How To Create A Multiboot Linux USB Drive Using Linux

Multisystem Linux Multiboot USB Drive
Multisystem Linux Multiboot USB Drive.
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How To Create A Multiboot Linux USB Drive Using Linux

How To Install Multisystem
How To Install Multisystem.

The best tool for creating a multiboot Linux USB drive using Linux as the host system is called Multisystem.

The multisystem web page is in French (but Chrome translates it fairly well into English). The instructions for using Multisystem are included on this page so you don't really need to visit the site if you do not wish to.

Multisystem isn't perfect and there are limitations such as the fact it only runs on Ubuntu and Ubuntu derivative distributions.

Fortunately there is a way to run Multisystem even if you are running one of the other hundreds of Linux distributions other than Ubuntu.

If you are using Ubuntu you can install Multisystem using the following commands:

  1. Open a terminal window by pressing CTRL, ALT and T at the same time
  2. Type the following commands into the terminal window

sudo apt-add-repository 'deb http://liveusb.info/multisystem/depot all main'

wget -q -O - http://liveusb.info/multisystem/depot/multisystem.asc | sudo apt-key-add -

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install multisystem

The first command adds the repository required for installing Multisystem.

The second line gets the multisystem key and adds it to apt.

The third line updates the repository.

Finally the last line installs multisystem.

To run Multisystem follow these steps:

  1. Insert a blank USB drive into your computer
  2. To run Multisystem press the super key (the windows key) and search for Multisystem.
  3. When the icon appears click on it.
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How To Run A Live Version Of MultiSystem

Multisystem USB Drive
Multisystem USB Drive.

If you aren't using Ubuntu then you will need to create a Multisystem live USB drive.

  1. To do this visit http://sourceforge.net/projects/multisystem/files/iso/.A list of files will be displayed.
  2. If you are using a 32 bit system download the latest file with a name like ms-lts-version-i386.iso. (For example at the moment the 32-bit version is ms-lts-16.04-i386-r1.iso).
  3. If you are using a 64-bit system download the latest file with a name like ms-lts-version-amd64.iso. (For example at the moment the 64-bit version is ms-lst-16.04-amd64-r1.iso).
  4. After the file has downloaded visit http://etcher.io and click the download for Linux link. Etcher is a tool for burning Linux ISO images to a USB drive.
  5. Insert a blank USB drive
  6. Double click on the downloaded Etcher zip file and double click on the AppImage file that appears. Finally click on the AppRun icon. A screen like the one in the image should appear.
  7. Click on the select button and find the Multisystem ISO image
  8. Click the flash button
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How To Boot The MultiSystem Live USB

Booting Into The MultiSystem USB
Booting Into The MultiSystem USB.

If you chose to create a Multisystem live USB drive then follow these steps to boot into it:

  1. Reboot the computer
  2. Before the operating system loads press the relevant function key to bring up the UEFI boot menu
  3. Choose your USB drive from the list
  4. The Multiboot system should load into a distribution that looks remarkably like Ubuntu (and that is because essentially it is)
  5. The Multisystem software will already be running

What is the relevant function key? It differs from one manufacturer to another and sometimes from one model to another.

The following list shows the function keys for the most common brands:

  • 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
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How To Use Multisystem

Select Your USB Drive
Select Your USB Drive.

The first screen that you see when Multisystem loads requires you to insert the USB drive that you will be using to install multiple Linux operating systems to.

  1. Insert the USB drive
  2. Click the refresh icon which has a curly arrow on it
  3. Your USB drive should show in the list at the bottom. If you are using the Multisystem live USB you might see 2 USB drives.
  4. Select the USB drive you wish to install to and click "Confirm"
  5. A message will appear asking whether you want to install GRUB to the drive. Click "Yes".

GRUB is the menu system used to select from the different Linux distributions that you are going to install to the drive.

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Adding Linux Distributions To The USB Drive

Add Linux Distributions Using Multisystem
Add Linux Distributions Using Multisystem.

The first thing you need to do is download some Linux distributions to add to the drive. You can do this by opening a browse and navigating to Distrowatch.org.

Scroll down the page until you see a list of the top Linux distributions in a panel on the right side of the screen.

Click on the link of the distribution you wish to add to the drive 

The individual page will load for the Linux distribution that you selected and there will be a link to one or more download mirrors. Click on the link to the download mirrors.

When the download mirror loads click on the link to download the appropriate version of the ISO image for the Linux distribution.

After you have downloaded all of the distributions you wish to add to the USB, open the downloads folder on your computer using the file manager installed on the computer.

Drag the first distribution into the box that says "Select ISO or IMG" on the Multisystem screen.

The image will be copied to the USB drive. The screen goes black and some text scrolls up and you will see a short progress bar highlighting how far through the process you are.

It is worth noting that it takes a while to add any distribution to the USB drive and you should just wait until you are returned to the main Multisystem screen.

The progress bar is not particularly accurate and you may think the process has hung. I can assure you that it hasn't.

After the first distribution has been added it will appear in the top box on the Multisystem screen. 

To add another distribution drag the ISO image to the "Select ISO or IMG" box within Multisystem and again wait for the distribution to be added.

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How To Boot Into The Multiboot USB Drive

Boot Into The Multiboot USB Drive
Boot Into The Multiboot USB Drive.

To boot into the mutliboot USB drive reboot your computer leaving the USB drive inserted and press the relevant function key to bring up the boot menu before your main operating system loads.

The relevant function keys are listed in step 3 of this guide for the major computer manufacturers.

If you can't find the function key in the list keep pressing function keys or indeed the escape key before the operating system loads until the boot menu appears.

From the boot menu choose your USB drive.

The Multisystem menu loads and you should see the Linux distributions you chose at the top of the list.

Select the distribution you wish to load using the arrow keys and press return.

The Linux distribution will now load.