Create a bootable USB stick on Windows

Overview

Duration: 1:00

With a bootable Ubuntu USB stick, you can:

  • Install or upgrade Ubuntu
  • Test out the Ubuntu desktop experience without touching your PC configuration
  • Boot into Ubuntu on a borrowed machine or from an internet cafe
  • Use tools installed by default on the USB stick to repair or fix a broken configuration

Creating a bootable Ubuntu USB stick from Microsoft Windows is very simple and we’re going to cover the process in the next few steps.

Alternatively, we also have tutorials to help you create a bootable USB stick from both Ubuntu and Apple macOS.

Requirements

Duration: 1:00

You will need:

  • A 4GB or larger USB stick/flash drive
  • Microsoft Windows XP or later
  • Rufus, a free and open source USB stick writing tool
  • An Ubuntu ISO file. See Get Ubuntu for download links

ⓘ Take note of where your browser saves downloads: this is normally a directory called ‘Downloads’ on your Windows PC. Don’t download the ISO image directly to the USB stick! If using Windows XP or Vista, download version 2.18 of Rufus.

USB selection

Duration: 0:30

Perform the following to configure your USB device in Rufus:

  1. Launch Rufus
  2. Insert your USB stick
  3. Rufus will update to set the device within the Device field
  4. If the Device selected is incorrect (perhaps you have multiple USB storage devices), select the correct one from the device field’s drop-down menu

windows-rufus3-usb

ⓘ You can avoid the hassle of selecting from a list of USB devices by ensuring no other devices are connected.

Boot selection and Partition scheme

Duration: 0:30

Now choose the Boot selection. Choices will be Non bootable and FreeDOS. Since you are creating a bootable Ubuntu device select FreeDOS.

The default selections for Partition scheme (MBR) and Target system (BIOS (or UEFI-CSM)) are appropriate (and are the only options available).

windows-rufus3-select-usb

Select the Ubuntu ISO file

Duration: 0:30

To select the Ubuntu ISO file you downloaded previously, click the SELECT to the right of “Boot selection”. If this is the only ISO file present in the Downloads folder you will only see one file listed.

Select the appropriate ISO file and click on Open.

Write the ISO

Duration: 0:30

The Volume label will be updated to reflect the ISO selected.

Leave all other parameters with their default values and click START to initiate the write process.

windows-rufus3-write-iso

Additional downloads

Duration: 1:00

You may be alerted that Rufus requires additional files to complete writing the ISO. If this dialog box appears, select Yes to continue.

windows-rufus3-additional-downloads

Write warnings

Duration: 0:30

You will then be alerted that Rufus has detected that the Ubuntu ISO is an ISOHybrid image. This means the same image file can be used as the source for both a DVD and a USB stick without requiring conversion.

Keep Write in ISO Image mode selected and click on OK to continue.

windows-rufus3-isohybrid-warning

Rufus will also warn you that all data on your selected USB device is about to be destroyed. This is a good moment to double check you’ve selected the correct device before clicking OK when you’re confident you have.

windows-rufus3-write-warning

ⓘ If your USB stick contains multiple partitions Rufus will warn you in a separate pane that these will also be destroyed.

Writing the ISO

Duration: 10:00

The ISO will now be written to your USB stick, and the progress bar in Rufus will give you some indication of where you are in the process. With a reasonably modern machine, this should take around 10 minutes. Total elapsed time is shown in the lower right corner of the Rufus window.

windows-rufus3-write-progress

Installation complete

Duration: 0:30

When Rufus has finished writing the USB device, the Status bar will be green filled and the word READY will appear in the center. Select CLOSE to complete the write process.

windows-rufus3-write-complete

Congratulations! You now have Ubuntu on a USB stick, bootable and ready to go.

If you want to install Ubuntu, take a look at our install Ubuntu desktop tutorial.

Finding help

If you get stuck, help is always at hand:

The screenshots are failing to load. Would be nice to have them fixed so that this process becomes easier to follow for newbies

@samuelokoroafor thanks for pointing this out, they must have been lost in the conversion from the old site. I have added the images back.

The new version of Rufus has an added option for persistent partitions, would be nice for additional info on this when working through the tutorial given at how useful it is and it’s compatibility with Ubuntu.

3 Likes

Suggested update to the Rufus Device selection section. When I attempted to do the same the dropdown for Device showed no options. I later discovered that if you click on “Show advanced drive properties” that you can enable a tick box to show USB devices. Might be worth adding that detail. Thanks for the great tutorial!

What is the purpose of selecting FreeDOS if you are going to select a Ubuntu ISO file the next thing you do anyway, since doing so will effectively deselect FreeDOS again?

3 Likes

Thanks for this, am going to try from memory stick to see what it’s like. Could you clarify please, on the download page there are green buttons underneath the downloads as well as b/w buttons. What’s the difference?

Rufus developer here. @kirkru is 100% right, there is absolutely no point in selecting FreeDOS or changing the Partition scheme or Target system options because these will be reset as soon as you select the Ubuntu ISO.

Also it may be worth mentioning that Rufus can compute the MD5/SHA1/SHA256 of the ISO if you click the blue (✓) button after selecting the image.

Finally recent versions of Rufus have added persistence support, so you will see an extra set of fields allowing you to set the size of the persistent partition (with a default of 0 meaning no persistence).

2 Likes

Great tutorial. Everything worked perfectly overall. Improve it by adding a ‘read all steps’ text at the beginning of the tutorial. Add a Step 11 page showing how to run the Ubuntu USB. Took me a while to figure it out.

In section 4 you write “The default selections for Partition scheme ( MBR ) and Target system ( BIOS (or UEFI-CSM) ) are appropriate (and are the only options available).”

I don’t agree. For people who don’t have CSM activated but only use native UEFI boot, which is true for many modern machines, the boot will fail and people will start telling them to activate CSM instead of flashing the stick properly (I just witnessed this ;)). For those people, the “appropriate” thing to do would be to select the GPT partitioning scheme (which, funnily enough, is the other option available :)), which will then select “UEFI (non CSM)” as the “only option” for the target system.

I know, it’s not as straight forward and people might not know what is set for their boot environment but the way it’s now, also isn’t ideal :confused: Maybe you could say something like “if you have a modern windows pc of the last 2 years or so, chose GPT”… or say to try GPT if MBR didn’t detect on boot or something like that.

Great tutorial. Everything worked perfectly overall.
In this video I have Just explained, how to make one usb drive bootable for all windows like 7, 8, 8.1 and windows 10.and symantec Ghost.
After view this video you can make single usb drive bootable for all windows.

Despite the elaborate tutorial and great application interface, Rufus doesn’t work for me on Windows 10. My “Downloads” folder contains ISO files of several Ubuntu versions, but the download button only suggests the download of either Windows 10 or 8.1 (dropdown list) and no option to select something else. So, on my computer (regular PC) it doesn’t look in my Downloads folder at all. I tried copying an Ubuntu ISO to my “Documents” folder, but it doesn’t find that file also.

download-btn

Tip: Win32DiskImager:

  • automatic USB selection
  • choose image
  • Write
    DONE

Click the little down arrow beside DOWNLOAD and choose SELECT, then it will let you pick the Ubuntu ISO you’ve already downloaded.

-Jamie M.

I first tried using vers. 2.9 of Rufus and when I got the additional downloads window, one of the downloads failed.

I then downloaded Rufus 3.11 and everything worked fine. Perhaps a suggestion to use the latest version of Rufus would be helpful.

I couldn’t seem to get this working with Rufus 3.11. However, using BalenaEtcher worked just fine.

“Now choose boot option. Choices will be Non bootable and FreeDOS…”
No, there is a third, ISO image …