How to create and use Live USB

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How to Install Live Image to USB Flash Drive

This article is also a good reference:

System Requirements

  • Host OS: Fedora
  • ISO Image: Fedora-<release>-Live-i686.iso
  • Hardware: USB Flash Drive with 1 GB or bigger (aka USB Storage Stick or USB Thumb Drive)
Please note some flash drive may not be bootable by default. You may need to mark the partition bootable or you may just need to reformat the flash drive. See section below for more information.
Be warned. This document may or may not work on your flash drive or your computer due to different BIOS settings and system capabilities. Do verify that your computer is capable of booting from a USB stick and that your USB stick is in working order

Check USB device

[tchung@localhost iso] $ df -h
Filesystem            Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
143G   14G  122G  10% /
/dev/sda1              99M   12M   82M  13% /boot
tmpfs                1009M     0 1009M   0% /dev/shm
/dev/sdb1             3.9G  4.0K  3.9G   1% /media/usbdisk

Check livecd-tools

$ rpm -q livecd-tools

If 'livecd-tools' is not installed, install it using yum.

$ su -c 'yum install livecd-tools'

Non-Destructive USB Install

Notice in the screenshot on right, the original content of the USB drive was not deleted by the script. That's because we use 'non-destructive' process.

FedoraLiveCD USBHowTo usb flash drive.png

In this demo, I used Imation Swivel Pro Flash Drive 1GB which comes with a Imation software as shown in the screenshot. You should be able to pick one up from local Target under $30 in United States.

Run livecd-iso-to-disk script

Give the root password when prompted.

su -c "livecd-iso-to-disk Fedora-<release>-Live-i686.iso /dev/sdb1"
Copying live image to USB stick
Updating boot config file
Installing boot loader
USB stick set up as live image!

Data Persistence

Data persistence means that your files and settings will remain peristent even after you reboot your live system. Persistence is supported from Fedora 9 (beta) onwards. The primary usage of this feature is booting a USB stick with your live image as well as the persistent changes. To do this, take the live image and you can run the following command:

livecd-iso-to-disk --overlay-size-mb 512 /path/to/iso /path/tousbstick

where 512 is the desired size (in megabytes) of the overlay. The livecd-iso-to-disk shell script won't accept an overlay size value greater than 2047. You can find the livecd-iso-to-disk shell script in the LiveOS directory at the top-level of the CD image. Note that you'll need to have space on your USB stick for the live image plus your overlay plus any other data you want on the stick.

Bootable USB from a running Live CD/DVD

If you are already running a live CD or DVD and want to convert that into a bootable USB stick, run the following command:

livecd-iso-to-disk /dev/live /path/tousbstick

Graphical Interface - Windows and Linux

Fedora LiveUSB sticks can be created in Windows and Linux using the liveusb-creator, For Windows using the following steps:

If you are using Linux, You can use Add/Remove Programs and search for liveusb-creator or

yum install liveusb-creator

If you encounter any issues using this method, please create a ticket against the liveusb-creator.

Errors and Solutions

Partition isn't marked bootable!

If you get the following message, you need to mark the partition bootable.

# livecd-iso-to-disk Fedora-<release>-Live-i686.iso /dev/sdb1
Partition isn't marked bootable!
You can mark the partition as bootable with 
    # /sbin/parted /dev/sdb
    (parted) toggle N boot
    (parted) quit
Cleaning up to exit...

To mark the partition bootable,

# parted /dev/sdb
GNU Parted 1.8.6
Using /dev/sdb
Welcome to GNU Parted! Type 'help' to view a list of commands.
(parted) print                                                            
Model: Imation Flash Drive (scsi)
Disk /dev/sdb: 1062MB
Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
Partition Table: msdos

Number  Start   End     Size    Type     File system  Flags
 1      32.3kB  1062MB  1062MB  primary  fat16             

(parted) toggle 1 boot
(parted) print                                                    
Model: Imation Flash Drive (scsi)
Disk /dev/sdb: 1062MB
Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
Partition Table: msdos

Number  Start   End     Size    Type     File system  Flags
 1      32.3kB  1062MB  1062MB  primary  fat16        boot 

(parted) quit                                                             
Information: Don't forget to update /etc/fstab, if necessary.             

Partition need a filesystem label!

If you get the following message, you need to label the partition.

# livecd-iso-to-disk Fedora-<release>-Live-i686.iso /dev/sdb1
Need to have a filesystem label or UUID for your USB device
Label can be set with /sbin/dosfslabel
Cleaning up to exit...

To label the partition.

# dosfslabel /dev/sdb1 usbdisk

Partition has different physical/logical endings!

If you get the following message, you may need to reformat the flash drive.

# fdisk -l /dev/sdb

Disk /dev/sdb: 2029 MB, 2029518848 bytes
129 heads, 32 sectors/track, 960 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 4128 * 512 = 2113536 bytes

Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sdb1   *           1         961     1981936    6  FAT16
Partition 1 has different physical/logical endings:
phys=(967, 128, 32) logical=(960, 31, 32)

MBR appears to be blank!

If you get the following message, you need to install MBR.

# livecd-iso-to-disk Fedora-<release>-Live-i686.iso /dev/sdb1
MBR appears to be blank.
You can add an MBR to this device with
Cleaning up to exit...

To install MBR,

# cat /usr/lib/syslinux/mbr.bin > /dev/sdb

How to reformat flash drive

Use fdisk to reformat the flash drive. If the drive is not new, a reformat is recommended. The fdisk command must be run as root or using the sudo application.

su -c 'fdisk /dev/sdb'

The following session output from fdisk shows the responses to give to the prompts. The line starting Last cylinder ... refers to the size of the flash drive, so may be different than in the example.

Command (m for help): d
Selected partition 1

Command (m for help): n
Command action
e   extended
p   primary partition (1-4)
Partition number (1-4): 1
First cylinder (1-960, default 1):
Using default value 1
Last cylinder or +size or +sizeM or +sizeK (1-960, default 960):
Using default value 960

Command (m for help): t
Selected partition 1
Hex code (type L to list codes): 6
Changed system type of partition 1 to 6 (FAT16)

Command (m for help): a
Partition number (1-4): 1

Command (m for help): w
The partition table has been altered!

Calling ioctl() to re-read partition table.

WARNING: If you have created or modified any DOS 6.x
partitions, please see the fdisk manual page for additional
Syncing disks.

To finish, the partition must be initialized with an actual file system using mkdosfs as the root user. Unmount the device before using mkdosfs.

umount /dev/sdb1
su -c 'mkdosfs -n usbdisk /dev/sdb1'

SYSLINUX Boot Error!

If you were using the script on previous Red Hat or Fedora Release and getting following error message,

SYSLINUX 3.xx ... EBIOS Load error - Boot error

You may need to upgrade your syslinux to 3.50 or higher from Peter Anvin's SYSLINUX .

Testing Live Image on USB

You can test your Live Image on USB using QEMU as shown in the screenshot on right.

FedoraLiveCD USBHowTo usb flash with qemu.png

For example, if your USB flash drive is on /dev/sdb1, you could type following command:

# qemu -hda /dev/sdb -m 256 -std-vga