How To Create A UEFI Bootable Ubuntu USB Drive Using Windows

Set up a USB to install or try Ubuntu

This guide shows you how to create a bootable Ubuntu USB drive which will work on UEFI based and BIOS-based systems ...​

As an additional bonus, this guide will also show you how to make the drive persistent so that changes made in the live mode are kept for each subsequent boot.

For this guide, you will need a blank USB drive with at least 2 gigabytes of space and an internet connection.

Choose the Version Of Ubuntu to Download

Download Ubuntu Desktop to begin creating a Ubuntu USB drive.

The first thing to do is download Ubuntu by visiting the Ubuntu Desktop Download site.

There will always be 2 versions of available for download. The version at the top will be the current long-term support release and this is designed for the majority of users.

Currently, the long-term support version is 18.04 and it guarantees 5 years worth of support. Whilst you use this version, you will receive security updates and application updates but you won't get new features that are released. The LTS version provides a great level of stability. As such, it's usually geared toward business applications, servers, and developers, but you can absolutely use it on your home desktop, if you choose.

At the bottom of the page, you will find the latest version of Ubuntu. That more current version will have newer versions of desktop applications in addition to the underlying system components. The non-LTS Ubuntu releases arrive every six months and aren't supported for nearly as long, since you're expected to upgrade each time a new one arrives. If that sounds daunting, Ubuntu allows you to update within the operating system without reinstalling, so in reality, it's usually not an issue.

Choose the download link next to the version you wish to use.

Download Ubuntu for Free

Donating to Ubuntu is optional; you can download it for free.

Lots of money goes into making the Ubuntu operating system and the developers like to be paid for their work.

After you select the download link you will be presented with a list of sliders asking you to donate as little or as much to each portion of the operating system's development as you wish to do so.

Most people don't want to pay for something without knowing what they are getting.

To pay absolutely nothing for Ubuntu, select the Not now, take me to the download link at the bottom of the page.

The Ubuntu ISO image will now be downloaded to your computer.

Create the Ubuntu USB Drive Using Etcher

Create Ubuntu Drive Using Etcher

The best tool for creating a Ubuntu USB drive is Balena Etcher. It's a free software. Use these instructions to download it and create a Ubuntu USB drive.

  1. Select the large green download link at the bottom of the page.

  2. After the download has finished, select the Etcher executable file. A setup screen will appear. All you have to do is press Install.

  3. When the software has been completely installed, press Finish. Etcher should start automatically.

  4. Insert a blank USB drive into one of the USB ports on your computer.

    If your USB drive isn't blank, everything on the drive will be permanently erased.

  5. Press Select, and navigate to the Downloads folder to find the Ubuntu ISO image downloaded in step 2.

  6. Press Select Drive, and choose the letter of the USB drive that you inserted.

  7. Press Flash to begin writing your Ubuntu ISO to the USB drive.

  8. Ubuntu will be written to the drive and a validation routine will run. After it has completed you will be able to boot into Ubuntu.

How to Boot Into Ubuntu

How To Boot Into Ubuntu

If you simply reboot your computer you might be surprised when it boots straight into Windows. This is because Windows is usually set to boot before anything else on most manufacturer's computers.

However, you can override the boot order. The following list shows you the key to press depending on the manufacturer of your computer:

  • Acer - Escape, F9 or F12
  • Asus - Escape or F8
  • Compaq - Escape or F9
  • Dell - F12
  • eMachines - F12
  • HP - Escape or F9 (in some cases you need to press Escape and then F9)
  • Intel - F10
  • Lenovo - F8, F10, F11 or F12
  • NEC - F5
  • Packard Bell - F8
  • Samsung - Escape or F12
  • Sharp - F2
  • Sony - F10 or F11
  • Toshiba - F12

If your computer isn't listed here, there are a lot of places to find lists of additional hotkeys for the Boot menu.

Press and hold the relevant function key before your computer boots. Keep holding the key until a boot menu screen loads much like the one in the image.

If the keys above don't work for your particular make try one of the other function keys. Manufacturers often change them with no warning.

When the boot menu appears, choose the option which matches your USB drive.

Make the Ubuntu USB Drive Persistent

Create a persistent USB drive for your Ubuntu installation. 

To make it possible to install applications and save settings on a live USB drive you need to make it persistent.

Ubuntu looks for a file called casper-rw in the root partition in order to provide persistence.

To create a casper-rw file using Windows you can use a piece of software from called PDL Casper-RW Creator. Download the application by clicking the link and then double click the executable to open it.

Make sure your Ubuntu USB drive is inserted and select the drive letter within Casper-RW Creator.

Now drag the slider across to determine how big you want the Casper-RW file to be. (The bigger the file, the more you can save).

Press Create.

Edit Grub to Add Persistence

Create a persistent file using Casper-RW Creator

To get your USB drive to use the Casper-RW file open up Windows Explorer and navigate to /Boot/Grub.

Edit the file grub.cfg by right-clicking the file and selecting Open With and then Notepad.

Look for the following menu entry text and add the word persistent as shown in bold below.

menuentry "Try Ubuntu without installing" {
set gfxpayload=keep
linux   /casper/vmlinuz.efi file=/cdrom/preseed/ubuntu.seed boot=casper quiet splash persistent --
initrd   /casper/initrd.lz

Save the file.

Reboot your computer while holding down the shift key and boot back into Ubuntu.

Programs and settings will now be remembered each and every time you boot into Ubuntu from the USB drive.