How to install Ubuntu from USB

If you are ready to install Ubuntu Linux on your computer, the usual way is by putting the Ubuntu files on a USB flash drive and then installing the operating system via USB.

Whether you are an experienced Linux user, or brand new and looking to get started with Ubuntu, it only takes a few simple steps to get Ubuntu onto your USB drive and then start installing it to your computer.

In this tutorial, we will take you through the step by step instructions to download Ubuntu, put it on a flash drive, and boot to the media on your computer in order to install Ubuntu.

In this tutorial you will learn:

  • How to download Ubuntu
  • How to create Bootable Ubuntu USB
  • How to access Boot Menu and BIOS/UEFI
  • How to boot Ubuntu from USB
  • How to try Ubuntu before installing
  • How to install Ubuntu from USB
How to install Ubuntu from USB
How to install Ubuntu from USB
Software Requirements and Linux Command Line Conventions
Category Requirements, Conventions or Software Version Used
System Ubuntu Linux
Software N/A
Other Privileged access to your Linux system as root or via the sudo command.
Conventions # – requires given linux commands to be executed with root privileges either directly as a root user or by use of sudo command
$ – requires given linux commands to be executed as a regular non-privileged user

How to install Ubuntu from USB step by step instructions



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  1. The first step is to download the Ubuntu ISO image. You can find more information about downloading Ubuntu, as well as the official download links, on our dedicated Ubuntu Linux download page.
  2. Once your ISO download is completed, there are numerous GUI programs available that can put the contents of the ISO file onto your USB drive and make it bootable. If you already know of a good program that can do the job, feel free to use it. If not, you can follow along with us as we go through the process of using the ddrescue Linux command line utility to create a bootable USB drive. First, we will install the program on our system:
    Debian and Ubuntu based distros:
    $ sudo apt install gddrescue 
    
    Red Hat and Fedora based distros:
    $ sudo dnf install ddrescue
    
  3. Locate your USB stick block device name:
    $ sudo fdisk -l
    Disk /dev/sdX: 7.22 GiB, 7747397632 bytes, 15131636 sectors
    Disk model: DataTraveler 2.0
    Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
    Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
    I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
    Disklabel type: dos
    Disk identifier: 0x00000000
    
  4. Use ddrescue to create the bootable Ubuntu USB startup disk. For example if your USB block device name is called /dev/sdX and the downloaded Ubuntu ISO image is named ubuntu-desktop-amd64.iso then the command to create a bootable Ubuntu USB startup disk will be:
    $ sudo ddrescue ubuntu-desktop-amd64.iso /dev/sdX --force -D
    
  5. You can eject your flash drive and put it into the computer you plan on installing Ubuntu on to. Or, simply leave the flash drive in the USB slot if you are planning to install Ubuntu on your current system. Either way, it is time to turn the system off and boot into the USB drive.

    Make sure that the USB (may be called: Removable Devices, USB-HDD) selection is at the top of the list in the Boot Menu. This will always make your PC to boot from a USB flash drive first. If USB is not present, the computer will boot from the hard drive. We outlined below how to access Boot Menu on various computers.

    If the Boot Menu is not available you will have to access BIOS/UEFI. This will allow you to boot from removable media. Select the USB flash drive in BIOS/UEFI in the Boot Devices Menu. We outlined below how to access BIOS/UEFI on various computers.

    Access Boot Menu

    To access Boot Menu on your computer you will need to hit different keys (or combination of keys) depending on your computer type. Here is the list of possible keys you may have to press depending on your PC:

    Key combinations for accessing Boot Menu
    Device Key Combination Comment
    Acer Esc, F12 or F9 F12 key most likely
    Asus F8 or Esc
    Compaq Esc or F9
    Dell F12
    eMachines F12
    Fujitsu F12
    HP Esc or F9
    Lenovo F8, F10 or F12 Other possibilities: Novo button or Fn + F11
    Samsung Esc or F2 or F12 For ultrabooks from Samsung disable the fast boot option in BIOS/UEFI. See next section.
    VAIO Esc, F10 or F11 Other possibilities: Assist button
    Toshiba F12




    Access BIOS/UEFI

    To access BIOS/UEFI on your computer you will also need to hit different keys (or combination of keys) depending on your computer type. Here is the list of possible keys you may have to press depending on your PC:

    Key combinations for accessing BIOS/UEFI
    Device Key Combination Comment
    Acer Del or F2 F2 key most likely
    Asus Delete or Del
    Compaq F10
    Dell F2
    eMachines Tab or Del
    Fujitsu F2
    HP Esc, F10, F11 Other possibilities: on Pavilion – F1
    Lenovo F1 or F2 Other possibilities: small button next to the Power button (if laptop)
    Samsung F2 For ultrabooks from Samsung it might be F10
    VAIO F1, F2, F3 Other possibilities: Assist button
    Toshiba F1, F2, F12 or Esc
  6. The process of booting Ubuntu from USB includes four simple steps: First, switch OFF your PC. Second, insert the USB bootable flash drive into your computer in order to start the USB boot. Then, make sure that all other USB devices are removed (e.g. memory cards, printers) as an extra precaution. Finally, switch ON your computer. Your PC will now start the booting sequence from the USB external media.
    NOTE
    Some computers (e.g. ultrabooks) have a fast boot option. It is important to disable this option before the Ubuntu USB boot is initiated. Go to BIOS/UEFI settings and look for Boot Device Select Menu. Furthermore, on some of the computers with UEFI/EFI you will have to disable secure boot (or enable legacy mode).
  7. Given that you did successfully boot from your previously created Ubuntu bootable USB you will be briefly shown a black screen. If you act quickly enough, hitting the TAB key you will bring up the Boot Menu where you can choose to simply just try Ubuntu without installation. Alternatively, you can simply wait and make the same selection once Ubuntu boots into the installation wizard.

    Ubuntu prompt to either try or install Ubuntu
    Ubuntu prompt to either try or install Ubuntu



  8. From here, all you need to do is follow the installation prompts. Ubuntu brands itself as a user friendly operating system, therefore the installation process is quite self explanatory.

Closing Thoughts

In this tutorial, we saw how to install Ubuntu Linux from a USB drive. Installing from a USB drive is very convenient, but the setup process is confusing for some users, as there are many different ways to create a bootable USB disk, and many different computers that have various methods of booting into the USB drive. We have done our best to cover all possible scenarios in this tutorial to make it as universal as possible. Enjoy your new Ubuntu installation!