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 before actually installing it. But even if you have made the decision to install Linux individually or next to your current Windows or OSX installation, a bootable Linux USB stick is the most practical and quick solution. This article will explain how a Linux Zorin OS USB stick can be created from both a macOS and Windows environment, from which Zorin OS can be started without the need for installation.
What do we need
This tutorial is primarily focussing on creating a Zorin OS bootable USB stick. If you want to do the same for Linux Mint, than have a look at my complete Linux Mint Beginners Course or go directly to the How to create a Linux Mint bootable usb in macOS or How to create a Linux bootable usb drive in Windows tutorials.
So what do we need to create a Zorin OS bootable usb in macOS and Windows?
1) USB stick:
A FAT32 formatted, at least 4GB, but preferably 8GB, USB memory stick.
To write the Zorin OS ISO file to the USB stick, we use a free and open source application called balena Etcher.
3) Zorin OS iso file:
Besides Etcher we also need a Linux distribution that we want to put on the USB stick. For this article we choose the Zorin OS distribution, 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.
Note: There are a few extra considerations when starting up the USB stick on Apple hardware. This is because Apple’s ‘Startup Manager’, called by holding the Option / alt (⌥) button during startup, will not detect the USB stick without a specific partition table and layout. This should be dealt with in a later step.
Steps to create a Zorin OS bootable usb in macOS and Windows
Download Zorin OS
In this article I assume you did the preparations to download Zorin OS as I have described in a previous blog post How to download Zorin OS, but below a simple summary:
1) Go to https://zorinos.com/download/
2) On the Download page look for Zorin OS 15 Core and select the Download option.
A new screen opens with the option to sign up for the Zorin OS newsletter. If you don’t want to sign up just click on “Skip to Download”. You now get a Thank you for Downloading page with a link to the installation instructions. Meanwhile the ISO file will be downloaded to your Downloads folder.
1) Go to https://www.balena.io/etcher/
2) Choose Etcher for macOS or Etcher for Windows, depending on the system you are currently running. The balenaEtcher-x.x.xx.dmg or balenaEtcher-x.x.xx.exe will then be found after downloading in your Downloads folder.
Prepare Zorin OS USB stick for Apple hardware from macOS
We start with the preparation of the USB stick. To ensure maximum compatibility with Apple hardware, we first completely empty the USB stick and reformat it using Apple’s “Disk Utility.” But this step can be skipped if you plan to use the USB stick with only generic PC hardware.
1) Start Disk Utility from Applications> Utilities.
2) Insert the USB stick and see that the new device has been added to the Disk Utility.
3) Select the USB stick and select Erase in the toolbar (or right-click).
4) Set the format to MS-DOS (FAT) and the schedule to GUID Partition Map. Check carefully that you have chosen the right device and click Erase.
macOS will perform the formatting of your USB drive.
Prepare Zorin OS 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 = ZorinOS and Format options = Quick Format.
5) Click on Start and OK.
Windows will perform the formatting of your USB drive.
Install Etcher in macOS
After you have downloaded Etcher, go to your Downloads folder and double click the dmg file to mount the package. Then Etcher can be run at the current location or dragged to your Applications folder.
Note: By default, recent versions of macOS block the execution of applications from unidentified developers. To solve this problem, enable ‘App Store andaped developers’ in the ‘Security & Privacy’ screen of System Preferences. If you are still being warned about running the application, click on ‘Open Anyway’ in the same screen.
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.
Create your Zorin OS 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 Zorin OS 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 Zorin OS 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 on a Mac computer or on a regular PC.