There are many complex programs for burning an ISO to an external drive, some
with graphical user interfaces and some without. However, if you’re using any
Unix-like operating system, chances are you already have a utility that will
do the job. It’s called
- Locate your drive with
sudo fdisk -l.
- Unmount the drive with
umount /dev/sdb*. If
fdiskshows your USB drive as something other than
sdb, use that instead.
dd if=/path/to/image.iso of=/dev/sdb(the whole device, not just
If this is your first time working with these commands, it can be tempting to simply copy and paste, make your bootable drive, and forget about it. However, having an understanding of what each one does is beneficial because you’ll know the why in addition to the how, which in turn allows you to solve problems later on using these tools.
Let’s start with
sudo fdisk -l. (Without
sudo, you might get permission
denied errors.) In the output, look for an entry like this one:
Disk /dev/sdb: 3.8 GiB, 4049600512 bytes, 7909376 sectors Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes Disklabel type: dos Disk identifier: 0x0b5e8681 Device Boot Start End Sectors Size Id Type /dev/sdb1 * 0 782335 782336 382M 0 Empty /dev/sdb2 4076 9387 5312 2.6M ef EFI (FAT-12/16/32)
How do I know that this is my USB drive? I’m using the size to identify it, and since there are no other drives with a size of roughly 4 GB, this must be it.
Unmount the drive with
sdb2 refer to
different partitions on the same drive. Using the wildcard
*, we unmount all
partitions at once.
Finally, use the
dd utility to write the ISO image (a type of archive
file) to the drive.
dd if=/path/to/image.iso of=/dev/sdb
if is the input file, which will be the ISO image.
of is the output file,
which will be the drive we want to write the image to. Note that we write to
the file that represents the device, and not just a particular partition such
It might take a while to write to the drive, but eventually you will see output like this:
782336+0 records in 782336+0 records out 400556032 bytes (401 MB, 382 MiB) copied, 84.0998 s, 4.8 MB/s
Once you see this, the USB drive is ready.
dd is a versatile and powerful utility. Be careful when using it as you could
easily write data to the wrong location, overwriting existing information and
causing data loss. To explore the
dd utility further, check out the man page: