How to Create a Bootable USB Device

By Jack Busch

If your hard drive fails, your operating system becomes corrupted or your machine becomes otherwise unable to boot regularly, you will need to boot in from another device. If you have your operating system's installation CD or DVD, you can boot your machine from the disc. Alternately, you can boot from an operating system installed on a USB drive. Read on to learn how to create a bootable USB device.

Things You'll Need

  • UNetbootin softwareA USB drive

Step 1

Connect your USB drive to your machine.

Step 2

Download UNetbootin (see Resources section.) This open-source software allows you to easily install Linux on a USB drive.

Step 3

Run UNetbootin. Click the drop-down menu next to "Distribution" and choose the version of Linux you would like to install. Next, choose the version in the adjacent drop-down menu.

Step 4

At the bottom of the dialog, choose the "USB Drive" under "Type." Next, select the drive letter of your USB drive under "Drive." Click "OK" and wait for the install process to complete.

Step 5

To boot from your USB drive, insert it into the machine before powering it on.

Tips & Warnings

  • For advanced users, Bart's mkbt utility is a popular method.HP/Compaq has a specific utility for creating a bootable USB drive (see Resources section).Use another machine to create your boot drive if your primary computer is nonoperational. Also, it is wise to create a boot drive as a backup to use in case your machine crashes in the future.
  • Macintosh computers cannot boot Linux or Windows from a USB drive (see Resources section).Depending on your machine, you may need to alter your BIOS to boot your machine from a USB drive. To do this, you typically need to hold "Delete" or "F2" while your computer boots. This key is typically displayed on the screen during startup. Doing so will enter your BIOS setup.