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Monday, August 2, 2021

Best Tools to Create a Bootable Linux USB Drive

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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.

1 ) Etcher

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.

Create a Bootable Linux USB Drive using Etcher

Balena Etcher tool

2 ) USBImager

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.

USBImager tool for making Live USB bootable medium

USBImager 1.0.4

Key features include:

  1. A small memory footprint – Just a few kilobytes.
  2. Fully GDPR compatible and devoid of annoying advertisements.
  3. It’s multilingual with a native interface across all platforms.
  4. Has the ability to male synchronized writes and verifies the writing upon completion.
  5. Ability to read raw disk images such as .iso, .dd, .img and .bin to mention a few.
  6. Ability to read compressed images such as .xz, .bz2, .zst.
  7. The ability to read tarball archives such as .zip files.
  8. Ability to copy images to microcontrollers using the serial line.

3) UNetbootin

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.

Unetbootin tool

UNetbootin tool

What sets UNetbootin apart from the rest of the tools is that it provides additional troubleshooting tools and system repair utilities such as

  1. SystemRescueCD
  2. Parted Magic
  3. Smart Boot Manager
  4. Super Grub Disk
  5. Dr.Web AntivirusF-Secure Rescue CD

4) MultiBoot USB

Written in Python, MultiBoot USB is an open-source utility tool that works only on Windows and Linux. It enables users to install several Live Linux distributions on a USB stick in an undestructive manner. MultiBoot USB is released under the GPL license and is absolutely free to download and install. The latest release at the time of writing this article is MultiBoot USB 9.2.0.

MultiBoot USB utility

MultiBoot USB 9.2.0

You can download the Debian or  RPM package from the official download page and install it on your Linux system.

Key features include:

  1. Ability to install several Live Linux distros alongside other operating systems to a USB drive and make them bootable without running the risk of deleting existing data.
  2. Ability to uninstall the installed OS.
  3. Boots the ISO images straight without having to reboot.
  4. Ability to boot your bootable USB drive without rebooting your Linux system.
  5. Boot a USB drive on EFI or UEFI system using the GRUB2 bootloader (limited support).

5) 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.

Gnome MultiWriter

Gnome MultiWriter


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.

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