How do I make an bootable Ubuntu USB containing the latest version of Ubuntu?

For completeness, how would I be able to do this on Ubuntu, Windows, Mac or another Linux distro?

9 Answers 9



Creating a bootable Ubuntu USB is the most common way that new Ubuntu users experience Ubuntu for the first time, but this answer is intended to provide useful information to new Ubuntu users and experienced Ubuntu users alike. Before you install Ubuntu it is always a good idea to try booting from the Ubuntu live USB first to check if the Ubuntu live USB boots successfully and also to check if it has a working internet connection. This is especially important on old hardware. Otherwise you might mistakenly buy a new computer to install Ubuntu on it only because you weren't sufficiently informed about the proper way of creating installation media from an Ubuntu ISO in the beginning.

This flowchart shows how to make a bootable Ubuntu installation USB in Windows/Mac/Linux, and how to troubleshoot problems booting Ubuntu from it. In this flowchart I use balenaEtcher, as it runs on Windows, macOS and Linux. Choose the version that corresponds to your current operating system, download and install the tool.

enter image description here


How to make an Ubuntu USB on Ubuntu using Startup Disk Creator

Ubuntu has a built-in application for creating a bootable Ubuntu live USB for installing Ubuntu called Startup Disk Creator. Search the Dash for Startup Disk Creator and click the Startup Disk Creator icon to open the Make Startup Disk window.

The USB flash drive that you use with Startup Disk Creator should be 2GB or larger, and for Ubuntu 18.04 and later it should be 4GB or larger. Startup Disk Creator will automatically format your USB flash drive to FAT32 and make it bootable. If you have only one USB flash drive plugged in to your computer, Startup Disk Creator will select it automatically. Be very careful to select the USB flash drive in the Make Startup Disk window in order to avoid overwriting the partition which Ubuntu is installed on, which may make Ubuntu unbootable. In the screenshot below you can see how the USB flash drive Device is identified by its model name, the same model name that appears under the Drive heading after Model: in the Disks (disk utility) application.

Startup Disk Creator
Startup Disk Creator in Ubuntu 16.04

You can also move the Stored in reserved extra space slider back and forth to create some reserved extra space for persistent file storage across reboots. In Ubuntu 16.04 and later Startup Disk Creator no longer has the persistent file storage option.

How to make an Ubuntu Minimal USB using dd

While the minimal iso image is handy, it isn't useful for installing on UEFI-based systems that you want to run in UEFI mode. The mini iso lacks the proper files for booting the computer in UEFI mode. Thus the computer will boot in BIOS compatibility mode, and the installation will be in BIOS mode.

  1. Download the Ubuntu Mini CD iso from these links:

    Download the Ubuntu Mini CD iso file for Ubuntu 20.04 from http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/dists/focal/main/installer-amd64/current/legacy-images/netboot/mini.iso. Download the file called mini.iso to your Downloads folder. You can download the mini.iso file to wherever on your computer that you want, but download it to your Downloads folder so that you can easily run the commands in the following steps without changing anything.

  2. Verify the md5 checksum of the Ubuntu mini CD iso file that you downloaded by running these commands:

    cd ~/Downloads/
    md5sum 'mini.iso'

    If you are using Windows Subsystem for Linux download the Microsoft File Checksum Integrity Verifier tool from the official Microsoft Download Center. The Microsoft File Checksum Integrity Verifier tool is a command line utility that computes MD5 or SHA1 cryptographic hashes for files.

  3. Check that the results of the command match the MD5 checksum of the mini.iso file on the Ubuntu Documentation Installation Minimal CD webpage.

  4. Get a USB flash drive, 1GB or larger. Delete all the files from the USB flash drive. Mount the flash drive using the Disks disk utility.

  5. Check in the Disks disk utility to find out the device name of your USB flash drive. This is very important because if you use the wrong device name in step 6, you will overwrite your whole operating system instead of writing to the USB flash drive. So check the USB flash drive device name twice. It should be something like /dev/sd* where instead of the * character there is a lower case letter like a, b, c, etc. In the following step I am assuming that the device name is /dev/sdc, but the device name of your USB drive could be something else like /dev/sda or /dev/sdb so check the device name of your USB drive twice and make sure that you get it right in step 6!

  6. Open the terminal or Windows Subsystem for Linux version 2 and run the following commands:

    cd ~/Downloads/  
    sudo -i  
    dd if='mini.iso' of=/dev/sdc bs=4096  ## make sure that the device name of your USB drive is correct!

    The dd if='mini.iso' of=/dev/sdc bs=4096 command should take only a few seconds to complete on most computers because the mini.iso is a small file, less than 60MB. The result of running this command will be a bootable Ubuntu mini USB.

  7. Boot the computer from the Ubuntu mini live USB. The Ubuntu mini live USB should boot successfully and show a menu screen.

  8. If you select the Install option (the complete install, not the cli install) from the menu screen in Step 7, then you can select other options during the Ubuntu installation process to download all the packages that you need to perform a complete Ubuntu installation. Select the Ubuntu desktop package collection from the list of predefined collections of software in the Software selection screen in the Ubuntu mini CD installer. When you restart the system at the end of the installation, you will have a working Ubuntu desktop with the default desktop environment.

    enter image description here

How to create a bootable USB stick on OS X / macOS

Etcher clones the OS ISO to the USB drive as an ISO9660 read-only partition similar to dd, Startup Disk Creator, and GNOME Disks.

  • But it only works on Ubuntu Base Distro/ Ubuntu itshelf.
    – MathCubes
    Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 6:48
  • 2
    That's right, whereas UNetbootin is cross-platform, but the Startup Disk Creator has one nice feature that UNetbootin doesn't have. Startup Disk Creator identifies the USB drive by its model name rather than by a cryptic looking device name like /dev/sdb1. This gives the user added protection against overwriting the operating system because of accidentally formatting the wrong drive.
    – karel
    Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 6:55
  • I had problems with Unetbootin before like not installing the bootloader... ect.
    – MathCubes
    Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 6:58
  • dd for windows Usage: dd [bs=SIZE[SUFFIX]] [count=BLOCKS[SUFFIX]] if=FILE of=FILE [seek=BLOCKS[SUFFIX]] [skip=BLOCKS[SUFFIX]] [--size] [--list] [--progress] where FILE in if=FILE of=FILE has the same syntax as file locations do in the Windows commandline (cmd.exe).
    – karel
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 14:00
  • Running this wmic command in the Windows cmd.exe window shows all removable drives as follows: wmic logicaldisk where drivetype=2 get deviceid, volumename, description Examples of source path (input file) and target path (output file) syntax in Windows cmd.exe: source path: C:\aaa\bbb\ where C: is hard drive. target path: F:\xxx\yyy\ where F: is USB flash drive which was identified by running wmic command. Examples of dd for windows commands: Visit this link and the examples are under the heading called Examples.
    – karel
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 14:04

You need: a flash drive, a PC/Mac, the ISO file for Ubuntu, which can be obtained here: http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop. Here are the instructions for...

  • 3
    Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference.
    – Braiam
    Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 12:42

Recent distributions of Ubuntu include the boot info to boot directly from both optical disk and hard media (flash drive, etc.)

You can simply duplicate the content of the iso to the USB device using a linux system you would use the command sudo dd if=my.ubuntu.release.iso of=/dev/sdX where sdX is your flash drive which you can identify with the command sudo fdisk -l

Remember to check the hash before spending the time to copy to insure that your iso file is valid.


How to make a bootable Ubuntu USB drive from Ubuntu (for creating a bootable Ubuntu USB drive from macOS see my answer here):

Step 1: Download the Ubuntu .iso file from https://ubuntu.com/download/desktop and put it in your Downloads folder.

Step 2: Open up the Terminal and find the file path to your USB drive with


You're looking for sdL, where L is some letter. It's probably sdb (since "sda" is probably your hard drive and if you only have one hard drive, it'll probably assign the next letter, b, to your USB drive), but double check that the SIZE column makes sense.

You'll also see further subdivisions like sda1 or sdb1. That's not what you're looking for, you just want sd< some letter>. Those numbers refer to partitions. A partition is a way of splitting your hard drive (or SSD or USB drive) into smaller regions, kind of like a folder but more serious. We want to overwrite the entire USB, not just the first partition on it (an iso file actually already has partition information on it that it will overwrite the partition data that's already on your USB drive with), not just one of its partitions so we need to specify just sd< some letter> and leave off any numbers that come after.

The dd command you're going to run later will effectively delete all data on the drive so don't get this wrong. If you're having a hard time figuring out which disk is your , you can unplug your USB drive, run the command, plug it back in, run lsblk again and see what changed. If you want to see more information, you can also try the sudo fdisk -l command.

Next add "/dev/" to the beginning of the name that you got, so (for example) "sdb" becomes "/dev/sdb". /dev/sd<whatever> is an actual file in the /dev directory that is pretending to be a regular file but will actually read your hard drive. If you try to read it, it'll act as a binary file of the underlying data on your hard drive. Usually a hard drive (or SSD) has a partition table, and each partition has a file system, which Ubuntu (or any other operating system) will read and interpret, to then show you the hard drive as a ton of files in various folders, but reading or writting from/to /dev/sdL is a way to tell Ubuntu to forget all that and treat the hard drive as a a series of bytes).

Step 3: Use dd to copy the .iso image to your USB stick (replace L with the letter you got from the previous step)

sudo dd if=~/Downloads/ubuntu-20.04-desktop-amd64.iso of=/dev/sdL

That step will take a while. When it's finished you should run


just to make sure all the data is done transferring and then you're done; use your USB stick to boot Ubuntu.

You can speed up the dd command by adding bs=1M to it. You might also want to replace manually calling sync with passing oflag=sync to dd (which does the same job) and to tell dd to show you how much it has transferred so far with status=progress, which all together would look like

sudo dd bs=1M status=progress oflag=sync if=~/Downloads/ubuntu-20.04-desktop-amd64.iso of=/dev/sdL

(don't forget to replace L with the correct letter)

  • why 1M? why not 4? or 8? Commented Apr 23, 2021 at 17:15
  • 1
    Because 1M makes it noticeably faster than the default but adding more won't really make it faster. You could try to find the absolute optimal value but in my experience it's like a 5% improvement at best, and it might've just been a statistical fluke anyway.
    – user677955
    Commented Aug 27, 2023 at 2:49

Use Unetbootin.It works in Ubuntu(from Software Center) and Windows(from Unetbootin site) also.Download the iso of Ubuntu you want, download Unetbootin, make it, enjoy it.


Full Install to USB

Full installs are more stable and secure than persistent installs, but not as quick to make. They are better at utilizing disk space as no fixed size casper-rw file or partition is required. They are not very good for use of installing Ubuntu.

Following is a step by step how to install 18.04 on a 16GB flash drive with options for separate Home partition and Windows compatible data partition:

  • Create a live USB or DVD using SDC, UNetbootin, mkusb, etc.
  • Turn off and unplug the computer. (See note at bottom)
  • Remove the cover.
  • Unplug the power cable from the hard drive or unplug the hard drive from the laptop.
  • Plug the computer back in.
  • Insert the flash drive.
  • Insert the Live USB or Live DVD.
  • Start the computer, the USB/DVD should boot.
  • Select language.
  • Select install Ubuntu.
  • Select Keyboard layout
  • Select "Continue".
  • Select installation type and "Download updates while installing Ubuntu" and Select "Install third-party software ...", (optional).
  • Select "Continue".
  • At "Installation type" select "Something else". (Full disk encryption is not working with flash drives).
  • Select "Continue".
  • Confirm target device is correct.
  • Select "New Partition Table".
  • Click Continue on the drop down.

(Optional FAT32 data partition for use on Windows machine)

  • Click "Free space" and "+".
  • Make "Size..." about 2000 MB.
  • Select "Primary".
  • Location = "Beginning of this space".
  • "Use as:" = "FAT32 file system".
  • "Mount point" = "/windows".
  • Select "OK"

(Non Optional Root Partition)

  • Click "free space" and then "+".
  • Select "Primary", "Size ..." = 4500 to 6000 MB, "Beginning of this space", Ext4, and Mount point = "/" then OK.

(Optional home partition)

  • Click "free space" and then "+".
  • Select "Primary", "New partition size ..." = 1000 to 6000 MB, Beginning of this space, Ext2, and Mount point = "/home" then OK.

(Optional swap space, allows hibernation)

  • Click "free space" and then "+".
  • Select "Primary", "New partition size ..." = remaining space, (1000 to 2000 megabytes, or same size as RAM), Beginning of this space and "Use as" = "swap area" then OK.


  • Confirm "Device for boot loader installation" points to the root of the USB drive. Default should be OK if HDD was unplugged.
  • Click "Install Now".

  • Select your location.

  • Select "Continue".
  • Insert your name, computer name, username, password and select if you want to log in automatically or require a password.cscameron
  • Select "Continue".
  • Wait until install is complete.
  • Turn off computer and plug in the HDD.
  • Replace the computer's cover.

Note: You may omit disabling the hard drive if after partitioning you choose to install grub to the root of the USB drive you are installing Ubuntu to, (ie sdb not sdb1). Be cautious, many people have overwritten the HDD MBR as default location for boot loader is sda, any items in the internal drive's grub will be added to the USB's grub. You may do an update-grub later.


Full Install to USB - BIOS/UEFI

Mkusb makes a great base for a Full Install USB drive able to boot from both BIOS and UEFI:

  • Use mkusb to make a Live system on the Installer USB (2GB or larger).

  • Use mkusb to make a Persistent system on the Target 128GB USB using default settings with ~25GB persistence, (remaining NTFS partition is used as Windows accessible data partition).

enter image description here

  • As soon as mkusb finishes, open GParted and delete sdx4, the ISO9660 partition and expand sdx5 into the recovered space, sdx being the device name of the Target drive.

  • Create a extra ext4 partition sdx6 for /home if desired.

enter image description here

  • Unplug or remove HDD before proceeding further, (optional but recommended, highly recommended in UEFI mode).

  • Boot Installer drive, select Try.

  • Insert Target drive

Start Install Ubuntu...

  • Select "Something else".

  • Select sdx5, (on the target drive), and click Change.

enter image description here

  • Select Use as: ext4, Format and Mount point: /.

Don't touch any other partitions (unless adding a /home partition to sdx6).

  • Select sdx5 as Device for boot loader installation.

  • Complete installation.

  • Cut grub.cfg from sdx5/boot/grub and paste to sdx3/boot/grub, overwriting the existing grub.cfg file.

  • Boot the target drive and run sudo update-grub to add all drives to boot menu.

  • Do not install any propriety drivers, (ie Nvidia), on pre-18.04 installs.


fwiw, I was able to set up a thumbdrive to run ubuntu 18.1 on my pc by booting to the usb drive. I can now use my pc running ubie 18.1, and install sw to the td(thumb drive), save data to the td, and in all other respects use my pc as if I had ubie installed on the internal hard drive. I have been able to use this system on any of my many pcs, regardless of current os. This was my goal.

Because of my relatively low level of linux competence, I sought out the simplest setup procedures as follows: I disconnected the internal hard drive data cable, and, using the two front usb connections on my pc, I plugged in a thumbdrive with live ubie installed on it, and plugged a new 32 gb thumbdrive into the second usb port.

On booting from the usb drive I chose to install Ubuntu, and just followed the directions. Everything went automatically and smoothly, and I am now able to boot from the new drive in any of my pcs and use them as if ubie was installed on internal hard drive.

I wish i had the time and expertise to figure out which of the many, many helpful dissertations really applied to me directly and put one into play, but that didnt happen for me. If anyone wants an easy peasy do, try this method. thanks for all the help, st

  • +1; I think the crucial point is to disconnect the internal hard drive (or disable it, which is possible in some UEFI/BIOS systems).
    – sudodus
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 8:27

How to use Disks utility (gnome-disks) If you have a bootable iso;

  • Insert the USB.
  • start Disks utility.
  • Mark the USB.
  • Click the vertical ellipsis button ( ).

enter image description here

  • Choose Restore Disk Image.
  • Select the image to restore and make sure the Destination is your USB.

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