The Ubuntu desktop distribution is full of nifty tricks. One of those tricks is the ability to create a bootable USB Ubuntu drive quickly and easily. Used to be this trick wasn't so easy. Not only did you have to format the USB drive, you had to manually create the file systems, copy the files, add a boot loader, and hope that it worked. Sometimes it didn't, so you'd have to start all over again. All of this was done via the command line.
Now there are loads of tools to use for this purpose. I have already covered the Unetbootin tool in my article "Install Linux on a USB drive with Unetbootin." This time around we are going to do the same trick with a tool that comes pre-installed on any modern Ubuntu distribution. It's all graphical interface and all easy going.
What you will need
And a little bit of time. If you don't have either the ISO image or the CD you can just download a fresh copy from the Ubuntu site.
Once you have everything you need, you are ready to go.
Starting the tool
You will find the USB creator in the Administration sub-menu of the System menu on the GNOME desktop. The entry you are looking for is called "USB Startup Disk Creator". Click that to open up the main window (see Figure 1).
As you can see (in Figure 1) there is neither an image or a CD listed. You either have to insert your Ubuntu CD or, if you're using a downloaded image, click the Other button and navigate to where you've saed your image file.
When you insert your CD it will be automatically detected by the system and listed in the USB Startup Disk window. When this happens everything that is greyed out in Figure 1 will be at your service.
You will notice the only option available is for saving documents and settings. If your USB drive has enough extra space you can designate a portion of that drive for this purpose. With this feature you can effectively have a portable version of Linux that is far more than just a "startup disk".
Creating the disk
When you have selected your image to use and configured your free space you are ready to go. Click the Make Startup Disk button and the main windo will be dismissed. During the creation process you will see a progress window (see Figure 2) that will let you know how much is done and what is happening. The phases of this creation are:
Once all three phases are complete you will get a dialog window telling you installation is complete and you can now reboot your machine with the USB drive. Of course when you boot a machine with this device it has to be able to boot from a USB device. Most modern machine can do that so it shouldn't be an issue.
As far as tools of this nature, the Ubuntu USB disk creator tool is one of the easiest and most reliable. It's not the most flexible; but for what it does, you can't beat it. If you're looking to have a portable Ubuntu distribution you can carry with you, make use of this user-friendly tool.
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