and extracted.

When the process has completed click the "Next" button.

A message will appear asking whether you want to add more operating systems. If you do then click "Yes".

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Now Add More Operating Systems to the USB Drive

Add Another Operating System
Add Another Operating System.

To add a second operating system to the drive you follow the same steps as before except you should not click on the "Format drive" option.

  1. Choose the drive you wish to add an operating system to.
  2. Choose the operating system from the list in "Step 2" and select the next operating system you wish to add
  3. If you wish to download the operating system place a check in the box
  4. If you want to select an ISO image that you downloaded earlier click on the browse button and find the ISO to add.

There are a couple of options that you should also be aware of.

The "Show all ISOs" checkbox will allow you to see all ISO images when you click the browse button and not just the ISOs for the operating system you chose in the dropdown list.

Under "Step 4" on the screen you can drag a slider along to set an area of persistence. This will allow you to save changes to the operating systems you install to the USB drive.

By default this is set to nothing and therefore anything you do in the operating systems on the USB drive will be lost and reset the next time you reboot.

NOTE: It takes a bit longer to process the persistence file as it creates an area on the USB drive ready to store data

To continue adding the second distribution click "Create".

You can continue adding more and more operating systems to the USB drive until you have as many as you need or indeed you run out of space.

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How to Remove Operating Systems from the USB Drive

Remove OS From USB Drive
Remove OS From USB Drive.

If at some point you decide that you wish to remove one of the operating systems from the USB drive you can follow these instructions:

  1. Insert the USB drive into the computer
  2. Run YUMI
  3. Click on the "View or Remove Installed Distros" checkbox
  4. Select your USB drive from the list in step 1
  5. Select the operating system you wish to remove from step 2
  6. Click "Remove"
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How to Boot Using the USB Drive

Display The Boot Menu
Display The Boot Menu.

To use your USB drive make sure that it is plugged into the computer and reboot your computer.

When the system first starts press the relevant function key to enter the boot menu. The relevant key differs from one manufacturer to another. The list below should help:

  • Acer - Esc, F9, F12
  • ASUS - Esc, F8
  • Compaq - Esc, F9
  • Dell - F12
  • EMachines - F12
  • HP - Esc, F9
  • Intel - F10
  • Lenovo - F8, F10, F12
  • NEC - F5
  • Packard Bell - F8
  • Samsung - Esc, F12
  • Sony - F11, F12
  • Toshiba - F12

If your computer manufacturer doesn't appear in the list try using Google to search for the boot menu key by typing (manufacturer's name boot menu key) into the search bar.

You can also try pressing ESC, F2, F12 etc when booting. Sooner or later the menu will appear and it will look similar to the one above.

When the menu appears use the down arrow to choose your USB drive and press enter.

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Choose Your Operating System

Boot Into The Operating System Of Your Choice
Boot Into The Operating System Of Your Choice.

The YUMI boot menu should now appear.

The first screen asks whether you want to reboot your computer or view the operating systems you have installed on the drive.

If you choose to view the operating systems you have installed to the drive then you will see a list of all the operating systems you have installed.

You can boot to the operating system of your choice by using the up and down arrows to select the desired item and the enter key to boot into it.

The operating system you have selected will now boot and you can start using it.