How to Create a Multiboot USB Drive Using Windows

Run multiple Linux distributions from one USB flash drive

It's possible to boot different Linux distributions from a USB flash drive thanks to a multiboot creator tool called YUMI. Here's how to use YUMI to install multiple operating systems onto a single USB drive.

Instructions in this article apply to Windows 10, 8.1, 8, and 7. You can also create a multiboot USB drive using Linux.

Why Create a Multiboot USB Drive?

By having more than one Linux distribution installed on a USB drive, you can have Linux available to you wherever you go. If you are going to use Linux on a powerful computer, then you might use Ubuntu or Linux Mint. However, if you are using a less powerful computer, you might want to use Lubuntu or Q4OS. There are multiple ways to burn an ISO file to a USB drive, but using YUMI is the best option for creating a multiboot drive.

Hand holding a USb flash drive on a blue background
 

How to Create a Multiboot USB Drive Using Windows

In order to create the USB drive, you will need to install YUMI:

  1. Insert a USB drive into your computer.

    You will lose everything on the USB drive, so create backups of any files you want to save.

  2. Open your web browser and go to the YUMI multiboot USB creator download page. Scroll down and select Download YUMI (YUMI-UEFI-0.0.2.0.exe).

    Because most modern computers use UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) as opposed to the older BIOS (Basic Input Output System), the legacy version of YUMI is incompatible with new systems.

    YUMI multiboot USB creator download page
  3. Locate and open the UEFI-YUMI-BETA.exe file you downloaded, then select I Agree to accept the YUMI license agreement.

    Select I Agree to accept the YUMI license agreement.
  4. Select the drop-down menu under Step 1 and choose the USB drive where you wish to install the operating systems.

    If you don't see your USB drive listed, check the box beside Show All Drives.

    Select the USB drive under Step 1.
  5. Select the drop-down menu under Step 2 and choose the Linux distribution you wish to install.

    Select the Linux distribution you wish to install under Step 2.
  6. If you don't already have the ISO image for the Linux distribution, select the Download Link box. You'll be taken to a page where you can download it. Wait for the download to finish before proceeding to the next step.

    If you already have the ISO image, skip to the next step.

    Select the Download Link box.
  7. Select Browse under Step 3 and choose the ISO file for the distribution you want to add.

    Select Show all ISOs to see all ISO images in addition to the ones you can choose from the list in Step 2.

    Select Browse and choose the ISO file.
  8. Under Step 4, you can drag the slider to set an area of persistence. This will allow you to save changes to the operating systems you install on the USB drive. The slider controls how much drive space the operating system has to work with on the USB. By default, it is set to nothing, so anything you do in the operating systems on the USB drive will be lost and reset the next time you reboot.

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

    Adjust the persistence slider.
  9. Select the Format Drive (Erase Content) box.

    Select the Format Drive (Erase Content) box.
  10. Select Create to format the drive and add the distribution.

    Select Create to format the drive and add the distribution.
  11. Read the warning and select Yes to confirm.

    Read the warning and select Yes to confirm.
  12. Wait for the installation to complete, then select Next.

    Wait for the installation to complete, then select Next.
  13. Select Yes to add more operating systems. Follow the same steps as above to install the second distribution. You can continue adding more operating systems to the USB drive until you have as many as you need or you run out of space.

    Do not select the Format Drive option this time, or else you will lose the first operating system.

    Select Yes to add more operating systems.

How to Remove Operating Systems From the USB Drive

YUMI offers the flexibility to remove operating systems that you've installed on your USB drive. This way, you can actually swap out an OS that you aren't using anymore for a newer version or something entirely different.

  1. Insert your USB drive into your computer again.

  2. Launch YUMI and select View or Remove Installed Distros.

    Launch YUMI and select View or Remove Installed Distros.
  3. Select your USB drive from the list under Step 1.

    Select your USB drive from the list under Step 1.
  4. Select the operating system you wish to remove under Step 2.

    Select the operating system you wish to remove under Step 2.
  5. Select Remove to uninstall the operating system.

    Select Remove to uninstall the operating system.

How to Boot Using the USB Drive

To boot your operating systems from the USB drive:

  1. Make sure the USB drive is plugged in and reboot your computer.

  2. When the system first starts, press the appropriate function key(s) to enter the boot menu. The key(s) you must press depends on your manufacturer:

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

    If your computer's manufacturer doesn't appear in the list, do a Google search for boot menu key + the manufacturer's name.

  3. When the menu appears, use the arrow keys to choose your USB drive and press Enter.

  4. The YUMI boot menu will ask if you want to reboot your computer or view the operating systems you have installed on the drive. To boot the operating system of your choice, use the arrow keys to select it, and then press Enter.