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If I try to create a bootable USB stick by using dd to copy an ISO file to it, it usually works on PC but it won't appear in the boot menu of my Macbook. Is there an easy way to generate a bootable USB stick from an ISO file so that it would boot on a Mac?

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What Distro? Ubuntu offers functionality to create USB-Boot-Sticks. –  Bobby Apr 2 '10 at 12:10
    
I'd prefer a solution which would work with almost any iso file. If this is not possible then at least Fedora and Ubuntu should be ok. –  lhahne Apr 3 '10 at 4:56

3 Answers 3

Here's the steps for Ubuntu taken from here.

Boot Ubuntu Hardy from USB drive step by step:

Install OSX on USB (create 3 partition with diskutil: 1.linux, 2.leopard, 3.swap)

Install Refit in OSX

Boot Ubuntu Live CD

Create EXT3 and swap filesystem with partition manager

Install gptsync-udeb package in ubuntu

sudo gptsync /dev/sdb (if sdb is the usb drive)

Install Ubuntu (set /dev/sdb2 for grub install place)

Boot New Ubuntu with refit

Edit the grub menu (for me boot=(hd0,1), root=/dev/sdb2 is working)

Dont forget to set it in the grub menu.lst.

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I don't think there is enough space on my 2 GB stick to install OS X on it. –  lhahne Apr 3 '10 at 4:57
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Has anyone gotten this to work? The instructions are a little sparse. –  vamin Aug 18 '10 at 2:18

It's only specially-prepared "hybrid" ISOs that you can dd straight to a USB stick. The older method was to have an ISO for burning to CDs, and a different kind of disk image that got dd'd to a USB stick. My distro (Arch Linux) is just now transitioning over to using hybrid ISOs.

Also, I'm assuming this isn't a general question about how to create a bootable USB key. The questioner specifically asks about Macs. I don't know how often that will be possible. I've made bootable USB keys that work fine in all my non-Mac computers, but when I try to boot my Intel Mac Mini from it, here's what happens. I have reFit installed on the Mac Mini's main drive, this will show a graphic at bootup which shows all the available drives or CDs I might boot from. I think it also shows the USB if that's plugged in. However, it's not possible to boot from the USB. I get a message saying that my Mac can't boot from an external USB drive, only from Firewire drives.

I don't know if it's possible to work around this with this hardware. From the link another answer provides, it looks like other Mac hardware does permit booting from USB drives.

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It is certainly possible to a Mac from a USB stick as I've copied OS X's installation DVD to a stick using Disk Manager and installed the OS from it. –  lhahne Apr 9 '10 at 17:04
    
Yes, what the link in skylarking's answer, and your experience, illustrates is that's possible with some Mac hardware. That's good for you. According to the error message I'm getting on my hardware, though, it's not possible with my Core Duo Intel Mac Mini. Perhaps the error message is lying, and I just haven't yet figured out the needed magic. –  dubiousjim Apr 10 '10 at 1:53

Unetbootin is really simple to use.

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Sticks that it creates aren't bootable on Mac. –  lhahne Apr 9 '10 at 17:03

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