I need to use an external hard drive, the same as a Live-USB, I used to download an ISO file and burn/copy it's content to a USB using a software like unetbootin, but unetbootin does not detect a my external hard drive (a file manger do).

If you know any way that I can try/install a distro without using a USB/CD I will be really happy to use your help 😊

2 Answers 2


I understand that you want to use your external hard disk as your installation source, in exactly the same way you would use a DVD or USB stick. If this is the case, a simple command can do what you want but warning, it is a very strong command and incorrect use may and will destroy data completely, so use it very carefully:

sudo dd if=iso_file_path of=/dev/sdx bs=4M && sudo sync

where x is your external hard disk letter.

  1. Make sure the external drive is not mounted when you run this command.
  2. Make sure you use the correct drive letter otherwise you will wipe all data on whatever drive the letter you use refers to, even if it is your system drive, without any prior notice or verification.

You will not see any progress indicator while the .iso is being copied. Just wait for the prompt to reappear after the copy is complete.

After this, you should be able to boot your system from your external drive by using it as boot media from your BIOS's boot menu.

  • I already tried this, but the drive had a windows partition on it, and I ran the command on another partition. Can it be the windows partition the one prevented my from booting (I couldn't see the external drive in the GRUB or BIOS) Oct 21, 2017 at 4:24
  • I mean that I ran that command on /dev/sdb2 not /dev/sdb Oct 21, 2017 at 4:45
  • @OmarElrefaei, In order to make a bootable drive by cloning from an iso file to a drive, you must clone to the 'whole drive' /dev/sdx, not to a partition /dev/sdxn, where x is the drive letter and n is the partition number. So cloning to /dev/sdb2 will not work. If Windows is installed on the drive, and you want to keep Windows, you cannot use it like that. You might be able to use it in a complicated way, but it is risky, and I would recommend, that you get a cheap USB pendrive (a 4 GB USB 2 pendrive would be OK for this purpose).
    – sudodus
    Oct 21, 2017 at 5:27
  • Please, let the OS decide how to transfer files efficiently, so use: cat iso_file > /dev/sdX. Even with the best settings, cat is still going to be faster than dd. Only use dd if you need more complicated stuff, such as copying only a specific range of bytes.
    – Yeti
    Oct 5, 2018 at 19:40

You can use mkusb for this purpose. It can use 'any' drive as target drive. When it detects a hard disk drive, there might be an extra pop up window asking if you really want to overwrite this drive.

See this link and links from it,


If you run standard Ubuntu, you need an extra instruction to get the repository Universe. (Kubuntu, Lubuntu ... Xubuntu have the repository Universe activated automatically.)

sudo add-apt-repository universe  # only for standard Ubuntu

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mkusb/ppa  # and press Enter
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install mkusb mkusb-nox usb-pack-efi

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