Quick Guide: Installing Ubuntu from a USB memory stick

This guide will help you install Ubuntu on your computer by using a USB memory stick. USB memory sticks are sometimes known as flash drives, memory pens or USB Mass Storage devices.

Installing from a memory stick is useful if you have a computer without a CD drive (such as a netbook), or prefer the convenience of a memory stick. Alternative methods are available, like installing Ubuntu from inside Windows.

It should take around 30 minutes to complete this process, plus the time it takes to download the 700MB installer file. Downloading from a torrent is by far the fastest way of getting it.

This guide will assume that you are running Windows. More comprehensive documentation which covers other operating systems is available at Installation/FromUSBStick.

What do I need to get started?

To install Ubuntu from a USB memory stick you need:

  • A memory stick with a capacity of at least 2GB. It will be formatted (erased) during this process, so copy any files that you want to keep to another location. They will all be permanently deleted from the memory stick.
  • A computer that can boot (start-up) from a USB memory stick. Many older computers can't boot from USB – check the boot options in your BIOS (see Start the Ubuntu installer) to see if yours can.
  • A computer with at least 384MB of system memory (RAM), 6GB of available hard disk space and a 700MHz or faster x86 processor. Most Intel and AMD processors are x86 processors. 32-bit and 64-bit processors are supported.
  • A working Internet connection.

Get a copy of the Ubuntu installer

You need a copy of the Ubuntu installer CD image (.iso) so that you can put it on a memory stick.

  1. Go to www.ubuntu.com/getubuntu/download.

  2. Choose your country (or one nearby) from the Download location drop-down list.

  3. Click Begin download to download the .iso image file needed to install Ubuntu. This will be about 700MB in size.

You can choose other options, like a 64-bit CD image or a BitTorrent download, by clicking Alternative download options.

Put the installer on a memory stick

You need to download a program that can properly put the installer onto a memory stick. You can't just copy the .iso file onto the memory stick.

Figure 1 - The Setup Your Selections screen
Figure 1 - The Setup Your Selections screen

  1. Plug-in your USB memory stick.
  2. Go to www.pendrivelinux.com/downloads/Universal-USB-Installer and download the Universal-USB-Installer.exe file. Put it on your Desktop or somewhere convenient.

  3. Double-click the file to run it.
  4. Click I agree and you will be taken to the Setup Your Selections screen (Figure 1).

  5. Under Step 1, choose the version of Ubuntu you have downloaded, and uncheck Download the ISO.
  6. Under Step 2, click Browse and select and open the .iso file you downloaded earlier.

  7. Under Step 3, select your memory stick from the list (make sure you choose the right one). Check the box next to the list to say that you want to format the drive.
  8. Click Create to put the installer onto your memory stick. The whole process should only take a few minutes. All of the files on the memory stick will be erased.

  9. When it has finished, close the Universal USB Installer window and safely remove/eject and unplug your memory stick. This is necessary to make sure all of the files were put on the memory stick properly.

Start the Ubuntu installer

To start your computer from a memory stick, you might need to change the order of boot devices:

Figure 2 - The Ubuntu boot screen
Figure 2 - The Ubuntu boot screen

  1. Plug-in the memory stick and restart your computer.
    • If you see a purple Ubuntu boot screen with white icons at the bottom (Figure 2), your computer has successfully booted from the memory stick. Skip to the Install Ubuntu section.

    • If your computer boots back into Windows, it is not yet set-up to boot from USB, so continue following these steps.
  2. Restart the computer again. As soon as the first text appears on the screen, press the button to enter your BIOS/system setup. There should be a message telling you how to do this. You normally need to press one of the following keys: F1, F2, Del, Esc, F10, F11, or F12.

  3. A BIOS screen should appear. Find the option to change the Boot Order and change the first item in the boot order list to be USB Disk, or similar.
  4. After you have changed the boot order, save your changes and restart the computer. It should now start from the memory stick.

Install Ubuntu

If you have successfully booted from your memory stick, you should now be looking at the purple Ubuntu boot menu. To start the Ubuntu installer:

Figure 3 - The partitioning screen
Figure 3 - The partitioning screen

  1. Wait a few seconds and Ubuntu will start loading. Otherwise, you can press a key and a boot menu with more options will appear.
    • Press the F5 key to access universal access options like the screen reader and magnifier.

  2. After a minute or two, an Install window will appear. Select your language from the list to the left of the screen and click Install Ubuntu 10.04.

  3. Follow the instructions on the screen to select your country, timezone and keyboard layout.
  4. When you get to the Prepare disk space screen (Figure 3), choose one of the following options to determine how to put Ubuntu on your hard disk:

    • If you want to keep Windows installed and choose whether to start Windows or Ubuntu each time you start the computer, choose Install them side by side. This is called a dual-boot setup. Use the slider on the colored bar at the bottom of the screen to choose how to share disk space between Windows and Ubuntu (Ubuntu should have at least 4 GB of space).

    • If you want to remove Windows and replace it with Ubuntu, choose Erase and use the entire disk. All of the files on the disk will be deleted before Ubuntu is put on it, so make sure you have backup copies of anything you wanted to keep.

    • For more complicated disk layouts, choose Specify partitions manually. You can manually add, modify and delete disk partitions using this option.

      Figure 4 - Partitioning warning message
      Figure 4 - Partitioning warning message

  5. When you click Forward, you may receive a message saying that the changes will be applied (Figure 4). This normally happens if you resized a partition. If you click Continue, your hard disk will be changed permanently and you won't be able to go back. Make sure you're happy with any changes that you made.

  6. Follow the rest of the instructions to choose a username and password and migrate files and settings from Windows.
  7. Click Install. The installation will begin, and should take 10-20 minutes to complete. When it is finished, choose to restart the computer and then remove your memory stick. Ubuntu should start to load.

What next?

You should now be able to log in to Ubuntu and start using it. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Click the Applications menu at the top of the screen to start a program.

  • Click the Network Manager icon (near to the speaker icon) at the top right of the screen to connect to the Internet.
  • Use the System menu to change settings.

  • You can find help by clicking System -> Help and Support.

What if things go wrong?

I can't boot from USB even though I have USB Disk (or similar) as the first option in my boot list

Sometimes the memory stick will not be recognized when you boot. Leave it plugged in for 30 seconds or so, then restart with it left plugged-in. Or, unplug the memory stick, restart the computer and then plug it in as soon as anything appears on the screen (i.e. as early in the boot process as possible).

Also, some BIOS options could interfere with USB booting. Go into the BIOS and try enabling or disabling options like Fast Boot, USB keyboard support and USB 2.0 support. Finally, make sure you haven't selected a USB-FDD or USB-ZIP boot option. These will not work.

Is it safer to resize my partition in Windows?

Some people experience problems when booting into Windows, after they have resized the Windows partition using the Ubuntu installer. See HowtoResizeWindowsPartitions for a guide on an alternative method of resizing a Windows partition which is less likely to cause problems.

References and further help

For further help, see http://www.ubuntu.com/support.

Installation/FromUSBStickQuick (last edited 2014-03-16 21:33:36 by yousef-el-sayed)