How to Create a Bootable Ubuntu USB stick on Linux

You might want to create a bootable USB stick from Ubuntu itself for various reasons. Some of these include:

  • Installing/upgrading Ubuntu
  • Having the experience of the Ubuntu desktop without involving your system configurations
  • Using the USB stick to fix a configuration issue through the default tools that come with the Ubuntu ISO package

There are many ways to create a bootable USB in Ubuntu. Some involve using the system tools, while others depend on the installation of external packages. In this article, we will be seeking the help of the Etcher utility to burn a USB stick with an ISO image of the Ubuntu package.

Etcher now named balenaEtcheris a free and open-source application used for burning ISO and IMG files, and also zipped folders to USB drives and SD cards. This tool is available for Linux, Windows and MacOS and that too with the same UI so that you get the same user experience everywhere. So, whenever you want to burn a flash drive or even a microSD card, you can rely on Etcher as your go-to tool. We have tried to explain a step-by-step process for installing and using Etcher so that the USB burning/flashing process becomes even simpler for you. We are taking the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS Desktop ISO file, downloaded from the Internet, to describe the entire process for you.

We have run the commands and procedures mentioned in this article on a Ubuntu 18.04 LTS


Download the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS ISO file

Open the Official Ubuntu website through any installed web browser and download the Ubuntu ISO through the following download link:

Click on any Ubuntu package you want to install. I will click on the 18.04 LTS link under Ubuntu Desktop. This will open the following dialog:

Download Ubuntu ISO File

Select the Save File option and then click OK. The .iso package will be saved to your Downloads folder.

Install Etcher

Please follow these steps to install the Etcher on your system:

Step 1: Download the Etcher .zip file

The Etcher download package is available on the official Balena website at this link:

Install Etcher

The website provides Appimages for both 64-bit and 32-bit flavors of Ubuntu.

You can use the lscpu command in order to check your flavor of Linux. It fetches details from the files sysfs and /proc/cpuinfo:

$ lscpu

This command will display the following output:

Check CPU Type

The CPU op-mode(s) entry tells you about the flavor of Ubuntu you are running on your system; 32-bit means you are running a 32-bit Linux OS, 32-bit, 64-bit signifies that you are running a 64-bit OS.

Since mine is a 64-bit system, I will click on the ‘Download for Linux x64’ link. The following dialog will display:

Download x86_64 version

Select the Save File option and then click OK. The .zip package will be saved to your Downloads folder.

Step 2: Extract AppImage from the downloaded .zip file

The Etcher package that we just downloaded is in .zip format. We now need to extract the AppImage file so that we can install and use the software.

Open your Ubuntu command line, the Terminal, either through the Ubuntu Application Launcher search or by using the Ctrl+Alt+t shortcut.

Then, use the following unzip command to extract the AppImage file to your current(home) folder from the Downloads folder:

$ unzip ~/Downloads/

Extract Etcher Archive

Use the ls command to verify that the AppImage file is now located in your current directory.

Create a bootable Ubuntu USB

Step 1: Run the Etcher AppImage

You can now easily run Etcher by executing its AppImage. You can do so through the following command:


This will open the Etcher application in the following view:

Start Etcher Application

Note: Whenever you want to uninstall Etcher from your system, simply delete this AppImage. You do not need to run any other download procedures with AppImages.

Step 2: Write Ubuntu ISO file to USB drive

Click on the Select image button; this lets you browse to the ISO image you want to select for writing. I have selected Ubuntu 18.04 ISO image downloaded from the official Ubuntu website.

Write Ubuntu ISO to USB stick

Now you will see the Select target button highlighted. Insert a USB drive; if a single device is connected to your system, you will see it selected as follows:

Start flash process

Otherwise, you will be given an option to select from the available devices. You will then see the Flash button highlighted. Click on it so that Etcher starts to write the ISO file on the USB. You will also be presented with an Authentication dialog as only an authorized user can Flash a USB.

The writing process will start and you will be able to see a progress bar as follows:

Writing ISO File

On successful completion of image writing, you will be able to see the following view:

Process completed

Close the window and your process is complete!

This is how you can make use of this efficient flashing tool to create a bootable USB. The process is pretty much the same when writing images on an SD card.