How To: Make A Linux Install USB

Today’s article is going to be a rather basic article, with worthwhile information, about how to make a Linux install USB. This won’t be too complicated, even if it looks complicated initially. It probably won’t even be a very long article.

If you want to install Linux, you will need some sort of install medium. That can be almost any sort of drive, including some distros that are still small enough to fit on a CD. Heck, if you can get your computer to boot to it, you could even use a MicroSD as your installation media.

We’ll be doing this in the terminal. Why? Well, because it’s not that hard and it’s a fairly universal process. You won’t even need to install anything new! But, if you don’t have any interest in doing this in the terminal (or if you’re not using Linux right now) you can always do this with a GUI. See the following article for more details:

balenaEtcher: A Tool To Turn Linux .ISO Files Into Bootable USB Drives

There’s also Rufus, should you be using a Windows computer. You have options outside of the terminal. Though, I haven’t done an article on using Rufus. I don’t have any Windows devices. (If you want to write said article, feel free to let me know. I love guest articles.)

What You Need:

These are the tools you’ll want to have available. It’s not a long list, so we won’t have too much to deal with.

  1. A blank USB drive, large enough to hold the data.
  2. Any distro with lsblk.
  3. The ability to unmount a disk.
  4. A distro with the dd command.

So, I’ll assume you have the first aspect covered. Everything else is software. They’re standard tools that are available on all but the tiniest of distros.

The first tool is lsblk, which the man page describes as:

lsblk – list block devices

Then you’ll need the obverse of mount, which is unmount. This is a part of the mount command. It doesn’t have a command of its own. That mount command is described as:

mount – mount a filesystem

And, finally, you’ll need the dd command. That’s simply described as:

dd – convert and copy a file

And that’ll be all you need. Well, you’ll need an open terminal, of course! So, let’s cover one way that you can…

Make A Linux Install USB:

Like I said, you’re going to need a USB drive. This drive must be big enough to hold the data. You’ll need to insert the drive and then open the terminal. To open the terminal, just press CTRL + ALT + T or open it from your application menu.

With your USB inserted, you need to identify where it is mounted. You can do that by running the following command:

You should be able to easily identify the USB drive by the size of the drive. The data you want will begin with “sd”, often something like “sdb” or “sdc” (enumerating as you increase mounted storage devices).

Take that information and run the following command:

The next command might look complicated, but just follow the directions and you shouldn’t have any trouble as you make a Linux install USB. The command looks like this:

For example, if the disk identifier was “sdc” and the path to the .iso was something like “~/Downloads/Lubuntu_22.04.iso” the command would look like this:

Then, just wait a few minutes. Let the dd command do its thing and you’ll end up with a bootable USB drive that will let you install Linux. (This also works for other image files, of course.)

Closure:

See? It’s not that complicated to make a Linux install USB. So long as you pay attention, you won’t have much to worry about. There are a few commands that you need to worry about, but those are basic commands in this instance.

I will warn you to be absolutely certain of the path for the dd command because it has the potential to make you have a really bad day. But, if you don’t want to deal with installing a GUI application, or you are in a position where you can’t install a GUI application, this is a way for you to make a Linux USB installation drive to get yourself out of a sticky situation.

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Let’s Mount An .iso In Lubuntu

Today we’re going to discuss something you won’t need to do often, as we learn about how to mount an .iso in Lubuntu. That seems like a fun article to write and it’s something I just had to do. So, that seemed like a good idea to me.

This shouldn’t be a very long article. I’ll try to keep it simple and straight forward. I figure if you can follow simple directions, you’ve got this licked. It’s not exactly a challenging task. Anyone willing to try hard enough can manage to follow along with this article.

I suppose we should start at the beginning…

What Is An .iso file?

An .iso file is a standard that’s used for images of optical disks. If you’ve used CD/DVD burning applications, it’s what you’re doing when you ‘burn an image’, for example. It’s a single file, meant to be written as an image, and is a file that’s meant to be an optical disk.

You’ll run into .iso files in Linux often. Pretty much every single distro out there is released in .iso format. We don’t always use them for optical disks. You’ll find that a lot of hardware doesn’t even have an optical disk drive. As such, we use the image formats for other things – like USB drives.

We burn these .iso files to a USB so that we can install Linux in the first place. When you’re faced with installing Linux and want (or need) to do it with a USB thumb drive, you’ll want to use tools like balenaEtcher.

So, with Linux at least, you’re likely to run into .iso files. They’re a useful way of sharing a disk image. You’d originally write that disk image to a disk (like optical media) as a single file and then that disk would work. If you try to write an .iso to media as just a file, it’s not going to work as something you can boot from.

You can learn more about the .iso format at Wikipedia. There are other formats for disk images, just so you’re aware. Read the Wikipedia article for more information.

The Mount Command:

We’ll be using the terminal for this command and we’ll be using the mount command for this exercise. As we’re only addressing Lubuntu (though this will certainly work in other distros) we know that the command is already installed and there’s no work for you to do there.

If you check the man page, you’ll see that the mount command is exactly what we need. The man page describes it like this:

mount – mount a filesystem

See? Exactly what we need to mount an .iso in Lubuntu! It’s perfect for the purpose.

You probably mount things all the time. If a disk is usable in Linux, it has been mounted. (You may run checks against an unmounted disk, of course.) If you plug in a USB drive, Lubuntu will happily (assuming your settings are the default settings) mount the drive for you. It’s a handy thing, to have the system smart enough to mount devices when plugged in. It beats the old way of having to mount them yourself manually.

So, the mount application is already installed and you needn’t install anything, but we will be doing this in the terminal. Yes, you can probably manage to do this with some GUI trickery, but you might as well learn how to mount that .iso file in the terminal. It’ll be good for you!

Mount An .iso In Lubuntu:

As mentioned above, we’ll be doing this in the terminal, the way it has historically been done. This isn’t going to be all that challenging, but you first need to open the terminal. To open your terminal, just press CTRL + ALT + T. That should open your terminal.

With your terminal now open, you need a .iso file for this so feel free to download a distro (such as Lubuntu) to your Downloads directory – or wherever you want it to be. You start the mounting procedure by first setting a location for the file to be mounted. Like so:

In theory, you can probably make the directory anywhere, but we will be dealing with convention. If you’re using Lubuntu, things should be mounted as media, and so they go in that directory.

The next step is the actual mounting of the file. This isn’t difficult, you just need to know the path of the .iso and where you just made the directory. That command would look similar to this:

At this point, your .iso file is mounted. You can use the file manager (PCManFM-Qt) to navigate to the files included in the .iso file. You can also list the contents of that file with this command:

With the .iso mounted, you can browse, copy, and extract files from the .iso file. You could theoretically add files to the image, but that’s not always a wise decision. 

When you’re done with the mounted .iso, you can just unmount it with the following terminal command:

This is all you really need to know to mount an .iso in Lubuntu. Try it for yourself, you can’t really break anything.

Closure:

Well, if you ever need to mount an .iso in Lubuntu, you now know how to do so. As I told you near the start, it’s not that complicated. If you just think it through and follow directions, you’ll be all set. It’s not all that often that you need to mount an .iso, but the situation does happen. This is especially true if you’ve done a backup that was a disk image and you need to recover files from it because you’ve had something break.

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How To: Extract Files From An .iso

In today’s article, we’re going to learn how to extract files from an .iso. This is a good tool to add to your toolbox. You never know when you may need it. This really shouldn’t be a very long article, and even a new user should be able to follow along. Read on!

First, an .iso is really an optical disk image – even though some of the current .iso examples far exceed what you can write on a CD or even a DVD. You still use an .iso when  you’re writing a Linux live/boot USB. It’s still an optical image, you’re just not writing it to optical media. It’s a standard.

Commonly, you’ll find that Linux distros come in .iso format. You’ll also find some backup software that creates an .iso image. Traditionally, you don’t extract an .iso, you write it as a single image to your media, be it USB, CD, or DVD. But, sometimes you might want to extract files from the image file, and it’s not terribly hard to do so.

Further Reading:

How Do I Install Linux (A General Guide)
How do I ‘Boot to USB’? (Or CD/DVD, if Such is Available)
balenaEtcher: A Tool To Turn Linux .ISO Files Into Bootable USB Drives

Alas, you might have flubbed a configuration file and want to extract a known good one from the .iso you used to install Linux. You may have a backup in .iso format and not want to recover the entire image just for a few files, so you’ll want to extract the files from the .iso. There are a variety of reasons why you might want to do this, which is what we’ll learn in this article.

Extract Files From An .iso:

Just like so many previous articles, we’re going to do this in the terminal. So, crack open your terminal and we’ll get started. If you don’t know how to open your default terminal emulator, just press CTRL + ALT + T and your default terminal should open.

With your terminal now open, the first thing you have to do is make the correct directory in your /mnt (mount) directory. It looks like:

Next, you want to mount the .iso, which is done like this:

Now, at this point, you can do one of two things. If you want to remain in the terminal, you just ‘cd /mnt/iso‘ and start with ‘ls -la‘ to navigate and find the file(s) you want to extract from .iso. Pretty easy, really!

Alternatively, at this time, your system will now see the .iso as being a mounted image file. You can open your default file explorer (Nemo, PCManFM-Qt, Thunar, Dolphin, and the list goes on and on and on…) where you should see the .iso mounted, especially if you navigate to /mnt/iso. You can then navigate to that mounted image graphically, treating it like its own file system, and extract files as you see fit.

The choice is up to you. You can use a GUI file manager or just use the terminal. Both will be equally effective and allow you to extract files from an .iso. See? Not all that hard at all. Find an .iso on your system and test it.

Closure:

And there you have it, you have yet another article! This time, we’ve gone over how to extract files from an .iso. This isn’t something you’re likely to need often, but it’ll be handy when you do need it. It’s just one of those tools you stuff into the back of your mind for when you do need it – or at least enough to be able to get a reminder by way of a search engine.

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Backup Optical Media To .iso

In today’s article, we’re going to learn how to backup optical media to .iso. If you have optical disks you want to backup, this is an easy way to go about it. It will not work with all disks, especially those encumbered with DRM.

This is useful for data disks, for example. It’s also useful for music CDs. It’s less likely to be good for things like game DVDs or movies. Those use various methods to stop you from copying your discs. While there are ways to backup some of them, this article won’t be getting into it.

Instead, we’ll just be using ‘dd’ for this exercise. If you’re unfamiliar with ‘dd’, it stands for:

convert and copy a file

If you’re unfamiliar with the command, you should pay extra attention to the way it is used in this article. It’s a powerful tool and using it with just the slightest error can (and will) make you run for your backups.

So, with all those things in mind, let’s learn how to …

Backup Optical Media To .iso:

This article requires an open terminal, like many other articles on this site. If you don’t know how to open the terminal, you can do so with your keyboard – just press CTRL + ALT + T and your default terminal should open.

With your terminal now open, we should probably figure out where your optical disk is. One way to find your optical media drive is with this command:

Inside the results of that command you’ll find something like “[sr0] scsi3-mmc” from which you can glean that /dev/sr0 would be your optical drive. With that information at hand, you’ll fun this command:

Be really sure that the path to save is correct, though this command is less likely to harm you than other ‘dd’ commands.

Anyhow, you can verify the integrity of the file created. That’s an easy enough step to take and looks a bit like this:

That should spit out two numbers. Those numbers should match. If they don’t, then something has gone wrong and you might want to try it again.

Closure:

There you go… Another quick and easy article. This one teaches you how to backup optical media to .iso, a handy skill if you want to preserve the data on the disks before they get worn out, broken, or lost. 

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Convert Disk Image Formats To .ISO

Today’s article will teach you how to convert disk image formats to .iso. It’s a pretty handy tool to have in your toolbox. This is going to be a pretty easy article to follow, so it shouldn’t be all that long.

In case you don’t know, there are all sorts of disk image formats. The .bin and .cue are the two you are most likely to be familiar with (beyond the .iso, which is the most common in the Linux world).

There are .B5I .BIN, CDI, CUE, .MDF, MDE, and .NRG. There may be more, but that’s all the tool we’ll be using handles. As I mentioned, you may well already be familiar with the .BIN and .CUE disk image formats. You see those from time to time and now you no longer have to ignore them – you’ll have just the tool you need to convert them to .ISO (which many programs expect – and work with, while not working with other formats).

The tool we’ll be using is known as iat and it’s actually just a tiny command-line application. The man page defines it as such:

iat – converts many CD-ROM image formats to iso9660

The latter part is probably important to note. That means that it only converts to .ISO format and nothing else. If you want to convert to a different format, or in the opposite direction, this is not the correct tool the job.

So then, let’s take a few minutes to use iat and learn how to …

Convert Disk Image Formats:

This article requires an open terminal, like many other articles on this site. If you don’t know how to open the terminal, you can do so with your keyboard – just press CTRL + ALT + T and your default terminal should open.

With your terminal now open, the rest is easy. It’s almost certainly in your default repositories, and unlikely to be installed by default. You can install it in your usual manner – but I’ll show you how to do it in Debian/Ubuntu/Mint derivatives:

It’ll be just as easy to install in any major distro. To use it, it’s REALLY simple… It’s just this easy:

iat <path/to/file_name> <desired_output_name.iso>

Sure, you can check out man iat, but it’s not really all that complicated. This is pretty much the easiest tool you’ll find to convert disk image formats to .iso. Tell it which file you want to convert, tell it what you want to name the output file, and then you just pound the enter button on your keyboard and wait. The output is a handy .iso that you can use just like you would any other .iso.

Closure:

There you have it! You have a new article that teaches you how to convert disk image formats to .iso – which can seriously come in handy when you need to burn a disk image and the software you’re using only accepts .iso as the input.

It’s also the first article I hadn’t obligated myself to do! This is now over a year since the first article was published, and one published every other day. I am absolutely NOT committing to maintaining the same publication schedules, but I just don’t think I can let the site sit here idle. So, we’ll see what happens.

Thanks for reading! If you want to help, or if the site has helped you, you can donate, register to help, write an article, or buy inexpensive hosting to start your own site. If you scroll down, you can sign up for the newsletter, vote for the article, and comment.

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