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Recently I wanted to create a bootable USB of Linux mint. I found that there was a lot of conflicting advice/experience about whether the 'dd' command could be used to create a bootable USB. I decided to download an ISO and try. While dd definitely put the image on the USB stick it was not bootable. So my question is what is the magic ingredient that will make this work or why has this approach persisted if it does not work?

This is the command I used,

dd if=/mint/iso/image of=/dev/sdb1 oflag=direct 
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migrated from Apr 1 '12 at 15:21

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This is not a programming question. – blueshift Apr 1 '12 at 15:17
The three existing answers are overlooking the fact that you cannot use a CD or DVD bootloader (that is in the iso) as a USB flash drive bootloader. The hardware differences are a NO GO. Make the flash drive bootable, mount the .iso and flash drive, and then just copy the files. Forget dd for this task. – sawdust Apr 1 '12 at 23:45
@sawdust while you are stating that the answers posted are a "no go", this article ( indicates that this is the correct procedure. – Dave G Apr 2 '12 at 2:03
@DaveG - Interesting, apparently 'dd' is a usable command iff the source file is a "Hybrid ISO image". But it is not a generic procedure for every iso. Perhaps that distinction is the reason for the conflicting advice jdowner encountered. – sawdust Apr 2 '12 at 5:26
@sawdust thanks for the additional clarification on that. – Dave G Apr 2 '12 at 7:47
up vote 21 down vote accepted

You are writing the image to the partition 1 of /dev/sdb

Change this to the following command:

dd if=/mint/iso/image of=/dev/sdb oflag=direct

this information was acquired from here

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I'm doing: sudo dd if=./debian-8.4.0-powerpc-DVD-1.iso of=/dev/rdisk3 bs=1m and its not bootable, any ideas? – Yusufk Jun 11 at 16:22
I'd rdisk3 a partition or a raw disk? You are attempting to write the image to a specific partition – Dave G Jun 11 at 16:46

You copied the image to the first partition. Try copying to /dev/sdb rather than /dev/sdb1.

The actual mechanism varies a bit depending on the type of image you're using, but for simple DOS/MBR images you need to get a correct partition table (with the bootable partition marked as being bootable, and the MBR - the part of the initial 512 bytes that isn't the partition table - containing initial boot code.

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From my experience with another Linux distro, all you should have to do is change the syslinux boot loader file and modify it to boot the USB. There's more detailed information about this at the syslinux wiki.

See also this Google search.

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Have you made sure that your motherboard is set to boot from the USB device before it tries booting from your HDD? I would guess that may be your only issue - there's not much to using dd as you can see.

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This was an issue that I had thought about, especially because I was working on an old computer. So when it did not work on my target machine, I set the boot order on my wifes laptop (shh, don't tell her) and it did not boot from that either. – jdowner Apr 1 '12 at 15:07

You may need to have a BPB written into your bootloader. See Dex's post from Fri Apr 24, 2009 9:06 am at

The gist is that "if [your usb firmware] users floppy emulation and you do not have a BPB, it will NOT boot"

Armed with that advice, I was able to resolve this issue. I use linux, so my dd command was:

sudo dd bs=512 count=2880 if=IMG.bin of=/dev/sdb

You'll want to replace sdb with your usb device. You can find it by running

ls -l /dev/ | grep sd

before and after inserting your usb while linux is running. If you get e.g. sdb1 and sdb, chose the non-indexed option.

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