More specifically, I want to know if when I put the Ubuntu OS on my flash drive if it is permanent or not. As in,can I delete the Ubuntu installation files after I install it on my computer and use it as a regular USB again? I just want to install Ubuntu on a unformatted hard drive and then be able to use my USB like normal again.

Sorry, I know I must sound very redundant. Thank you for the help.


10 Answers 10


After installation, you can use Disk Utility to reformat the USB drive so that it will work like normal again. The method for doing so can be found in this thread How to format a USB drive?


While everyone's answer is technically correct that you can reuse it, it is not always the best answer.

You really need another way to boot computer to make repairs or in an emergency. If not at home and system crashes a live flash drive install can let you keep working and probably access data on drive. Without a repair tool you are out of luck.

If dual booting with Windows you should buy another small flash drive and create another repair drive for Windows.

Then for the data you may want on a flash drive buy a larger one, depending on how much data you have.

Also if you use the dd procedure to create flash drive you have to use dd to zero out MBR as the dd procedure does not create a standard MBR,only then can your create a new partition table and formatted partitions.


Germar wrote:

Nope. You can always reformat your USB again and fill it with what ever you like.

Unfortunately that's not my experience. It seems that most flashdrives (including Kingston) can be made bootable once, and they will work OK, but the problem comes when you try to reformat them ready for burning a new .iso on to them. I've destroyed two flashdrives this way; something (but I'm not sure what) happens to their boot sector and they become read-only and can't be reformatted. I've tried a whole host of different tools to try and resurrect them without success.

I've posted some details of all this at this tomshardware page. It seems that the boot sectors on different flashdrives are all different and proprietary, and they react in different ways to having an .iso burned on them. Some people have reported they've been able to successfully reformat and re-burn new .iso's on to their flashdrives, so I know it's possible to do this with some brands, but I need to know which ones. Before anyone burns an .iso on to a flashdrive, they should find out what brands allow this process to be recycleable and which ones don't.

If anyone has info on this branding issue, please post it on the above tomshardware url or e-mail me directly on sleepy@zzjohn.co.uk. Meanwhile I'm trying to find out which flashdrive brands support making them bootable, and which ones don't. especially since I've discovered the hard way that Kingston don't.

  • 1
    Bootableness is part of the partition table - the USB drives are just a block device and don't have a special boot sector. That said, I've had drives get into a state where the partition table is majorly screwed up and normal OS tools don't understand it or won't format it. When I get this, I generally just copy a string of zeroes over the raw block device to wipe out the partition table completely. e.g. from Linux .... dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hdb # where /dev/hdb is your USB drive - just letting this run for a few seconds is enough to wipe the partition table and then you can reformat.
    – Adrian
    Apr 29, 2014 at 15:14
  • I had the same problem with a SanDisk Ultra USB 3.0 32GB flash drive. After making it bootable it became read-only. Gparted wasn't able to do anything. I think this is a defect in this flash drive series.
    – nrnw
    Dec 29, 2020 at 7:29

This is not true, I used a generic 8 Gb flash drive as a boot for Kali and the space it took is not able to reformat, I've tried everything I've found online to remedy this and its stuck. I tried reformatting and making it a Ubuntu drive and it just boots to Kali again. So it appears I'm stuck with a Kali boot USB drive...

EDIT: Delete the partition, reformat https://www.all4os.com/windows/properly-delete-a-partition-on-usb-drive-using-diskpart.html


In most cases, all using a USB drive as a boot media does is reformat the drive to a normal file system, add a bootloader and copy files over. In most cases the drive's FAT32 which is pretty universal.

If you never intend to have the drive plugged in at boot, or your system dosen't have USB drives on top of its boot order, simply deleting all the files will sufface. Otherwise simply reformat the drive to your preferred filesystem.

The process of setting up a USB drive to be boot media dosen't affect its viability as a re-writable media in any way.


Yes. Normally I create a primary partition on my usb and make it bootable. If you do that then you better reformat it again but if you just use a bootloader you can just delete it from your usb and use it as a regular usb.


yes, you can use it as normal again. I just installed Lubuntu on my netbook using a flash drive. Open disks management (Lubuntu = Preferences> disks), and then in the list of devices, select your flash drive, then click the gear> power off. The next step, click the gear> edit partition ...> uncheck bootable> type = FAT (it was my choice)> Change. Then, in the dropdown list, select a quick> Type = what you want (ex = FAT)> Name = the name of your flash drive.

Sorry for my bad English, translated with google translate. Please fix if there any mistakes.



I am a Windows user, and I have met with this situation frequently.To revert back the pendrive to normal state, i.e., even when formatting the pendrive does nothing and the entire disk space is reduced to few MBs,then you need

  1. Get Rufus or similar usb bootable maker software
  2. Get any windows .iso file
  3. Make your pendrive bootable this time with the windows iso file and you're good to go.

Nope. You can always reformat your USB again and fill it with what ever you like.


you don't install anything on your computer (hence the defenition of a bootable USB drive) , and you can reformat the USB drive at any time; thus it is not permanent.

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