Oct 1, 2008

Creating Bootable USB Stick Linux Systems On The Easy

One of the coolest things ever invented was the OS on the stick. Whoever was smart enough to think of putting an operating system on a portable USB key was simply brilliant! I mean, seriously! How convenient is that?

I use to walk around with a portable Backtrack USB stick. That is handy for pentesting, and other general hackaliciousness, but in all honesty Ubuntu is my Linux distro of choice. So what about those of you who prefer Suse, Red Hat, Fedora, Gentoo etc? Sure there are countless tutorials online about how to manually go through and install to your USB stick, but wouldn't it be better if you could just point and click a couple of times and be done with it?

Bauer-Power USB StickThat is where UNetbootin comes in. It makes creating your own Live USB thumb drive radically simple. The big selling point of this wonder-app is that it allows you to install your Linux Distro without the need for a CD. You just point the program to your ISO, and follow the prompts. Easy as pie!

The creators say that UNetbootin is really no different from a standard install except it allows the installation of your Linux/Unix distro to either USB or disk partition without a CD...Oh, and it has a really intuitive interface.


There are some system requirements though. Here they are from the website:

  • Microsoft Windows 2000/XP/Vista, or Linux, or a USB Drive. If you are having trouble with the Linux version, try the Windows version, it usually works better.
  • A broadband internet connection to download the distribution packages (unless installing from pre-downloaded media, see below)
  • Spare hard drive space to install the OS in (varies depending on distribution)

UNetBootin comes as an install for Windows and Linux for now (Sorry Mac).

UNetBootin can also be used with the following systems utilities:

  • Parted Magic, a partition manager that can resize, repair, backup, and restore partitions.
  • Super Grub Disk, a boot utility that can restore and repair overwritten and misconfigured GRUB installs or directly boot various operating systems
  • Backtrack, a utility used for network analysis and penetration testing.
  • Ophcrack, a utility which can recover Windows passwords.
  • NTPasswd, a utility which can reset Windows passwords and edit the registry.
  • Gujin, a graphical bootloader that can also be used to boot various operating systems and media.
  • Smart Boot Manager (SBM), which can boot off CD-ROM and floppy drives on computers with a faulty BIOS.
  • FreeDOS, which can run BIOS flash and other legacy DOS utilities.

Do you smell that? That is the smell of kick-ass Linux deliciousness on your USB stick. What distro are you going to put on your stick? Do you already walk around with a Live USB key? Tell us about it in the comments!

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