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What I want is to create a bootable pen drive that shows GRUB menu and I can select any of the several bootable systems from there to install/run. I have several ISO images that I want to install in the USB like Ubuntu, Fedora, System Rescue CD, Windows XP and Windows 7 (The windows versions are optional, mostly am looking for a multi installer for Linux distros, specially Ubuntu version)

The default Startup Disk Creator only works with Linux Images and only 1 at a time (At least for the mean time. If it allows more systems and multiple ISOs it would be awesome)

What method exists that I can use step by step to create a bootable USB Drive with multiple images than can be booted from the USB and selected from GRUB. It must support Windows Images and Linux Images.

Alternative, is there also a way to have multiple versions of the Ubuntu installation ISO on an USB Drive, such as, when booting from it, I get to choose what Ubuntu version and architecture to install, for example:

BOOT MENU
Ubuntu 12.04 32 Bit
Ubuntu 12.04 64 Bit
Ubuntu 12.10 32 Bit
Ubuntu 12.10 64 Bit

UPDATE: Wanted to add that the english version for the post mentioned by daithib8 is here: MultiSystem – Create a MultiBoot USB from Linux | USB Pen Drive Linux

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Multisystem is not working on 14.10. –  Akiva Sep 7 at 10:06

8 Answers 8

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Creating and installing Multiple Distros in to USB / Pendrive involves two parts:-

"After googling around for few days i found this useful script from www.multicd.tuxfamily.org. Multicd.sh is a shell script written by maybeway36 which enables two or more Live Linux distros / utilities to be able to boot from single CD/DVD. It is really very simple to create multi Live Linux distro in a single disc. Create a folder in your home folder and name it as multicd. Put all the live Linux iso images along with multicd.sh script inside multicd folder. Close the window. Open terminal and give the following commands

cd multicd
chmod +x multicd*.sh
sudo ./multicd*.sh

Above commands will execute multicd.sh. While executing, this script will download few packages from Internet and make a new iso image called multicd.iso for you inside multicd folder. Check the size of multicd.iso image file. If it exceeds more than 700 mb then you must insert DVD to write it. Choose burn image option from your favorite image burning software to write multicd.iso file. Upon reboot, with the CD/DVD present inside CD/DVD drive, new GRUB will display list of live distros available in the disc. Choose your favorite one to login...

Note: When you download any Linux iso image from internet it will look like this "ubuntu-9.04-desktop-i386" but this has to be renamed as ubuntu.iso (inside multicd folder). Presently this script supports 20 live distros. List of Live Linux distros supported in this script are given below (and the names accepted by this script are on the right side of each distro)."

There's a list of distro's on the blog page.

  • Installing Multiple Live distro in to a USB / Pendrive.

UNetbootin Install UNetbootin allows you to create bootable Live USB drives for Ubuntu, Fedora, and other Linux distributions without burning a CD. It runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. You can either let UNetbootin download one of the many distributions supported out-of-the-box for you, or supply your own Linux .iso file if you've already downloaded one or your preferred distribution isn't on the list.

Support amongst others: Ubuntu (and official derivatives) 8.04 LTS 9.10 10.04 LTS 10.10 11.04 Daily CD Images, Fedora 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, Rawhide and lots lots more.

If you look at them image you can choose distro's or download ISO's yourself and add them or add a custom. And you can set this up on a hard disc or a USB flash drive.

enter image description here

I hope it is enough information but there is a lot more info on this blog.

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2  
to the downvoter: really? after THREE years you do not agree with 16 other people? –  Rinzwind Sep 7 at 11:05
    
same thoughts for a couple of my answers LOL. I think they confuse "very bad answer" with "missing some additional information".. or they don't know they can comment on how to improve the answer. –  Luis Alvarado Sep 7 at 19:07
    
@Rinzwind maybe the downvoter already died whenever these 3 years –  diegoaguilar Sep 8 at 21:02
    
can unetbootin be used to create bootable live drive for Ubuntu 14.04 & gparted iso image? If no then which tool to use for these 2 iso? –  Ravi Nov 7 at 10:44
    
Yes on both. Gparted and Unetbootin: gparted.org/liveusb.php#windows-method-c –  Rinzwind Nov 7 at 10:49

The only system I found for a multi-boot boot-stick, without using Windows is Multisystem. The installation involves running a shell script that downloads a .deb and the documentation is only in French but it does the job. It can do burg, syslinux, grub4dos, plop, Virtualbox, qemu etc. but a basic multiboot stick can be made in 5 minutes by drag and drop for many distros. For Slitaz cooking I had to add a few lines to /boot/grub/menu.lst . From what I read Grub 1 is usually used for a multiboot environment, but this uses Grub 2. It can be run from the Windows boot menu by using EasyBCD or the Plop boot-manager.

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Tested that one. The only one I knew was the Multisystem and UNETbootin but they do not work with Windows so a doable liveusb that supports windows and other linux distro can not be done. Tried the one you mention here and I was amazed by it. –  Luis Alvarado Jun 4 '11 at 4:50
    

OK, this is what i did to run Xubuntu From a SD card it applies to USB sticks too it's really simple actually , though i used only (x)Ubuntu, i'm prety sure it works for other Distro's, not so sure if it will work using Windows.

First we need 2 USB sticks, one for the liveCD's and the other to install the OS.

Since you want multiple OS's in it, you should use a 16 or 32 GB USB stick, if possible use a USB 3.0 because transfer rates from a 2.0 device are quite slow, eg. i used a 8GB class 2 SD card to install Xubuntu, and it while it wasn't crawling, it didn't fly, though SD cards are slower than USB, for the livecd you can use a 1 or 2 GB drive.

Ok, now make a liveUSB bootable drive, i recommend you to use UNetbootiN, to do this, pick the iso and create the liveUSB.

Now, that you have the bootable USB, reboot your PC and start the liveUSB, once you're in there start the live session.

Once you're in connect the second USB to the PC and format it to EXT4, then simply point the installer to the USB drive and that's it ( i went a little on the extreme side, and disconnected all of my Hard drives to avoid grub being insalled on them or messing the existing installations).

Adding more distro's is just a matter of creating more partitions, though i don't know if USB's just as Regular Hard Drives , can only hold up to a certain number of Extended partitions, though you can share the /home, swap, i don't really know if /boot can be shared too or if it's safe to do so.

As to adding Windows to the USB device, maybe JUST maybe, if you create an NTFS partition and install Windows in it, and then restore GRUB to add Windows to it, it may work.

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SARDU Multiboot USB and DVD supports multiple Linux OS as well as Win7 and Win8 installers, and is discussed at SARDU – Multiboot USB Creator (Windows) | USB Pen Drive Linux.

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This works only under Windows sardu.exe –  blade19899 Dec 20 '13 at 22:43
    
OP did not state that a LiveUSB builder which works under Windows was unsatisfactory, and Sardu meets all his other criteria. –  K7AAY Dec 20 '13 at 23:19

I came to know 2 more tools. Named MultiSystem and YUMI. MultiSystem installation is very simple. They have a script and you have to run it and you can open it with name MultiSystem.

Then all you have to is selecting your USB device and simply drag n drop your ISO's into MultiSystem tool.

enter image description here

enter image description here

YUMI is also simple similar tool. They are providing a .deb file and I hope you know how to install a .deb file

else

sudo dpkg -i <filename.deb>

I hope that helps.

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Frustratingly, Multiboot is NOT working on ubuntu, at least 14.10. I think it is using old gtk libraries or something. Did you get it to work for you? –  Akiva Sep 7 at 9:56
    
@Akiva You talking about MultiSystem or YUMI ? –  Raja Sep 7 at 10:07
    
MultiSystem. I found a great one though just now called multibootusb. –  Akiva Sep 7 at 10:17

Knowing what software to get.

First you will need a partition editor like GParted, or KDE Partition Manager. See this list of partition editors for Linux. I recommand if you use a GTK base desktop sush as Gnome, Unity, or LXDE. Use Gparted. If you use a QT base desktop like KDE or LXQT than use the KDE Partition Manager.

Second thing you need is a installer for them like Unetbootin,or you can use the terminal.

Installing the software.

Gparted

Click this link to install Gparted Install Gparted , find it in the Ubuntu Software Center, or type sudo apt-get install gparted in a terminal. There are more instructions here

After clicking on the link to install Gparted, it should open up the Ubuntu Software center, and all that you need to do is just press the install button.


Unetbootin

Click this link to install Unetbootin Install Unetbootin , find it in the Ubuntu Software Center, or type sudo apt-get install unetbootin in a terminal. There are more instructions here

After clicking on the link to install Unetbootin, it should open up the Ubuntu Software center, and all that you need to do is just press the install button.

Partitioning the Flashdrive


See this tutorial for GUI. See this tutorial for the terminal, NOT RECOMMANDED.

Installing the ISO files to each partition.


For Unetbootin see this tutorial. For the terminal see the tutorial.

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@akiva good???? –  Andrew Sep 2 at 3:20
    
Oh sorry; didn't see this answer; I awarded bounty to agentcool >_< –  Akiva Sep 2 at 3:45
    
your UnetBootin link is broken, or rather for me, it directed me to a pdf reader. –  Akiva Sep 7 at 9:58
    
@Akiva thanks I did use it as a base before editing –  Andrew Sep 8 at 20:52
    
@Akiva I fix it. –  Andrew Sep 8 at 20:55

You can loop mount isofiles directly with GRUB2 by installing it to the MBR of the USB drive. You can also create UEFI bootable USB drives this way or combine both methods.

Most of the other solutions are MBR/legacy PC specific and don't work reliably on UEFI machines.

I recommend reading the documentation on the project site and related manpages (1, 2).

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1  
comments removed. Being nice is not optional on Ask Ubuntu. Let's keep are comments considerate of others at all times please. –  Seth Nov 18 at 18:07

Here is another script/utility which uses less dependency and supports many (multi)distros

multibootusb - Browse Files at SourceForge.net

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3  
Currently this is more of a comment. You should elaborate it to a full answer. See e.g. meta.askubuntu.com/questions/1765/… –  N.N. Sep 2 '11 at 7:34

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