How to create a Linux bootable usb drive in Windows – Updated

One of the many powerful features of Linux is the ability to start a distribution directly from a USB stick, without affecting your hard drive and the operating system on it. It is therefore not necessary to perform a complete installation to use or try out Linux. But even if you have made the decision to install Linux individually or next to Windows or OSX, a bootable Linux USB stick is the most practical and quick solution. This article will explain how to create a Linux bootable usb drive in Windows, from which Linux can be started without installation. An equivalent article explains how this can be achieved from an Apple macOS / OSX environment.

Note: This is a rewritten version of the initial article that was based on Universal USB Installer (UUI). Out of multiple reactions on this article I concluded that Universal USB Installer is probably not the most user friendly application available. A much better and far much simpler (just 3 buttons) USB creation app is Balena Etcher, which is available for both Windows and macOS, so I have rewritten this article so the process can be based on Etcher.

Linux Mint for Beginners course

This tutorial is part of a 29 sections Linux Mint beginner course. If you are interested in the complete free course you can have a look at the course overview page:

Linux Mint Beginner Course – Overview Page

Requirements to create a Linux bootable usb drive in Windows

Before we can actually create the Linux bootable usb drive we need to have some things ready available:

  • Balena Etcher
  • Linux iso file
  • USB stick

Balena Etcher:
To write the Linux Mint ISO file to the USB stick, we use a free and open source application called balena Etcher.

Linux iso file:
Besides Universal USB Installer we also need a Linux distribution that we want to put on the USB stick. For this article we choose the Linux Mint Cinnamon edition because I think it is absolutely the best Linux distribution for both beginners and real power users. But in the end this depends entirely on your own preference and you can also choose another distribution, such as Ubuntu, KDE Neon, or Solus.

USB stick:
A FAT32 formatted, at least 4GB, but preferably 8GB USB memory stick.

Steps to create a Linux bootable usb drive in Windows

In this article we assume an approach in which we download the iso file of a Linux distribution (in this case Linux Mint 19.3) and offer this to Balena Etcher for further processing. We are going through the following steps:

  1. Download Linux Mint
  2. Download Etcher
  3. Install Etcher in Windows
  4. Prepare Linux Mint USB stick for generic PC’s from Windows
  5. Create your Linux Mint USB drive with Etcher

Download Linux Mint

1) Go to https://linuxmint.com/download.php

2) Make a choice here for a desktop environment (eg Cinnamon) and 32 or 64 bit, depending on your hardware.

3) Then choose a download mirror nearby your location for quick download.

4) The iso file will then be downloaded to your standard download folder.

Download Etcher

1) Go to https://www.balena.io/etcher/

2) Choose Etcher for Windows. The balenaEtcher-x.x.xx.exe will then be found after downloading in your Downloads folder.

Install Etcher in Windows

After you have downloaded Etcher, go to your Downloads folder and double click the exe file to install the application in Windows.

Prepare Linux Mint USB stick for generic PC’s from Windows

1) Open your File Browser with keyboard combination Windows button + E.
2) Look up your USB drive and right click it.
3) Select option Format…
4) Choose the options File system = Fat32, Volume label = Mint and Format options = Quick Format.
5) Click on Start and OK.

Windows will perform the formatting of your USB drive.

Create your Linux Mint USB drive with Etcher

Etcher configures and writes to your USB stick in three steps, each of which must be selected sequentially. Below steps are the same in macOS and in Windows.

1) Select Image >> Search the previously retrieved Linux Mint iso file in your Downloads folder.
2) Select Drive >> Select the name of the USB stick here.
3) Flash! >> Activated when both the image and the drive are selected.

Etcher needs low-level access and will request your password after selection.

The Linux Mint USB Live stick will now be created.

That was all. The USB stick has been created. A follow-up article will explain how we can use this stick for a Linux Live session or to install it on a hard drive.

Note: This tutorial is part of a 29 sections Linux Mint beginner course. If you are interested in the complete free course you can have a look at the Linux Mint beginner course overview page.

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