UNetbootin - Create a Live Linux USB

UNetbootin can be used to quickly create a Live Linux USB flash drive from an ISO file. There are versions of this cross-platform Live USB generation utility for Windows, Linux, and MacOS X. The fact that this bootable USB creator works with every major operating system is a benefit.  Most Live Linux distributions are supported right out of the box, and there are custom install options available for ISO distributions that are not.

Originally authored by Geza Kovacs, the UNetbootin USB tool was released under GNU GPL v2. You can read more about it at the Official Project Page.

It is important to mention that at the time of this writing, Live Linux USB flash drives created with this tool do not utilize a persistence feature. The resulting bootable USB Linux install will function just as it does from a Live CD. By default you will not be able to save and restore your changes. Additionally, only one distribution can be put on the flash drive.

If you wish to store and boot multiple Linux distributions with persistence, system utilities, and Windows Installers, you should use a tool like YUMI Multiboot ISO to USB, instead.

Make a Live Linux bootable USB - UNetbootin Windows

The following assumes you are working from within Windows and have a current copy of the ISO you wish to convert.

  1. Download UNetbootin for Windows version.
  2. Make sure to have a copy of your favorite Linux ISO on hand.
  3. Double click the unetbootin-windows-###.exe to start the program.
  4. Next, to prepare and make your USB bootable,
    (1) Click the Diskimage radio box.
    (2) Browse to select your ISO.
    (3) Set your target USB drive.
    (4) Click OK to start the creation.
    UNetbootin Windows Live USB Creation from an ISO
  5. Once the installation has completed, select the option to Reboot Now.
    UNetbootin installation finished
  6. During the reboot, Enter your system BIOS or boot menu and select to USB boot from your flash drive. Then restart, and enjoy running your favorite Live Linux on USB.

This Live USB creation tool can also be used to create a Live Linux USB flash drive from within Linux. In the following section, I cover how to quickly get it up and running within an Ubuntu Linux operating environment.

How to install and run UNetbootin from Ubuntu Linux

To install the UNetbootin Linux version from Ubuntu,

  1. Open a terminal (applications > accessories > terminal) or Ctrl+Alt+T
  2. Type the following commands into the terminal pressing enter after each.
    (1) Download the latest version;

    wget unetbootin.sourceforge.net/unetbootin-linux-latest

    (2) Make the archive executable;

    chmod +x ./unetbootin-linux-*

    (3) Extract files from the archive;

    sudo apt-get install p7zip-full

    (4) Run the UNetbootin program;

    sudo ./unetbootin-linux-*

    Alternately, you can just double click the unetbootin-linux-* file to run it, since it was marked executable in step 2.

How to use UNetbootin in Ubuntu Linux

Insert your USB flash drive and start the tool (See step 4 in the previous section).

Option One - Distribution: You can let the tool fetch and download a select Linux distribution from the internet.

(1) Select a Linux Distribution.
(2) Select a  specific Version.
(3) Make sure the correct USB Drive is detected and then Click OK. Using UNetbootin - Fetch the ISO files from the Net

Or you can opt to use Option Two...

Option Two - Diskimage: Browse to and use an existing Linux ISO file.

(1) Browse to the ISO Image you would like the tool to put on your USB flash drive.
(2) Make sure the correct USB flash drive is detected and then click OK.
UNetbootin DiskImage - use existing ISO Option

After the installation has finished, simply click Reboot Now.
unetbootin install done 1

Finally, Enter your system BIOS. Set your BIOS or boot menu to boot from your USB flash drive. Reboot and enjoy running your favorite Live Linux ISO from USB.

This concludes the process of using another great tool to copy and boot your favorite Linux ISO from your flash drive.