How to Create a Live USB using Unetbootin Linux?

The plethora of Linux distributions available today can be pretty overwhelming. Installing one flavor and finding out you don’t like it would be a hassle. You then find another distro and repeat the cycle until you find the best one that ticks all the boxes.

Maybe it’s time you try a different approach. Instead of wiping out your computer or creating a resource-intensive virtual machine, you could create a portable, usable version of the Linux distro on a USB.

An excellent tool for creating a Live USB is the Unetbootin Linux, and this post will show you how to use it.

Requirements

To follow this tutorial, you must have the following in place.

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  • A Linux computer with an available USB port. This post will use an Ubuntu 22.04 desktop.
  • A USB flash drive with enough storage. In most distros, an 8GB drive should suffice.
  • The ISO image of the Linux distro you want to try. This post will demonstrate using a Fedora Workstation 36 ISO to create the Live CD.

Install the Latest UNetbootin Linux Tool

The UNetbootin tool is available in the Ubuntu PPA as an installable package using the APT package manager or as a standalone binary. Installing UNetbootin on your computer is fairly simple, and we’ll see how to install it using both methods.

Method 1: Install from Ubuntu PPA

Note. This method applies to Ubuntu 20.10 (Groovy) and older. As of this writing, the PPA does not contain the UNetbootin releases beyond Ubuntu 20.10.

Let’s install the UNetbootin Ubuntu package. By default, APT cannot install UNetbootin since it does not know where to find it. So the first command is to add the PPA repository and update the local package cache.

sudo add-apt-repository --remove ppa:gezakovacs/ppa 
sudo apt-get update

Next, install the UNetbootin package like so.

sudo apt-get install unetbootin

Method 2: Download the Binary (Recommended)

This next method involves downloading the compiled binary file, which you can run on different Linux distributions.

Open the UNetbootin Linux Downloads page using your web browser and download the 32-bit or 64-bit binary. In this example, we’ll download the 64-bit binary file.

unetbootin

Locate the file you downloaded using the file browser. Right click the file and click Properties.

unetbootin linux

Go to the Permissions tab and tick the box that says Allow executing file as program. This step ensures that you can execute the UNetbootin Linux tool.

unetbootin ubuntu

Launch the UNetbootin Linux Tool

First, open a terminal window and change into the directory where you downloaded the UNetbootin Linux binary. In this example, the UNetbootin binary is in ~/Downloads.

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cd ~/Downloads 
ls

live usb unetbootin

Next, launch UNetbootin by running this command.

sudo ./unetbootin-linux64-702.bin

You might get a warning about some missing packages. For example, the message below states that mlabel is not found, which is required for the Arch Linux install mode. If you plan to create a Live USB for Arch Linux, you must install the mtools package as suggested.

unetbootin ubuntu 20.04

Another critical requirement of UNetbootin is 7z; if it is not installed, you’ll get the message below.

unetbootin ubuntu install

So to get rid of those messages and ensure all requirements are present, let’s install those missing packages.

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sudo apt install p7zip-full mtools -y

unetbootin install

Now that the required packages are installed rerun the command to launch UNetbootin.

sudo ./unetbootin-linux64-702.bin

And you should now see this window.

unetbootin linux install

Create a UNetbootin Linux Live USB

Once you’ve downloaded the UNetbootin tool and installed the requirements, you can start creating the Linux Live USB of your chosen OS.

Select the Diskimage option and click the button to locate the disk image file.

unetbootin live usb

Locate and select the ISO file and click Open.

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unetbootin on ubuntu live usb

Select USB Drive as the Type, select the correct USB drive location, and click OK.

Note. Choosing the wrong drive to target the Live USB will cause catastrophic data loss. Use caution when selecting the target drive.

unetbootin download linux

The UNetbootin Linux Live USB creation starts, as you can see below.

live usb unetbootin linux

Wait for the process to complete and click Exit.

unetbootin ubuntu 20.04 live usb

The UNetbootin Linux live USB is now ready.

unetbootin linux mint live usb

Boot to the UNetbootin Linux Live USB Environment

So you’ve created the live USB; what’s the ultimate test? Let’s find out if the computer will boot into the live USB environment.

With the Live USB attached to the computer, reboot and select the USB drive as the boot device. This process differs between computer brands and BIOSes.

Your UNetbootin Linux Live USB should bring you to a boot manager like the screenshot below. Choose the Start Fedora-Workstation-Live 36 entry.

unetbootin linux usb live

The computer will boot into the live media interface, as shown below. Click the Try Fedora option.

live usb unetbootin linux

You’re now ready to try the Live USB version of your distribution without affecting the primary operating system on your machine.

Conclusion

The UNetbootin Linux live USB creation tool is an excellent solution that allows you to test new Linux distros without fully committing to it and it to your hard drive. The installation and usage are not complicated, and users don’t have to be IT experts to be familiar with them.

But, the latest release of UNetbootin Linux is almost two years old as of this writing. As such, it is possible for some newer distros to not work with it. In this case, you may need a different tool, like Rufus or Balena Etcher.

I enjoy technology and developing websites. Since 2012 I'm running a few of my own websites, and share useful content on gadgets, PC administration and website promotion.

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