Bootable USB is a USB drive that is used to boot up a computer or laptop for installation on an operating system.
Unlike Windows, Linux distributions require a third-party tool to create a bootable USB. It is particularly handy with modern PCs which have done away with the old DVD-drives. Also, installation DVDs were quite delicate and would scratch or in worst-case scenarios, break apart under stress. This guide covers some of the best tools that you can use to create a bootable Linux USB drive.
Developed and maintained by the Balena team, Etcher is a free and open-source cross-platform tool that allows you to create bootable USB drives and SD cards using an ISO image in a safe and easy way. It comes with a neat and simple UI that intelligently selects your bootable medium without a hustle.
Etcher supports most major Linux distributions, both 32-bit and 64-bit, macOS 10.10 (Yosemite and later) and Windows 7 and later versions. Additionally, you can write on IoT devices such as Raspberry PI with usbboot protocol. You can find installation instructions on Github on how to install Etcher on Ubuntu/ Debian as well as RHEL/CentOS.
Rufus is an extremely popular open-source tool that allows you to create bootable USB drives in a cool and easy way. It has a small footprint and comes with a simple and intuitive UI design that enables you to easily create your bootable USB drive. You don't need to install Rufus, simply click on the .exe file and the Rufus pop-up window will be displayed as shown.
It gives you options to select your preferred ISO image and USB drive on which you will burn the image. Other options that you can select include the Partition scheme (MBR or GPT), Target system ( BIOS or UEFI), File system, and cluster size. It's quite fast and is much faster compared to the Windows USB creation tool.
USBImager is a minimalistic GUI application that is cross-platform and also available in major Linux distributions such as Ubuntu/Debian, Arch/Manjaro, and ARM devices such as Raspberry Pi.
Key features include:
- A small memory footprint - Just a few kilobytes.
- Fully GDPR compatible and devoid of annoying advertisements.
- It's multilingual with a native interface across all platforms.
- Has the ability to male synchronized writes and verifies the writing upon completion.
- Ability to read raw disk images such as .iso, .dd, .img and .bin to mention a few.
- Ability to read compressed images such as .xz, .bz2, .zst.
- The ability to read tarball archives such as .zip files.
- Ability to copy images to microcontrollers using the serial line.
Written in C++ and Qt, UNetbootin is yet another popular and cross-platform tool that you can use to create a bootable Linux USB Drive. It was first released in April 2007 and the latest release, at the time of writing this guide, was released in June 2011. You can create a Live bootable USB stick for all major Linux distros including the lesser-known distros such as Sabayon, Sli Taz and Slax Linux.
What sets UNetbootin apart from the rest of the tools is that it provides additional troubleshooting tools and system repair utilities such as
- Parted Magic
- Smart Boot Manager
- Super Grub Disk
- Dr.Web AntivirusF-Secure Rescue CD
Ventoy is yet another open-source tool that you use to create a bootable USB Pendrive straight from an ISO image. It’s quite fast and reliable and allows you to create multiple bootable USB drives simultaneously. You can copy as many image files as possible to a USB drive without formatting it, and Ventoy will help you choose your desired image.
Ventoy supports a wide array of boot menu options including Legacy BIOS, x86_64 UEFI, IA32UEFI, and ARM64 UEFI. Additionally, it supports OS types such as Windows, Linux, and VMWare hypervisor.
Notable features include:
- Support for x86_64 UEFI, x86 Legacy BIOS, and ARM64 UEFI.
- Support for MBR and GPT formats.
- Support for UEFI secure boot.
- Ability to boot a USB drive either using UEFI and EFI using GRUB2 bootloader option.
- Can support ISO files larger than 4 GB.
- The ability to boot an ISO image without the need to reboot.
- Ventoy can uninstall the installed OS.
6) Gnome MultiWriter
Written in C, Gnome MultiWriter is an open-source tool that enables users to write and a copy of an ISO image to multiple USB or pen drives simultaneously. It supports USB drives of between 1GB and 32 GB. It comes in handy in quality assurance testing and in creating multiple Live USB drives to distribute to many users for demo purposes.
If you are a nerd and like to create a bootable drive from Linux terminal, use dd command. That was a round-up of some of the software utilities that you can use to create a bootable USB drive. All are readily available for all major Linux distros and installation is quite simple and straightforward. With such a wide selection, you can try out any of them and see which best suits you. We have that this guide was a great value to you.