Does the USB I'm booting from need a specific format to work?

I have a USB stick capable of being formatted to FAT32, NTFS and one or two more different formats. If I download the latest Ubuntu onto my computer and put it on the USB, does it matter if the USB is formatted to NTFS? I ask this because FAT32 can't hold the full file size.

I'm doing this to recover my Root Password in order to update my PC.

  • 2
    The USB stick needs to be empty. You can't just copy the downloaded Ubuntu ISO file onto a formatted flash drive, and expect it to work. You need to flash the flash drive, with the ISO. The ISO itself is the specific format for the boot. – dobey May 31 '18 at 2:13
  • Alright, how would I do this? I have very little experience with these things. – J. Sabere May 31 '18 at 2:16
  • 1
    Also: Also link on how to create a bootable DVD or USB flash drive, Windows or Ubuntu, Min hardware requirements ubuntu.com/download/desktop & ubuntu.com/download & UEFI only USB key, just extract ISO ( 7 zip or similar) to FAT32 formated flash & set boot flag. askubuntu.com/questions/395879/… – oldfred May 31 '18 at 3:35
  • 1
    Any reason you would not pick EXT over a windows FS? – Rinzwind May 31 '18 at 7:34
  • 1
    I'm pretty sure this is a duplicate. Also you probably don't need a flash drive, nor is there a root password (unless you've manually set one yourself after install at some point, for whatever reason). It's possible to boot into recovery mode to change a password. – dobey May 31 '18 at 11:50

The solution depends on which operating system are you running now (Ubuntu, other linux, Windows MacOS). You need a tool to create a USB boot drive, and there are different tools for different operating systems.

Cloning tools are simple and reliable but it is also possible to use extracting tools, if they are well maintained (updated to work with new versions of the operating system to install).

Most modern linux iso files are hybrid iso files. Such files can be burned to a DVD disk and cloned to a mass storage device (USB stick, SSD, HDD, memory card) and the target device will become a bootable drive.

You can clone from a current Ubuntu iso file to a USB stick and use that USB stick to boot Ubuntu live and install Ubuntu into the internal drive.

dd is a cloning tool, but it is risky because it does what you tell it to do without any question. If you tell it to wipe the family pictures it will do it. A minor typing error may create chaos. You must be very careful, check and double-check that everything is correct before you press the Enter key.

Instead I recommend a tool with a final checkpoint,

  • in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and newer versions: Startup Disk Creator alias usb-creator-gtk

  • in Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and newer versions: Disks alias gnome-disks

  • in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and newer versions and other main linux distros: mkusb

  • in Windows: Win32 Disk Imager

  • in Windows: Rufus - an extracting tool and a cloning tool

  • in MacOS: Unetbootin - an extracting tool (not a cloning tool)

  • You see, I am in a peculiar situation in that my brother set a root password and forgot it. Now I have to recover it but I don't have the option to go into recovery mode. So I was recommended to get it on a flashdrive and boot from that but, as far as I know, I don't have a tool to create a boot drive and can't access the software store because I'm not up-to-date. – J. Sabere Jun 1 '18 at 0:46
  • @J.Sabere, This is what I recommend: Please borrow a computer :-) If Windows, you can install and use Rufus or Win32 Disk Imager to create a USB boot drive from the Ubuntu iso file. If linux, install and use mkusb. If MacOS, install and use Unetbootin. These tools work with most linux iso files. – sudodus Jun 1 '18 at 7:41

The simplest and most foolproof way I have found and used many times is very simple. However you will, using my Method - 1, also need access to a Windows PC or laptop as the burning program runs under Windows but creates an Ubuntu bootable USB drive on a USB stick - confusingly this is still sometimes called LiveCD even though it is on a stick.

I have now added a Method - 2 to this answer, to do this on a Ubuntu machine as well (if you do not also have access to a Windows machine)

Method - 1

  1. Download ubuntu iso: desktop latest or earlier versions.

  2. Down load Rufus software to burn the ISO to the USB drive - it is free.

  3. Copy the ISO to a windows machine, install and run Rufus on the windows machine, select the ISO, select the USB drive - follow the instructions.

You may have to change some bios settings on your PC / laptop to boot from the USB - but that's it - it is very simple and reliable.

When you boot you have options to try out Ubuntu from the USB drive or install it on the machine

Method - 2

If you do not have access to a Windows machine try this, it gives an alternative way for Ubuntu using command line instead of Windows.

Basically you need to down load the ISO file for the version you need from the link I provided above and burn it to the USB stick.

In the interests of exploration I used the above example using Ubuntu 16.04 machine I downloaded the Ubuntu [18.04 ISO]

Then I checked the file name in my downloads folder.

Next I used gparted to check my USB drive id, mine was sdc. You can run gparted fom desktop or terminal sudo gparted

Then in terminal mode :-

Terminal Screen print

cd Downloads
sudo dd if=input.iso of=/dev/sdc bs=4M

Tip - on my system it is Downloads not downloads - uppercase D - check.

Tip - To be sure I get long filenames correct (such as the ISO download) I right click to rename the file and copy the file name so I can paste it into terminal later (ctl/shift v).

Tip - after you enter the password for sudo in terminal mode it may seem frozen for several minutes - just be patient.

Tip - check your dd syntax to avoid data loss

I have just done all this to test it for you, download took 15 mins, dd command about 5 mins (not exactly sure as I went and made a cup of tea!)

Do not forget you may need some bios changes so youy can boot from the USB stick - even if this still does not help you - I now have a Ubuntu 18.04 LiveCD USB boot stick that works! So time for some fun exploring!

  • I only have one computer, so... – J. Sabere Jun 1 '18 at 0:40
  • 1
    Find a friend :-) or you can burn the iso with command line - check out this link - but I have not tested this - i always manage to get access to a windows system for 30minutes somewhere - have added this to my answer – kerry Jun 1 '18 at 2:56
  • @J. Sabere - added new method that does not require Windows machine, just done it myself, worked perfectly, quick and simple - I now have a Ubuntu 18.04 stick so I am going to have some fun and explore! – kerry Jun 1 '18 at 5:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.