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I usually use programs such as Unetbootin or Tuxboot to install a Linux distro for booting from a USB drive, but I see that some distros offer specific .zip packages for USB booting and recommend using this manual method over the "automatic" one, i.e. supplying the .iso file to Tuxboot.

Thus my question: are there any differences between the two methods?

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Which distribution recommends this? So long as you somehow get the distro on a USB key, and so long as you can get the computer to boot from it, I'd argue it doesn't really matter... –  Breakthrough Dec 13 '12 at 11:41
    
When you say "install" are you talking about a live session or do you actually want to install the distribution on the USB stick? –  terdon Dec 13 '12 at 13:01
    
@Breakthrough sorry, I could have explained myself better: I haven't found a distro explicitly suggesting the manual method, but for example on the Clonezilla website you can read the following sentence: Two types of files are available, iso and zip. The former one is for CD, the latter is for USB flash drive –  user1301428 Dec 13 '12 at 13:07
    
@terdon I'm not sure what you mean, I want to install the distro on the USB stick in order to launch a live session afterwards (like when you burn the distro on a CD to use it live then) –  user1301428 Dec 13 '12 at 13:08
    
@user1301428 it's the same thing according to the Clonezilla documentation. You can use a utility like you mentioned to create a bootable USB key via the ISO, or download the .ZIP file, manually format your USB key, extract all the files, and execute the included script to make the drive bootable. In light of what you're actually asking, I apoligize, but I'm voting to close as not a real question. –  Breakthrough Dec 13 '12 at 13:10

2 Answers 2

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As an example, the Clonezilla Live USB Documentation supports both manual installation from a .ZIP archive, as well as automated from a .ISO file. Overall, both processes are the same: if you can boot the system from the USB key, you're done and it works - and indeed, both methods will yield this result.

You can use a utility like you mentioned (Unetbootin, Universal USB installer, Tuxboot, etc...) to create a bootable USB key via an ISO file, or you can manually do what the program does. This is deemed the "manual" method, and entails downloading the official .ZIP archive, manually formatting your USB key if required, extract all the files to the key, and executing the included script to make the drive bootable.

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As the automated programs needs to check every distro for new releases / methodes they can be out dated and can end up in a corrupted unbootable usb stick or fail during installation.

It also depends in how you use these tools. some tools also give you the opportunity to download the latest and create your bootable usb stick. if during this download some bits didn't arrived as supposed to, could and up in a failing installation. so if you use this donwload your IOS / IMG files manualy

Also a bug or wrong script loaded in these apps can end up in the same problem.

as when you use the manual way as described for a new release you shouldn't have these problems.

As for testing purpose I wouldn't care about this diffrence, but if you want to be 100% sure of every step during the creation of your bootable stick you should do it manualy

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There are some exceptions: take a look at openelec which includes their own proper Create_USB script to be runned on Unix Or Linux system in orde to create the bootable usb / SDcard –  MrLightBulp Dec 13 '12 at 11:46
    
The automated programs take a user-specified ISO and add it to a bootloader installed on the USB stick. They don't need to check any distro for new releases. –  terdon Dec 13 '12 at 13:26

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