Ubuntu via USB

This small tutorial concerns how to go about installing a fully fledged Ubuntu Feisty system on a computer without access to a cdrom drive. Here's what you need:

  • A USB stick of at least 10 MB
  • A working linux desktop to construct the stick at
  • Some patience and software
    • syslinux
    • mtools
  • Ubuntu Feisty mini.iso image


During this small tutorial I will assume that you have the syslinux and mtools packages installed. Further I will assume that the usb stick will be /dev/sdb since many SATA drives today use /dev/sda.

Preparing the stick

First of all make sure that the stick is not mounted. Done? Good, let's move on shall we? We need a file system on the stick and unfortunately we have to stick with FAT16 or FAT32 in order to keep things simple.

mkdosfs /dev/sdb1

Now give your newly created usb stick a name using the command below.

mlabel -i /dev/sdb1 ::

So far we have a stick of at least 10 MB of FAT space with a cute name. Now we need to make it bootable. The easiest solution to this problem is using syslinux.

syslinux /dev/sdb1

Your USB stick should mount automatically now. If not mount it manually using

mkdir /tmp/usbstick
mount -t vfat /dev/sdb1 /tmp/usbstick

Telling the stick what to boot

Download the Ubuntu Feisty mini.iso file, mount it

mkdir /tmp/iso
mount -o loop /somepath/mini.iso /tmp/iso

and copy the contents to the USB stick

cp /tmp/iso/* /tmp/usbstick

Now we're not quite finished yet. You need to rename isolinux.cfg to syslinux.cfg on the stick so that syslinux will know what to do when booting.

mv /tmp/usbstick/isolinux.cfg /tmp/usbstick/syslinux.cfg

Now unmount the stick and issue another sync.

umount /tmp/usbstick

There! We're done. Now plug the stick into the computer you wish to install and fire it up. You may have to mess around with the BIOS settings so that the computer chooses to boot from USB before other disks. Good luck!

Last modified 14 years ago Last modified on Jun 12, 2007, 5:30:14 PM