Learn the Best Way to Create a UEFI-Bootable Linux Mint USB Drive

Test-drive Linux Mint using a Linux USB boot drive

Linux Mint
Linux Mint and Shutterstock

The most popular Linux distribution since 2011, computed by the page-hit rankings at Distrowatch, has been Linux Mint. Mint's popularity follows from its ease of installation and its shallow learning curve—and because it is based on the long-term support release of Ubuntu, which provides stability and support.

Use a Linux Mint USB drive as a way of testing Linux Mint to see if it is suitable for your needs. If you like it, the live file system on the Linux USB device supports installation to your hard drive, or even dual booting of Linux Mint and Windows 8 and 10

Before PCs shipped with Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) technology, spinning up a blank Linux CD, DVD, or USB drive was straightforward, as was booting with the media you created. Modern PCs with UEFI—because it's a security layer that modern PCs use to protect the operating system's communications with your PC's hardware—require a few extra steps to work correctly with Linux USBs.

What You Will Need

To create a UEFI-bootable Linux Mint USB drive, you'll need:

The disc image—a single large file with a name ending in .ISO—represents a direct copy of what the contents of a CD would be, if a CD with Linux Mint were ripped to a single file. For that reason, you need a tool like Win32 Disk Imager, which executes ISO-to-USB for your Linux USB.

01
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Create the Linux Mint USB Drive

Screenshot of Win32 Disk Imager in Windows 10

Format a USB Drive

Prepare the drive to accept the ISO-to-USB Linux transfer.

  1. Open Windows Explorer and right-click on the drive letter that symbolizes the drive.
  2. Click the Format option on the menu.
  3. When the Format Volume screen appears, verify that the quick format option is checked and the file system is set to FAT32.
  4. Click Start.

Write Linux Mint Image to the USB Drive

After the USB drive has been formatted, transfer the ISO file to it.

  1. Start Win32 Disk Imager.
  2. Set the drive letter to the USB drive you prepared.
  3. Click the folder icon and locate the Linux Mint ISO file you've already downloaded. You will need to change the file type to show all the files. Click the ISO so that the path appears in the box on the main screen.
  4. Click Write.
02
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Turn Off Fast Boot

Turn Off Fastboot
Turn Off Fastboot.

To boot a UEFI-bootable Ubuntu-based USB drive (like Linux Mint), you must turn off Fast Startup from within Windows.

  1. Right-click on the Start button or press Win-X.
  2. Choose Power Options.
  3. When the power options screen appears, click the second menu item on the left-hand side: Choose what the power button does.
  4. Find the Shutdown Settings section at the bottom of the list. Ensure the Turn on Fast Startup checkbox is unchecked and click Save Changes.

If the box is grayed out, enable it by clicking the link at the top that reads, Change settings that are currently unavailable.

03
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Boot From a UEFI-Bootable Linux Mint USB Drive

Screenshot of the Windows 10 UEFI Boot Menu

After you've disabled fast-startup mode in Windows, reboot your PC.

  1. To boot into Linux Mint, restart your computer while pressing the Shift key.
  2. When the UEFI boot menu appears, choose the Use a Device option and select USB EFI Drive

If you don't see the blue UEFI screen to choose to boot from EFI, try rebooting your PC and forcing it to boot from the USB drive during system start-up. Different manufacturers require different keypresses to access this start-up customization feature:

  • Acer - F2 or delete
  • Asus - F2, F9, or delete
  • Compaq - F10
  • Dell - F2
  • Emachines - Tab or delete
  • HP - Escape, F1, or F10
  • Lenovo - F1 or F2
  • NEC - F2
  • Packard Bell - F1 or F2
  • Samsung - F2 or F10
  • Sharp - F2
  • Sony - F1, F2, or F3
  • Toshiba - Escape, F1, F2, or F12
04
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Writing a Live System to Disk

After you've launched Linux Mint from USB and have explored the live file system, you can either continue to use the USB drive to launch a Linux session when you need it, or you can use Mint's own tools to transfer the Linux operating system to your PC's hard drive. 

When you install to hard disk, the bootloader automatically addresses UEFI compatibility on your behalf. You do not need to keep Fast Startup disabled in Windows to dual-boot into a Linux Mint system.