Installing Ubuntu on USB drive using Windows

UNetbootin (GUI-based, runs from either Windows or Linux)

UNetbootin automates this task by providing a GUI to create a bootable Ubuntu Live USB drive from an ISO file, and can be run from both an installed Windows or Linux system, or from a liveCD.

Preparing the USB drive

TODO This is not updated for Gutsy

Download a copy of the HP format utility for USB drives, this utility makes it as easy to format USB pen drives as it is to format floppies.

Don’t bother wasting your time with this HP utility – it is rather useless. You can format the entire drive as FAT32 using the built in windows format (right click on the drive and select format, make sure to select FAT32 as the FS type). I found no way to partition the drive in windows, not even with PowerQuest‘s Partition Magic (which usually does everything you could want). Either boot off an ubuntu CD/DVD and follow the linux instructions, or if you can’t do that, simply follow these instructions but use the whole flash drive for the live CD, then once you have booted from it, you can repartition and make the ext2 volume from within ubuntu itself. I simply pulled the flash drive out and re-inserted it – this ensures ubuntu is no longer using it. Not sure what the risks are – I didn’t have any troubles, but perhaps you should do this at your own risk (or maybe somebody knows a safer way). If somebody knows a free utility which can partition a flash drive in winxp, please put it here!!! – mrwolf

Plug in your USB pen drive and use the HP format utility to format it with a FAT32 filesystem.

Using a partitioning tool, create two partitions. The first is formatted with a FAT32 filesystem and needs to be 750 MB. The second should occupy the remaining free space and should be formatted with the ext2 filesystem and is given the name “casper-rw”. Note! Most DOS partitioning tools will create the partition name in uppercase (CASPER-RW). Since Linux is case-sensitive you need to do the formatting of the second partition in Linux. The persistent feature will not work if the partition name is in uppercase. See the Wiki for details.

Installing Dapper or Edgy on the USB drive

This is the same as described in the Linux section except for accessing the downloaded image. The way to do this is to mount the iso image file and copy the files that way. You can do this with NERO or Windows VirtualCD. You might want to do it this way if you don’t want to burn a CD.

Making the drive bootable

Go to and download a copy of for Windows. Extract the zip file contents and move the extracted folder to your favorite location on your hard drive.

Open WordPad and edit the file syslinux.cfg as described in the Linux section.

Open a command prompt and change directory to the location of the syslinux folder. For example, if you placed the folder on your desktop then: cd C:\Documents and Settings\(your user name)\Desktop\syslinux-3.11\win32 (by the way you DO know that command prompt has command completion just like in Linux (start entering characters and then press the TAB key to complete the entry)).

Next write the bootsectors to the flash drive by entering the following command:

syslinux -maf X:
  • where X: is replaced by the drive letter of your USB key. Be careful to pick the correct drive letter!
  • This will write the Master Boot Record (MBR), as well as mark the partition active.