Set up Ubuntu on Your Laptop Utilizing a USB Flash Drive

Ubuntu is currently the most popular Linux operating system. It is used by companies around the world and is most people's first Linux experience.

Ubuntu USB installation

Whether you're moving from Windows to Ubuntu, setting up a new computer, or creating a virtual machine, you'll need to install Ubuntu first.

The easiest way to get started is to install Ubuntu from a USB stick. Here is how.

1. Download Ubuntu

Ubuntu Desktop Download Page

Linux is part of the open source community, which means that anyone can help develop the software and contribute to the code. In addition, Linux operating systems such as Ubuntu are available free of charge.

This means that you can get a copy of Ubuntu for free on any PC, laptop or server directly from the Ubuntu website. You have several options, but for home use, you'll want to download Ubuntu Desktop.

Again, there is a choice to be made. There are two editions of Ubuntu Desktop. the latest version and a Long Term Support (LTS) version.

New editions of Ubuntu are released every six months and are supported for nine months. LTS editions of the operating system are released every two years and are supported for five years.

LTS versions are better suited for professional environments or server environments where the risk of changes is higher. For home use, you can stick to the standard version of Ubuntu.

Clicking the edition you selected will download an ISO file that contains the Ubuntu operating system.

Download: Ubuntu (free)

2. Install balenaEtcher

Screenshot of the balenaEtcher download site

There are many programs for Windows 10, macOS, and Ubuntu to create bootable USB drives. Ubuntu even has a built-in option, Startup Disk Creator. However, one of the easiest options is to use cross-platform software like balenaEtcher.

The program is available for MacOS, Windows and Linux, open source and can be downloaded and used free of charge. The macOS edition must be installed. However, Balena offers a portable version for Windows. The Linux program is available as an AppImage, which also does not have to be installed.

Unlike many available third-party options, balenaEtcher is easy to use and has a simple user interface. This is crucial as some programs make it far too easy to accidentally erase your entire hard drive.

Download: balenaEtcher (Free)

balenaEtcher screenshot

After you have installed balenaEtcher, you have to create the installation USB stick. To do this, you'll need a device with at least 4 GB of storage space to install Ubuntu.

Insert the flash drive you have chosen into your computer and open balenaEtcher. The creation process will format your USB drive. So make sure you back up or copy any data on the hard drive before proceeding.

Start balenaEtcher on your computer and a dialog screen with a three-part process will open. The first step is to click choose picture and navigate to where you saved the Ubuntu ISO and select it. The next stage is to Choose a destination. Select the selected USB drive from the drop-down menu.

After you make these two decisions, the third tier becomes available. Choose lightning Follow the instructions on the screen to start the process.

Overall, the process is the same whether you're using a Windows, macOS, or Linux PC. However, if you are creating the installation media on a macOS device, you must first format the USB drive using the Apple Disk Utility.

Before opening Etcher, navigate to Applications > Utilities > Disk utility. Connect your USB drive and select it in Disk Utility. Select in the toolbar Clear.

This opens a dialog in which you have to set the format MS-DOS (FAT) and the scheme too GUID partition mapping. Once selected, click Clear. You can then open Etcher and continue with the installation process described above.

Select a USB device to start your PCPhoto credit: Wikimedia Commons

Once balenaEtcher has finished flashing, it's time to install Ubuntu from your USB drive. To do this, you need to restart your computer on your newly created installation media.

On all platforms, this means that you'll need to use your computer's bootloader or BIOS to prioritize the Ubuntu USB drive during the boot process.

The easiest option for Windows users is to use your computer's BIOS screen to boot from your USB drive. To do this, you need to change the startup sequence on your PC. If Ubuntu is your current operating system, you can use the GRUB Boot Loader to select the USB drive instead.

bootable usb window

The process is slightly different if you are using a macOS device. Restart your Mac with the USB drive inserted to get things going. Hold down the button while turning on the computer Option / alt Key to access Apple's Startup Manager. On this screen, select your Ubuntu USB stick.

Once your computer can boot from the USB drive, you can begin the Ubuntu installation.

5. Follow the Ubuntu setup

Install Ubuntu from USB

After the Ubuntu installer loads, your choice is yours. click on Install Ubuntu starts the installation. However, you can also choose Try Ubuntu to start a live version of the operating system.

That way, you can try out the popular Linux distribution without installing it. However, if you shut down the computer, no data is saved in this mode, so Ubuntu can only be tested before installing it.

Once you have chosen Install UbuntuFollow the installation program instructions on the screen. This will guide you through the type of installation you want (standard or minimal), where to install the operating system, and whether to download updates.

In the further course of the installation you have the choice whether you want to format your hard drive or install Ubuntu together with another operating system. If you choose the latter, you will also need to choose how much space you want to give your new Linux installation and whether you want to create a new partition.

After the files are copied from your USB drive, the installation will walk you through account creation, including naming your PC and setting a password. When the installation is complete, you will be prompted to restart your computer.

From there, start your new Ubuntu installation and enjoy the Linux experience.

Install Linux from a USB stick

In previous years, installing Ubuntu required technical experience and knowledge of the Linux terminal. However, the installation process is now relatively painless, so you can get your Linux computer up and running immediately.

It is not always possible to install software on your computer, especially if you are using proprietary hardware. In that case, you should use one of the best Linux distributions to install on a USB stick.

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About the author

James Frew
(242 articles published)

James is MakeUseOfs Buyer's Guides Editor and a freelance writer who makes technology accessible and safe for everyone. Strong interest in sustainability, travel, music and mental health. BEng in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Surrey. Also to be found at PoTS Jots who write about chronic diseases.

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