Create a Bootable Ubuntu 9.10 USB Flash Drive

The Ubuntu Live CD isn’t just useful for trying out Ubuntu before you install it, you can also use it to maintain and repair your Windows PC. Even if you have no intention of installing Linux, every Windows user should have a bootable Ubuntu USB drive on hand in case something goes wrong in Windows.

Creating a bootable USB flash drive is surprisingly easy with a small self-contained application called UNetbootin. It will even download Ubuntu for you!

Note: Ubuntu will take up approximately 700 MB on your flash drive, so choose a flash drive with at least 1 GB of free space, formatted as FAT32. This process should not remove any existing files on the flash drive, but to be safe you should backup the files on your flash drive.

Put Ubuntu on your flash drive

UNetbootin doesn’t require installation; just download the application and run it.

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Select Ubuntu from the Distribution drop-down box, then 9.10_Live from the Version drop-down box. If you have a 64-bit machine, then select 9.10_Live_x64 for the Version.

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At the bottom of the screen, select the drive letter that corresponds to the USB drive that you want to put Ubuntu on. If you select USB Drive in the Type drop-down box, the only drive letters available will be USB flash drives.

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Click OK and UNetbootin will start doing its thing. First it will download the Ubuntu Live CD.

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Then, it will copy the files from the Ubuntu Live CD to your flash drive.

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The amount of time it takes will vary depending on your Internet speed, an when it’s done, click on Exit. You’re not planning on installing Ubuntu right now, so there’s no need to reboot.

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If you look at the USB drive now, you should see a bunch of new files and folders. If you had files on the drive before, they should still be present.

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You’re now ready to boot your computer into Ubuntu 9.10!

How to boot into Ubuntu

When the time comes that you have to boot into Ubuntu, or if you just want to test and make sure that your flash drive works properly, you will have to set your computer to boot off of the flash drive.

The steps to do this will vary depending on your BIOS – which varies depending on your motherboard. To get detailed instructions on changing how your computer boots, search for your motherboard’s manual (or your laptop’s manual for a laptop).

For general instructions, which will suffice for 99% of you, read on.

Find the important keyboard keys

When your computer boots up, a bunch of words and numbers flash across the screen, usually to be ignored. This time, you need to scan the boot-up screen for a few key words with some associated keys: Boot menu and Setup. Typically, these will show up at the bottom of the screen.

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If your BIOS has a Boot Menu, then read on. Otherwise, skip to the Hard: Using Setup section.

Easy: Using the Boot Menu

If your BIOS offers a Boot Menu, then during the boot-up process, press the button associated with the Boot Menu. In our case, this is ESC.

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Our example Boot Menu doesn’t have the ability to boot from USB, but your Boot Menu should have some options, such as USB-CDROM, USB-HDD, USB-FLOPPY, and others. Try the options that start with USB until you find one that works.

Don’t worry if it doesn’t work – you can just restart and try again.

Using the Boot Menu does not change the normal boot order on your system, so the next time you start up your computer it will boot from the hard drive as normal.

Hard: Using Setup

If your BIOS doesn’t offer a Boot Menu, then you will have to change the boot order in Setup.

Note: There are some options in BIOS Setup that can affect the stability of your machine. Take care to only change the boot order options.

Press the button associated with Setup. In our case, this is F2.

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If your BIOS Setup has a Boot tab, then switch to it and change the order such that one of the USB options occurs first. There may be several USB options, such as USB-CDROM, USB-HDD, USB-FLOPPY, and others; try them out to see which one works for you.

If your BIOS does not have a boot tab, boot order is commonly found in Advanced CMOS Options.

Note that this changes the boot order permanently until you change it back. If you plan on only plugging in a bootable flash drive when you want to boot from it, then you could leave the boot order as it is, but you may find it easier to switch the order back to the previous order when you reboot from Ubuntu.

Booting into Ubuntu

If you set the right boot option, then you should be greeted with the UNetbootin screen.

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Press enter to start Ubuntu with the default options, or wait 10 seconds for this to happen automatically.

Ubuntu will start loading.

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It should go straight to the desktop with no need for a username or password.

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And that’s it! From this live desktop session, you can try out Ubuntu, and even install software that is not included in the live CD. Installed software will only last for the duration of your session – the next time you start up the live CD it will be back to its original state.

Download UNetbootin from sourceforge.net

Trevor is our resident Linux geek, but always keeps his eyes open for neat Windows tricks too.

  • Published 03/22/10
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