How To: Create a Bootable Linux Live CD without using Unetbootin

Burned an ISO to USB with unetbootin and it’s not bootin’? Me too. Researching a little shows that a number of people are having this issue trying to make a bootable USB of Ubuntu 13.04 onwards (I was trying 13.10). So, how can we create a bootable USB in Linux without using unetbootin? Pretty easily as it turns out…

Identify your USB drive

Insert a USB stick into your machine (don’t mount it or click on any pop-up – just have the system recognise that the stick is there) and type:

df -h

From this output you should be able to find your USB drive, make a note of or remember the drive letter. In my case, I get the following output:

Filesystem                      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda8                        18G  6.1G   11G  37% /
dev                             7.9G     0  7.9G   0% /dev
run                             7.9G  948K  7.9G   1% /run
tmpfs                           7.9G  3.0M  7.9G   1% /dev/shm
tmpfs                           7.9G     0  7.9G   0% /sys/fs/cgroup
tmpfs                           7.9G  140K  7.9G   1% /tmp
tmpfs                           7.9G  856K  7.9G   1% /etc/pacman.d/gnupg
/dev/sda6                       475G  399G   52G  89% /home
/dev/sdb1                       1.9G     0  1.9G   0% /run/media/r3dux/R3DUSB

From which you can see that /dev/sdb is the USB stick (we don’t care about the partition number of the drive i.e. sdb1 – we’re just interested in the drive letter).

Be aware that you’ll lose any data on the USB stick once you perform the copy – so if your sticks empty or you don’t care about losing whatever’s on it, we can move onto the next part, which is the…

Binary Copy

Now that you have your drive letter (and you’re ABSOLUTELY sure it’s the correct drive letter – you do NOT want to overwrite any other partitions!), carefully type the following and make the following substitutions:

/path/to/your/image.iso is obviously the path to the iso you want to make a bootable USB stick with, and
– The X in sdX is the drive letter we just identified for your USB stick.

sudo dd bs=4M if=/path/to/your/image.iso of=/dev/sdX && sync

So in my case, I typed:

sudo  dd bs=4M if=~/Downloads/ubuntu-13.10-desktop-i386.iso of=/dev/sdb && sync

Let it go for a minute or two, then you’re done. Boot away!

The only caveat with this method of making a bootable USB stick is that you can’t use the rest of the space on the USB stick to store files like you often can when using a Live USB Stick creation tool. But if you just wanted the darn thing to work, as I did, dd will do the job nicely.