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Howto: Create a bootable Linux USB flash drive (USB-stick) in Mac OSX

with 7 comments

For Windows and Linux there’s UNetbootin, in OSX you have to rely on the terminal to create your USB flash drive.

Step 1: Download the image of the distro you want to use. In my case XUbuntu 10.04.

Step2: If there is data that you still need on your flash drive, save it on your desktop or somewhere else on your harddrive. I created a folder ‘Data’ on my desktop.

Step3: Open a terminal and type in mount . This should give you a list of mounted drives on your Mac, like this:

eubolists-macbook-pro:~ eubolist$ mount
/dev/disk0s2 on / (hfs, local, journaled)
devfs on /dev (devfs, local, nobrowse)
map -hosts on /net (autofs, nosuid, automounted, nobrowse)
map auto_home on /home (autofs, automounted, nobrowse)
/dev/disk0s3 on /Volumes/BOOTCAMP (fusefs, local, synchronous)
/dev/disk1s2 on /Volumes/Time Machine-Backups (hfs, local, nodev, nosuid, journaled)
/dev/disk3 on /Volumes/8GB DRIVE (msdos, local, nodev, nosuid, noowners) <– This is the one we want
Step 4: Unmount the drive: diskutil umountDisk /dev/disk3 Of course you may have to change disk3 to whatever disk your flash drive is.
Step 5: Write the image: dd if=/Users/eubolist/Downloads/xubuntu-10.04-desktop-i386.iso of=/dev/disk3 bs=1m
Again, change the command as needed. The path to your image is in all probability different as well as the path to your flash drive.
Now you should see the light of your flash drive flashing and after a while an output that looks similar like the following:

681+1 records in
681+1 records out
714168320 bytes transferred in 225.925632 secs (3161077 bytes/sec)

If that’s the case, congrats! You should have a bootable flash drive now. If you want to, you can create another partition if you have enough space and put the data saved earlier in Step 2 back on your usb drive now.
NOTE: If you have an older PC it might still not boot from your flash drive, even if you did everything well. Some older BIOSes just don’t support booting from USB flash drives.

Written by eubolist

2010/05/24 at 19:42

7 Responses

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  1. Thank you so much, you are a lifesaver!

    Dana W

    2012/08/22 at 21:47

  2. It’s not working for me. :/
    I restart Mac with Alt pressed. It shows me a HDD with OSX and after few seconds also a Pendrive with Xubuntu (10.04 too) in boot menu, but when I finally can select the Linux and press to boot from it, screen goes black and back up again to boot menu.

    I really want to install the Xubuntu, because 10.5.8 OSX runs pretty slow on this PPC G4 400Mhz Macintosh. :/
    Could be it a malfunction of pendrive? Because I had it formated for Xubuntu for PCs and it didn’t boot whatever I did (couldn’t test on other PCs, because I don’t have more computers than this PC and Mac).


    2012/08/23 at 12:53

    • Make sure your using a PPC compatible distribution. I know Yellowdog and arch both have a PPC variant.


      2012/09/11 at 20:47

  3. Hi;

    What am I doing wrong?
    What I get after the dd command is:

    user$ dd: /dev/disk1s1: Permission denied

    Thanks for this


    2014/01/02 at 08:56

    • OK, added sudo to the command and reached the desired output
      681+1 records in
      681+1 records out
      714168320 bytes transferred in 225.925632 secs (3161077 bytes/sec)

      HOWEVER, the disk won’t mount, and after I plug it in, I am prompted that the disk is not recognizable, and I should initialize, eject, or ignore.
      I could not see it in the finder and drag files into it either.

      Further, when pressing Alt on restart, the thumb drive would not show on the list.

      Any thoughts?


      2014/01/02 at 10:51

  4. I have the exact same issue..won’t mount. did you ever find a solution?

    Cecilia Villatoro

    2015/03/30 at 01:58

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