Learn how to install Linux on your computer or laptop from a bootable USB flash drive by following the nine easy steps below.
How to Install Linux OS from a Bootable USB in 9 Easy Steps
Step 1: Get Yourself a USB Flash Drive
Before learning how to install Linux on your computer or laptop from a USB, you first have to get yourself a flash drive. You’re free to use any kind of flash drive you like. Just make sure the USB you’ll settle on has at least 16GB of storage capacity.
Once you’ve gotten yourself a flash drive, plug it into the USB port of your laptop or computer.
Step 2: Download a Bootable USB Installation Program
The next step is to download a bootable USB installation program. This program will enable you to install and run the Linux OS from your chosen flash drive. There are tons of free bootable USB installation programs you can get online. Here’s a shortlist of the most popular ones you can download free-of-charge:
- Universal USB Installer
- Gnome Disk Utility
- Yumi Multi Boot
- Live USB Creator
In this article, we’ll use UNetbootin to show you how to install Linux from a USB. We prefer Unetbootin because it’s compatible with both the Windows and Mac operating systems (OS).
To download UNetbootin, open a web browser, type https://unetbootin.github.io/ in the address bar, and let the page load completely. After the page fully loads, click on the download button corresponding to your computer or laptop’s operating system — Windows or Mac. Run the file by double-clicking it as soon as it’s completely downloaded.
Step 3: Chose a Linux Operating System You Want to Use
As soon as you double-click the UNetbootin executable file, you’ll notice a new window pop-up. When you see this, it means you’re ready to start booting your USB.
To start installing the Linux OS onto your USB, select the radio beside the word “Distribution” on the UNetbootin window. After this, choose the type of Linux OS you want to boot into the USB from the drop-down menu labeled as “== Select Distribution ==”. Once you’ve selected your desired Linux OS, chose the version you want to install from the drop-down menu labeled as “== Select Version ==”.
Step 4: Save Everything into Your Bootable USB Flash Drive
After selecting the Linux OS type and version you want to install, the next step is to make sure you’re saving it on your USB.
To do this, look for the word “Type” in the UNetbootin window. Beside the word “Type” is a drop-down menu with two options: Hard Disk or USB Drive. Make sure to select the “USB Drive” option.
After selecting the “USB Drive” option, move over to the other drop-down menu beside it that says “Drive”. Click on this drop-down list and chose the letter corresponding to your USB flash drive.
Step 5: Divide the Storage Capacity of Your Bootable Flash Drive
Once you’ve made sure the Linux OS you’re booting will be saved on your USB, you then have to assign how much space it’ll take up on your flash drive.
To do this, look for the words “Space used to preserve files across reboots:” on the UNetbootin window. Once you’ve located these words, you’ll find a text field right beside them. This is where you can assign how much storage you’ll allocate for the Linux OS boot.
If you have a 16GB USB, we recommend you assign at least 5 GB of its overall storage for the Linux OS. To do this, simply type “5000” on the text field, and you’re all set.
Step 6: Turn Your USB Into a Bootable Flash Drive
Once you’ve chosen the Linux OS you want to install, assigned it to be saved on your flash drive, and allotted at least 5 GB of space for it, you’re ready to turn your USB into a bootable flash drive.
To boot your USB flash drive, click the “OK” button on the lower right-hand corner of the UNetbootin window. This will start the booting process. It can take anywhere between 5 to 30 minutes until the whole booting process is complete. You’ll know UNetbootin is done installing the Linux OS into the USB when the green progress bar reaches 100%.
Tip: Don’t use or turn off your computer while UNetbootin is booting your USB flash drive. Doing so might interrupt the booting process and cause errors when you run the Linux bootable USB later on.
Step 7: Restart Your Computer or Laptop
Once the UNetbootin program finishes booting your USB, go ahead and close the program and turn off your computer or laptop. Make sure to keep your flash drive plugged into its USB port.
Step 8: Make the Linux Bootable USB Drive Your Temporary Startup Device
When you are ready to continue, switch on your computer or laptop again. At this point, you want to make your device use the Linux OS you booted into the flash drive. To do this, you have to press a certain button on your keyboard to interrupt your computer or laptop’s usual startup process.
This key depends on the brand of your device, although it is generally f12, escape, or for some apple products the options key. To interrupt its usual startup process, the computer will prompt you to press the correct key on your keyboard to go to the boot menu. The timing for interruption is generally less than a few seconds, so you may have to restart your computer to try again if you miss it.
After pressing the correct key at the correct time, your computer will ask you to select a startup device. Use your arrow keys to choose the name of the Linux bootable USB currently plugged into your computer.
Hit the “Enter” key and wait for your computer to start loading the Linux OS. You’ll know you’re on the right track when your computer screen shows the logo of the Linux OS type and version you selected in Step 3.
Step 9: Customize Your Desktop Profile and Theme
Before the computer loads your Linux OS home screen, your device will ask you to choose a desktop profile and theme. You can choose from a variety of designs to find the perfect one that suits your tastes.
Once you’ve selected the desktop profile and theme you like, go ahead and click the “Next” button on the bottom edge of the screen. Let your computer or laptop load, and after a while, it’ll reveal the Linux OS desktop.
We hope with these nine steps, you now know how to install Linux OS from a bootable USB. A Linux bootable flash drive is especially useful for people who prefer this OS but are forced to work on a Windows- or Mac-powered device. Since the Linux OS is directly installed into your USB, you can take it anywhere, plug it into any device with a USB port, and run the program with ease.
Do you have any more questions about how to install Linux OS on your computer via a bootable USB flash drive? Ask them in the comments section below!