How to Burn an ISO File to a USB Drive in Linux

Plugging a USB flash drive into a laptopAlexey Rotanov/Shutterstock

Linux users traditionally burned ISO files to DVD or CD, but many computers don’t have disc drives anymore. Creating a bootable USB drive is a better solution—it’ll work on most computers and will boot, run, and install faster.

How Bootable Linux USB Drives Work

Like a live CD or DVD, a bootable USB drive lets you run practically any Linux distribution without affecting your computer. You can also install a Linux distribution on your PC from it—no CD or DVD drive required. You can’t simply copy or extract the ISO file to the USB drive and expect it to work, however. While you don’t technically “burn” the ISO file to a USB drive, there’s a special process required to take a Linux ISO file and make a bootable USB drive with it.

There are two ways to do this: Some Linux distributions include a graphical USB startup disk creator tool that will do it for you. You can also use the dd command to do this from a terminal on any Linux distro. Whichever method you choose, you’ll need the Linux distribution’s ISO file.

For example, Ubuntu Linux has two built-in methods for creating a bootable USB drive. A bootable USB drive provides the same experience to the user as an Ubuntu Live DVD. It allows you to try out the popular Unix-like operating system without making changes to the computer. When you are ready to install Ubuntu, you can use the USB drive as the installation medium.

You will require an Ubuntu installation ISO image to create the bootable USB drive, so make sure you have downloaded the version of Ubuntu you wish to use.

To be clear, this bootable USB drive will boot into a working copy of Ubuntu Linux but it will not save any changes you make. Each time you boot into the Ubuntu from this USB drive it will be a fresh instance of Ubuntu. If you want to be able to save changes and data you need to create a bootable USB drive with persistent storage. That’s a more complicated process.

Just insert the resulting USB drive into any computer and boot from the USB device. (On some PCs, you may also have to disable Secure Boot, depending on the Linux distribution you choose.)

While we’re using Ubuntu as an example here, this will work similarly with other Linux distributions.

How to Make a Bootable USB Drive Graphically

The default Ubuntu installation includes an application called Startup Disk Creator, which we shall use to create our bootable USB drive. If you’re using another Linux distribution, it may include a similar utility. Check your Linux distribution’s documentation—you can search for it online—for more information.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Dave McKay

Author: Droolin' Dog News Team