Install linux via usb

Install Ubuntu desktop

1. Overview

What you’ll learn

In this tutorial, we will guide you through the steps required to install Ubuntu Desktop on your laptop or PC.

What you’ll need

  • A laptop or PC (obviously!) with at least 25GB of storage space.
  • A flash drive (8GB as a minimum, 12GB or above recommended).

Whilst Ubuntu works on a wide range of devices, it is recommended that you use a device listed on the Ubuntu certified hardware page. These devices have been tested and confirmed to work well with Ubuntu.

If you are installing Ubuntu on a PC or laptop you have used previously, it is always recommended to back up your data prior to installation.

2. Download an Ubuntu Image

You can download an Ubuntu image here. Make sure to save it to a memorable location on your PC! For this tutorial, we will use the Ubuntu 20.04 LTS release.

3. Create a Bootable USB stick

To install Ubuntu Desktop, you need to write your downloaded ISO to a USB stick to create the installation media. This is not the same as copying the ISO, and requires some bespoke software.

For this tutorial, we’ll use balenaEtcher, as it runs on Linux, Windows and Mac OS. Choose the version that corresponds to your current operating system, download and install the tool.

If you prefer to use a different tool to create your USB, we also have tutorials for Rufus on Windows, Etcher on Mac OS and Startup Disk Creator on Ubuntu.

Select your downloaded ISO, choose your USB flash drive, and then click Flash! to install your image.

Installing Ubuntu from a DVD
It’s also possible to install Ubuntu from a DVD instead of USB. Follow these guides to burn an Ubuntu installation DVD on Windows, MacOS or Ubuntu, then select the CD drive instead of USB device on the boot options screen in the following step.

4. Boot from USB flash drive

Insert the USB flash drive into the laptop or PC you want to use to install Ubuntu and boot or restart the device. It should recognise the installation media automatically. If not, try holding F12 during startup and selecting the USB device from the system-specific boot menu.

F12 is the most common key for bringing up your system’s boot menu, but Escape, F2 and F10 are common alternatives. If you’re unsure, look for a brief message when your system starts – this will often inform you of which key to press to bring up the boot menu.

You should now see the welcome screen inviting you to either try or install Ubuntu.

If you click Try Ubuntu, you can preview Ubuntu without making any changes to your PC. You can return to the installer menu at any time by clicking the Install Ubuntu shortcut on the desktop.

To proceed, click Install Ubuntu.

You will be asked to select your keyboard layout. Once you’ve chosen one, click Continue.

5. Installation Setup

Next, you will be prompted to choose between the Normal installation and Minimal installation options. The minimal installation is useful for those with smaller hard drives or who don’t require as many pre-installed applications.

In Other options, you will be prompted to download updates as well as third-party software that may improve device support and performance (for example, Nvidia graphics drivers) during the installation. It is recommended to check both of these boxes.

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If you are not currently connected to the internet, you will be prompted to do so at this point. Ensure you are able to remain connected throughout the installation.

6. Drive Management

This screen allows you to configure your installation. If you would like Ubuntu to be the only operating system on your device, select Erase disk and install Ubuntu.

If your device currently has another operating system installed, you will receive additional options to install Ubuntu alongside that OS rather than replacing it. This requires some additional steps not covered in this tutorial. However, you can read more about setting up dual-booting in this useful tutorial on Dave’s RoboShack.

If you are happy to continue the installation without enabling encryption, click Install Now and confirm the changes with Continue. Otherwise keep reading.

7. (Optional) Enable Encryption

If you would like to encrypt your device, select Advanced features… > Use LVM with the new Ubuntu installation > Encrypt the new Ubuntu installation for security.

LVM stands for Logical Volume Management. By using LVM during the setup, it makes it easier to create and manage partitions post installation.

You will be prompted to create a security key once you click Install Now.

If you select encryption, it is important that you do not lose your security key! Write it down and store it in a safe place outside of your local system. You will not be able to recover your data without it!

Click Install Now and confirm the changes with Continue.

8. Choose your Location

Select your location and timezone from the map screen and click Continue. This information will be detected automatically if you are connected to the internet.

9. Create Your Login Details

On this screen, you will be prompted to enter your name and the name of your computer as it will appear on the network. Finally, you will create a username and a strong password.

You can choose to log in automatically or require a password. If you are using your device whilst travelling, it’s recommended to keep automatic login disabled.

10. Complete the Installation

Now sit back and enjoy the slideshow as Ubuntu installs in the background!

Once the installation has completed, you will be prompted to restart your machine.

Click Restart Now.

When you restart, you will be prompted to remove your USB flash drive from the device. Once you’ve done this, press ENTER.

Enter your password on the login screen (assuming you selected that option when creating your login details).

And that’s it, welcome to your new Ubuntu Desktop!

The welcome widget will help you with some additional setup options, including:

  • Connecting your profile to various online accounts.
  • Configure Livepatch to automatically apply updates to your device (this option is only available when using a long term support [LTS] version of Ubuntu).
  • Opting into sending device information to Canonical to help improve Ubuntu (by default, Canonical doesn’t collect device information).
  • Activating location services.
  • Downloading additional apps from Ubuntu Software.

11. Don’t forget to Update!

It’s always good practice to ensure your system is up to date, especially after a fresh install.

The easiest way to do this is via the Software Updater app. Search for Software Updater via the app menu (the icon with 9 squares in the bottom corner of your window) and it will check for updates and apply them.

You can also update Ubuntu using the terminal.

Press CTRL+ALT+T to bring up a Terminal window (or click the terminal icon in the sidebar).

sudo apt update

You will be prompted to enter your login password.

This will check for updates and tell you if there are any that need applying. To apply any updates, type:

sudo apt upgrade

Type Y, then press ENTER to confirm to finish the update process.

12. You’ve installed Ubuntu!

Thank you for completing this tutorial. We hope you enjoy your new desktop.

If you have any issues, please contact us via the Ubuntu Discourse, or visit Ask Ubuntu.

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You can also read the latest news about Ubuntu Desktop on the Ubuntu Blog.

As a next step, why not try:

For users who need to run both Ubuntu and Windows you can also install Ubuntu via Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL).

To help us improve our tutorials, please let us know how you got on!


Ubuntu Documentation


The general procedure to install Ubuntu (or Ubuntu flavour, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Xubuntu, . ) from a USB flash drive is:

Get the correct Ubuntu installation file, ‘the iso file’, via this link or Ubuntu flavour via this link. Download the iso file into your running computer (for example into the directory Downloads in the internal drive, not into the USB flash drive that you want to make into a USB boot drive).

Check with md5sum (or another checksum tool) that the download was good.

  • Put Ubuntu onto your USB flash drive alias ‘stick’ alias ‘pendrive’ alias ‘thumb’. Tools for this purpose are described in this help page.
  • Configure your computer to boot from USB flash drive and boot from it.

    Try Ubuntu (Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Xubuntu, . ) before installing it.

  • Install Ubuntu to your internal drive (hard disk drive or solid state drive or external drive).
  • See also: Installation/FromUSBStickQuick for beginners starting from Windows.


    Ubuntu can be installed from a USB flash drive. This may be necessary for most new portable computers without DVD drives and is handy for others because a USB flash drive is so convenient. Also, you can configure Ubuntu on the USB flash drive to save changes you make, unlike a read-only CD/DVD disk.

    Booting from a USB flash drive created with usb-creator alias Startup Disk Creator and mkusb will behave just as if you had booted from the install CD. It will show the language selection and then the install menu, from which you can install Ubuntu onto the computer’s hard drive or launch the LiveCD environment. Other utilities, e.g. UNetbootin, may create slightly different boot drives or if on UEFI might not work at all with Debian iso files due to a bug

    Note: This article uses the term «USB flash drive» alongside USB stick, USB drive, USB device, USB pendrive and thumb drive.


    To create a USB installation device, you will need:

    a 4 GB USB flash device/drive/stick. If the iso file is smaller than 2 GB, it is possible to use a 2 GB USB device, at least with some of the methods. Files on this USB device will be erased, so backup the files you want to keep before making the device bootable. Some of the tools require that this USB device is properly formatted and mounted while other tools will overwrite whatever is on the target device. Please follow the instructions for each tool.

    an Ubuntu flavour ISO file downloaded from an official web page, or, stored in your running computer (for example in the directory Downloads in the internal drive, not in the USB flash drive that you want to make into a USB boot drive).

    Check with md5sum (or another checksum tool) that the download was good. In Linux there is the tool ‘md5sum’. In Windows you can do it with Rufus: click on the circle with a tick mark (more about Rufus here.)

    Dummy headlines

    After a major remake of this help page the following headlines are kept here because they may be linked to from other web sites. Several other headlines further down in the page are also kept for this reason.

    Notes about speed

    Notes about size

    Notes about bootability

    The flash hardware

    There is a detailed description at the sub-page /pre

    Creating a bootable Ubuntu USB flash drive from Windows

    There are various methods available for Windows to create a bootable Ubuntu USB flash drive.

    NEVER try to use one of your hard disk drives or partitions in this process unless you really know what you are doing, as data will get erased.


    Rufus is the tool in Windows that is recommended officially by Ubuntu. A tutorial is available from here.

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    Pendrivelinux’s Universal USB Installer


    Win32 Disk Imager

    There is a detailed description at /fromWindows including Rufus, balena Etcher, Universal USB Installer, Unetbootin and Win32 Disk Imager.

    Creating a bootable Ubuntu USB flash drive from Ubuntu

    Install and run Startup Disk Creator alias usb-creator

    The Ubuntu Startup Disk Creator is dedicated to creating USB boot drives for Ubuntu and Ubuntu family flavours (Kubuntu, Lubuntu . Xubuntu).

  • Use another tool (e.g. ‘UNetbootin’ or ‘mkusb’), if you want to create a USB boot drive with another Linux distro (alias Linux operating system).
  • You can find usb-creator-gtk by typing «Startup Disk Creator» (Ubuntu Desktop) or usb-creator-kde in K-Menu—>Applications—>System—>Startup Disk Creator (Kubuntu). If it is not there, then you can install it using the Ubuntu Software Center.

    • Insert and mount the USB drive. Inserting the USB drive should auto-mount it.
    • Start the Startup Disk Creator
    • In the top pane of the Startup Disk Creator, pick the .iso file that you downloaded.
    • If the .iso file isn’t listed, click «Other» to locate and select the .iso file that you downloaded.
    • In the bottom pane of the Startup Disk Creator, pick the target device, the USB flash drive. If more than one choice, please check carefully, until you are sure that you will be writing to the correct device.
    • After checking that you are pointing to the correct target device, the USB flash drive, you can start the action.

    You must enter a password because this is a risky operation. Use the password of the current user ID (the same as for login and running tasks with 'sudo'. Password is not required when installing from a ‘live’ system (booted from a DVD disk or another USB flash drive).

    The Startup Disk Creator clones the iso file, which means that you need neither erase nor format the target drive. It will be completely overwritten anyway by the cloning process. The Startup Disk Creator looks like this in Ubuntu 18.04 LTS:


    NEVER try to use one of your hard disk drives or SSDs or partitions in this process unless you really know what you are doing, as data will get erased.

    There are bugs that affect the Ubuntu Startup Disk Creator, when you run it in old Ubuntu versions in BIOS mode and try to create USB boot drives with other versions. In the Ubuntu Startup Disk Creator version 0.3.2 in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, these bugs are no longer a problem, so you can install any version of the Ubuntu flavours from 16.04 LTS and newer versions.


    Download UNetbootin

  • UNetbootin works in and with most Linux distros.
  • It is an extracting tool (not a cloning tool).
  • It can make a persistence file up to 4GB in size to save data and defaults.
  • mkusb — dd image of iso file to USB device safely

    If you want to clone from a general image file to a drive, you can use mkusb. It lets you clone to any drive that is not busy, also an internal drive, and there are very obvious warnings to prevent mistakes.

  • mkusb can also
    • run in Debian and many linux distros that are similar to Ubuntu and Debian,
    • clone from iso files of most Linux distros to create USB boot drives,
    • create persistent live drives of the Ubuntu family and Debian, using all available drive space for persistence and/or data storage,
    • restore a USB boot drive to a standard storage device.
  • There is a detailed description at /fromUbuntu including the Startup Disk Creator, UNetbootin and mkusb.

    Creating a bootable Ubuntu USB flash drive from Mac OSX

    There is a good wiki page about booting with UEFI, and a good tutorial thread, UEFI Installing — Tips.

    Test if running in UEFI mode

    You may want to test if your Ubuntu flavour is running in [U]EFI mode. An installed system and a live system too is using the directory /sys/firmware/efi, so you can run the following command line,

    The following command line is more robust and also easier to understand, so you may prefer it (if you copy & paste and are not bothered by typing a long command line),