By Gareth Ogden posted Aug 30th 2010
In my previous blog posting I covered how to install a Live Boot Linux distribution to a 32GB Flash Voyager GT USB flash drive using Unetbootin, but this isn’t the only way to create a Live Boot USB drive. A quick trip to Pendrivelinux.com will reveal a treasure trove of mini-guides for different distributions of Linux, which are very useful in the event that Unetbootin doesn’t work for you.
For example, I’ve found that Unetbootin fails to correctly install the Syslinux boot files to a USB drive that has been turned into a Fixed drive and split into multiple partitions, as described in my blog post Create separate partitions on your Corsair USB flash drive. I don’t why this doesn’t work, so if any Linux gurus out there can explain how to get this working then that would be great!
All is not lost though, because it’s still possible to install a Live Bootable Linux operating system to a separate BOOT partition on a USB drive using one of the alternative methods from Pendrivelinux.com. I’m going to use one of these methods to install Linux Mint 7 KDE to a 32GB Corsair Flash Voyager GT USB flash drive, partitioned with a 4GB BOOT partition and a 28GB DATA partition, which is a neat solution that allows me to keep my data separated from the Linux boot partition.
You can use this method for a standard USB flash drive too (i.e. a removable drive with a single partition), providing it is formatted in the FAT32 format. For drives of 64GB and larger, you can use the HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool to format the drive in FAT32.
The installation process is slightly more complicated than using Unetbootin, but it’s still relatively simple. First, create a directory on your C: drive called USBLINUX and then download the file USBM7KDE.exe from Pendrivelinux.com to C:\USBLINUX. Run the program and extract the files to the same directory. Now download the LinuxMint-7-KDE.iso to the C:\USBLINUX\USBM7KDE folder.
I’ve found that the most reliable method of installing the files is to run the programs from a Command Prompt window. Don’t worry, this isn’t as scary as it sounds! Go to the Start Menu and find Command Prompt (you can simply search for ‘CMD’ in the Search box). It’s best to run this as an Administrator, so if you have UAC enabled, right-click on the Command Prompt icon and select ‘Run as Administrator’.
In the Command Prompt window type CD\USBLINUX\USBM7KDE and press Enter to switch to the USBLINUX\USBM7KDE directory that was created when you extracted the files earlier. Now type FIXM7KDE and press Enter, then enter the drive letter of your USB drive / partition and press Enter. This will start the process of installing the Linux Mint files, which will take a couple of minutes.
After the files have copied over you’ll be asked to press a key to make the USB flash drive bootable. This launches a separate Command Prompt window, which also needs to be run in Administrator mode in order to work. Therefore, if you have UAC enabled, simply ignore the message, close the current Command Prompt window and open another. Again, do this by going to Start, typing ‘CMD’ into the search box at the bottom, and right-clicking to select ‘Run as Administrator’.
In the new Command Prompt window, navigate to the flash drive by typing X: and Enter, where X is the drive letter of your USB drive, or BOOT partition on the USB drive. Now type MAKEBOOT and press Enter to make the partition bootable. Close the window and safely remove your drive ready for use on your chosen PC or laptop.
There are two methods of booting from a USB drive. One option is to change the principle boot disk in the BIOS to the USB drive (see your motherboard manual for details), but an easier option is to simply launch the Boot Selector during the initial POST sequence. Most modern motherboards and laptops have this option, and it’s usually initiated by pressing the F8, F11 or F12 when prompted during the boot sequence. Again, check your motherboard manual for details.
From the Boot Selector, choose USB-HDD or USB Storage Device, or a similar option, and a few seconds later your system will be booting from USB, giving you a fully working OS that you can take on the move!