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How to install Linux from USB

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How to install Linux from USB: After acquiring the necessary skills on Windows, you decided to expand your horizons and try  Linux , an operating system that you have heard so much about in conversations between your geek friends  . Since you have a computer without a CD player, you have opted for an installation via USB stick and are looking for information on how to proceed. Is this so? Then let me say that you have come to the right place at the right time, because today they are to help you do this and install Linux from a USB stick.

To begin with, let me give you some more information about Linux : in this case, it is an alternative operating system to Windows and macOS, completely open source and whose code can be freely viewed, modified and distributed. There are several versions, called “distro” or “distributions”, each with its own characteristics and suitable for a different scenario of use. Most of the Linux distros are free, however there are some developed for commercial purposes that require use after purchasing a license (or entire maintenance and complete management packages). The best known Linux distributions dedicated to newbies are  Ubuntu  and  Linux Mint, extremely simple to use and with the most useful drivers and software on board (LibreOffice and Mozilla Firefox, just to give you a couple of examples) to be used immediately. If you wish, you can also install Linux alongside Windows, without going to modify the files and the operating system already present on your computer.

How do you say? I turned on your curiosity even more and now you can’t wait to understand  how to install Linux from USB ? Then do not waste any more time and proceed with reading my tutorial: as you go ahead, you will acquire all the skills necessary to create a USB stick containing Linux and prepare the computer for an installation that can be done in complete safety. Happy reading and enjoy!

Preliminary information

Before going into the concrete and understanding  how to install Linux from USB , it is good that you have some details about this step: in addition to downloading the necessary material, you must take care to check the minimum requirements required by the operating system you have chosen, as well as how to install it. Don’t worry, I have every intention of clarifying these points in the lines to come.

Check minimum requirements

After choosing the distribution you intend to use (if you don’t know which one to rely on, I recommend a careful reading of my analysis on the best Linux distros ), first of all you must check that this can be correctly performed on the computer in your possession.

Typically, you can do this by looking at the web page that illustrates the  minimum requirements of the distro you have chosen: most distributions, at the time of writing this guide, require at least  2 GB of RAM , a dual processor -core  and about  20 GB of disk space , however I advise you to carry out a preventive check to be sure that everything goes the right way.

Below, I list the reference pages of the most well-known distributions: if you do not find what you are looking for, I recommend you search on Google by typing  [distro of your choice] minimum or  minimum requirements , if you have opted for an operating system in English only.

Type of execution from USB

Numerous distributions, especially those designed for novice users (eg Ubuntu , Linux Mint , Fedora or Elementary OS , just to name a few), provide for the possibility of being performed directly from a USB stick, thus giving the user the possibility to test its functionality and compatibility with the computer, without however altering the files on the disk: this operating system execution mode is defined live  and does not require any type of prior installation.

A live distribution is fully functional in most cases, however files created within the operating system and all personal settings are  lost as soon as you restart or shut down the system .

In this regard, some software allow you to create USB sticks that can be started in live mode  with persistence : even in this case, the files residing on the hard disk are not touched and there is no need to install the operating system to use it, however a certain amount can be reserved of space on the USB stick to hold the  files and settings created during the usage session. These files and settings remain available to the user even in subsequent restarts.

Finally, you can start the setup of any Linux distribution directly from the USB drive: simply select the correct option at boot time. In this guide, I will specifically explain how to use a USB stick to install Linux on your computer’s hard drive, leaving out the live execution and persistence options.

Required material

As you will soon discover, installing Linux from USB is not difficult at all; to speed up the process, however, it is good that you have everything you need to prepare you for this step.

  • USB stick that can contain the entire operating system (from a minimum of 1 GB to a maximum of 8 GB, depending on the distribution you are about to install). Remember that, when creating the key, the files already present on it will be destroyed .
  • The ISO image of the distribution of your interest, which you can comfortably retrieve from the main Internet page of the distro or by typing the words  [distribution name] download  on Google.
  • program that allows you to create the USB stick from which to proceed with the installation of Linux. In this regard, I would like to report Unetbootin (for Windows , Linux and macOS ) and Rufus (for Windows ). You can download Unetbootin by  going to its website and clicking on the icon for your operating system, while you can get Rufus by accessing its main page and pressing the Rufus xx  link  (eg  Rufus 3.3 ).
  • An  external hard disk large enough to hold the backup of your personal data (optional).

In this guide, I will refer to the USB installation of the Ubuntu distribution  : keep in mind that the procedure for creating the USB stick is identical (except for the ISO image to be used) for all other distributions; the actual installation steps are also easily adaptable to other scenarios.

How to create a USB stick with Linux

Now that you have all the necessary material available, the time has come to get down to business and create the USB stick from which to install the operating system you have chosen.


If you have decided to use  Unetbootin , start the program (by pressing, if necessary, on the Yes button in the Windows User Account Control window), put a check mark next to the item  Disc image , select the ISO item  from the drop-down menu located in its correspondence and presses the button  […] to choose the ISO of the distribution of your interest that you had previously downloaded.

At this point, make sure that the Type pull-down menu   is set to  USB Drive  and that the USB stick you intend to use to install Linux is selected in the Drive drop-down menu   : after checking the settings again, and keeping in mind that the operation  will delete all the data on the stick , presses the OK button  to start the “copy” of Linux on it. This could take a few minutes.

Note : to create a persistent Ubuntu stick  , indicate the space (in MB ) you want to reserve for files that should not be deleted in the  Space reserved for user files box that will be protected from various reboots (Ubuntu only) .


If you have chosen instead to turn to Rufus , launch the previously downloaded program, press the Yes button  and set it following the instructions provided below.

  • Select the  USB stick to dedicate to Linux in the Device / Drive drop-down menu  .
  • Choose the  Disc Image or ISO  item in the Boot Selection drop-down menu  .
  • Indicates the ISO image of the Linux distribution that you previously downloaded by clicking on the Select button  and helping you with the File Explorer panel  that is shown on the screen.
  • Set the  partition scheme  in  MBR , if the computer has an old BIOS or is a UEFI system set in Legacy BIOS mode, or in  GPT  if, on the other hand, the computer is UEFI-based.
  • Leave the rest of the program sections unchanged.

Once Rufus is properly configured, you can start the process of creating the USB stick (remembering that all the pre-existing files on it  will be deleted ) by pressing the Start button  located at the bottom. Creating the stick may take a few minutes.

If you need a hand to create a bootable USB stick, I suggest you refer to my specific tutorial on this , in which I had the opportunity to expose the topic in even more detail.

How to install Linux from USB on the computer

Now that you have created the USB stick to use to install Linux, the time has come to get down to business and achieve the goal you have set yourself. Follow carefully the instructions I am about to provide you and, I guarantee you, everything will go smoothly like oil!

Back up your data

As I already mentioned in the introductory lines of this tutorial, almost all distributions can live together with Windows, therefore there is no data loss in this sense.

However, you should know that, in cases like this, it is always a good idea to make a backup of your personal files, copying them to an external medium large enough to contain them. Don’t you have a clue how to do this? Then I suggest you take a look at my in-depth analysis on the subject , which I have written especially for you.

Partition the disk

If you have opted for a dual boot solution , which allows you to use Linux alongside Windows, you need to reserve some space (at least  20 GB ) for the distribution you are about to install.

Although some of them (eg Ubuntu) provide a simple disk resizing procedure during installation, I still recommend that you manually create a partition to avoid errors of any kind (for example, the involuntary formatting of the entire hard disk) : I explained to you by thread and by sign how to proceed in my tutorial on how to partition hard drives .

Disable Quick Start (Windows 8.1 / 10)

If you intend to install Linux alongside  Windows 10 or  Windows 8.x  and plan to access the system disk from your distribution, I recommend disabling the  quick start (or  fastboot ) feature associated with both operating systems. This is because, if you don’t, the Windows partition (or any other partition formatted in NTFS) would remain in a “locked” state and would be inaccessible by any other operating system.

Disable fastboot is very simple: first, click on the  Start of  Windows (the one with the icon flag placed in the lower left of the screen), type the voice  control panel and click on the first result received.

At this point, go to the  Hardware and Sound> Power Options> Change behavior of the power buttons , then click on the item  Change the options currently not available , remove the check mark from the Enable quick start  box  and save everything by pressing Save changes button  .

Disable Secure Boot

All recent computers have a new generation BIOS, such as  UEFI , which has some security measures in place to defend the integrity of the computer. These measures include  Secure Boot , a feature that prevents unsigned operating systems from starting.

Numerous versions of Linux (including Ubuntu and Linux Mint) have this signature, therefore there should be no problems for installation on recent PCs; however, there are cases in which it is not possible to proceed in any way with the installation of Linux on systems where Secure Boot is active. Here are the most common cases.

  • The computer was marketed  before the distribution of your interest was digitally signed. In this case, the new operating system will be known as “untrusted”.
  • The distribution of your choice is not digitally signed at all.
  • You need to perform full system disk encryption.

If you fall into one of these cases or are unsure what to do, it is very likely that you will need to disable Secure Boot before proceeding. Below I show you the steps necessary to proceed.

  • Windows 10  – click the Start button  , then the button   and then in the Update and security section  . From there, went to the Recovery tab  , presses the Restart button  now corresponding to the Advanced startup section   and went to Troubleshooting> Advanced options> UEFI firmware settings . To conclude, presses the Restart button  .
  • Windows 8.1 – presses the combination of Win + I keys  , click on the PC Settings button  , then go to the Update and restore section  , presses the Restart now button   in the Advanced startup  box and follow the instructions provided in the previous point to access the UEFI firmware .

Once in the UEFI configuration panel, go to the Security  section  and, using the keyboard or mouse, set the Secure Boot option  to  Disabled , or remove the check mark from the corresponding item, if you have UEFI with support for graphics mode. Once this operation is completed, all you have to do is select the  Save and exit  (or  Save and exit ) item to save the settings you have just changed and exit UEFI.

For clarity, you must know that the UEFI management panel is not the same on all computers, therefore the menus and options available to you may differ slightly from what I have indicated. If you need further help, you can refer to my guide on how to enter the BIOS , or search for an appropriate tutorial on Google, specific to your computer model.

Install Linux

The time has finally come to install Linux on your computer! As I already mentioned at the beginning of this guide, I will refer specifically to the Ubuntu distribution , however the steps are simply replicable on the vast majority of the distro in circulation.

First, therefore, insert the USB stick containing Ubuntu in the computer and restart it: if everything went in the right direction, the PC should load the operating system contained in the stick and, after a few minutes, you should see the welcome screen of the system operating.

If instead Windows started normally, you have to enter the computer’s BIOS / UEFI and set your USB drive as the first boot device: if you don’t know how to do it, you can follow the instructions I provided in my guide on how to set the BIOS .

In any case, when you reach the Ubuntu installation screen, select Italian from the left sidebar dedicated to the available languages ​​and press the Install Ubuntu button  shown on the screen. Then, indicate the  layout of the keyboard using the appropriate selection boxes shown on the screen, press the Next button  , specify whether to proceed with the normal installation or the minimum installation  (with limited software fleet), define the options for installing the software and proprietary drivers and updates and go to the next step by pressing the Next button again  .

At this point, you have to choose whether to  erase the entire disk and install Ubuntu or  install Ubuntu next to Windows by creating a partition dedicated to the operating system: personally, I advise you to proceed with this last option, but the final decision is still up to you. Once you have made your choice, click on the Next button  and, if you have opted to install Ubuntu without deleting Windows, adjust the space to be dedicated to the two operating systems by intervening on the cursor shown on the screen.

After completing this operation, click on  Install to start the actual installation process and, if necessary, click on  Next again to confirm your intention to write the changes to the disk partitions. In the following phases, you must set the details of the operating system (which in the meantime will have started to install): choose the time zone it belongs to, indicate in the following form your  full name , the  name of the computer , a  username and an  administrative password and specifies whether to access after entering a personal password or to log in to the system automatically.

The bulk is practically done! At this stage, you just have to wait for the progress of the operating system installation process, which you will have to conclude by restarting the computer, when prompted.

If everything went as planned, at the next reboot, you should have the possibility to choose whether to start Windows or Ubuntu, if you have chosen to support the two operating systems. If not, Linux startup should be completely automatic.