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How to create an ISO image on a USB stick for Windows and Linux?


How to create an ISO image on a USB stick for Windows and Linux?

If you need to reinstall Windows and Linux on your computer, check out how to create an ISO image on a USB stick and use it.

Creating installation media for your operating system used to be simple. Simply download an ISO and burn it to a CD or DVD. We are now using USB drives, and the process is slightly different for each operating system.

You cannot simply copy files from an ISO disk image directly to your USB stick. The data partition on the USB drive needs to be bootable, to begin with. This process will usually wipe your USB stick or SD card.

How to create an ISO image on a USB stick for Windows and Linux
How to create an ISO image on a USB stick for Windows and Linux

Use a USB 3.0 drive if you can

USB 2.0 has been around for a long time, and all devices support it, but it is notoriously slow. You will be able to install much faster if you use a USB 3.0 flash drive. Prices have fallen dramatically, and speed increases are considerable. You can have up to 10x more speed. And speed really matters when you’re making a pluggable unit.

Don’t worry about compatibility, these faster drives are fully compatible with an old USB 2.0 system, you just won’t have the benefit of speed.

How to create an ISO image on a USB flash drive for Windows 7, 8 or 10

Use Microsoft’s USB / DVD download tool to create a bootable drive. You will need an ISO file for the Windows installer to run this tool. If you don’t have one, you can download the Windows 10, 8, or 7 installation media for free, but you’ll need a legitimate product key to use them.

Provide the ISO file and a USB flash drive, and the tool will create a bootable drive.

Alternatively, if you are installing Windows 10, you can download a disk image or burn Windows 10 installation media directly using the Microsoft Media Creation Tool.

How to create an ISO image on a USB stick for Linux

There are many tools that can do this job for you, but we recommend a free program called Rufus – it is faster and more reliable than many other tools, including UNetbootin.

How to create an ISO image on a USB stick for Windows and Linux
How to create an ISO image on a USB stick for Windows and Linux
  1. Download the Linux distribution you want to use in ISO format. You can for example download from the Ubuntu download page.
  2. Run the tool, select the desired distribution, browse to the downloaded ISO file, and choose the USB drive you want to use. The tool will do the rest.
  3. When you run Rufus on your Windows PC, the tool will open immediately – you don’t even have to install it.
  4. Connect a USB drive with at least 2GB of free space to your Windows PC.
  5. The contents of this drive will be erased, so back up all important files on the drive first.
  6. Click on the “Device” box on Rufus and make sure your connected unit is selected.
  7. If the “Create a bootable disk using” option is grayed out, click on the “File System” box and select “FAT32”.
  8. Activate the “Create a bootable disk using” checkbox, click the button to the right of it and select your downloaded ISO file.
  9. After selecting the correct options, click on the “Start” button to start creating the bootable drive.
  10. You may need newer SysLinux files. Just click on the “Yes” button and Rufus will automatically download them for you.
  11. Rufus will ask you how you want to write the image. Just select the default option – “Write in ISO Image Mode (Recommended)” – and click “OK”.
  12. You will be warned that all data on the USB drive will be erased. Click “OK” to continue if the unit does not have important data about it. (If you forgot to back up your data, click “Cancel”, back up the data to the USB drive and then run Rufus again.)
  13. Rufus will create the bootable USB drive. You can click “Close” to close Rufus when you are ready.
  14. Then, restart the computer and boot the USB drive using these instructions. You can also take it to another computer and boot Ubuntu from the USB drive on that computer.

How to create a bootable USB drive in Ubuntu

If you’re already using Ubuntu, you don’t need to do that from Windows. Just open Dash and look for the “Startup Disk Creator” application, which is included with Ubuntu.

How to create an ISO image on a USB stick for Ubuntu
How to create an ISO image on a USB stick for Ubuntu – Startup Disk Creator

Provide a downloaded Ubuntu ISO file, connect a USB drive and the tool will create a bootable Ubuntu USB drive for you.

Many other distributions have their own similar tools built-in, so you’ll have to check and see what your particular distribution has available.

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