I like to try out different Linux distro's and I don't like partitioning my main drive. I have plenty of actual hard drives that I can use for that (I like one OS per drive). Anyway, I'm trying to burn an ISO to my external harddrive (Seagate) but I can't because Windows 7 USB Tool and UNetBootin never detect external hard drives OR external hard drive enclosures either.

Why doesn't it detect them? It only shows my main hard drive and my USB stick. And is there a better alternative that will detect my external hard drive and recognize it as something that it can burn ISO files to?

  • These tools are meant for USB thumb drives. – Daniel B Nov 10 '15 at 20:33
  • One cannot burn an ISO to an external disk, only to USB keys. You will need to install Linux to such a disk. – harrymc Nov 11 '15 at 10:50
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    That’s not true, @harrymc. Most Live Images are bootable from just about any medium. Of course, you’d just use FAT32 instead of ISO/UDF on a hard disk (and typically on thumb drives, too). – Daniel B Nov 11 '15 at 13:59
  • @DanielB: Maybe you can manually by copying the files, but the tools I have used only list USB sticks, which is exactly the problem here. – harrymc Nov 11 '15 at 15:20
  • "These tools are meant for USB thumb drive" No, it detects my USB hard drives. It only depends how you formatted them. – Quidam Apr 26 '20 at 13:31

I am probably too late. But for anyone else facing this problem. You can start Unetbootin from the command prompt with these options passed:

unetbootin installtype=USB targetdrive=F:\

Source: UNetbootin Command Line Options

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    Just tried this, and I can confirm that this works. Thanks! – WIMP_no May 3 '19 at 20:19
  • Not all heroes wear capes! – BATMAN Nov 13 '20 at 18:43

Unetbootin used to support this, but it has since been removed. This means there is NO way to do this using Unetbootin. However, if all you want to do is test Linux systems without needing to work with partitions, I would recommend looking at a Virtualization system. Something like Virtual Box will allow you to not only test, but install full Linux systems within your Windows system. Other then that your best bet is using Linux distros with Live USB systems, and installing the full systems using the Live USB install.


I have found a system that will work for what you want to do, well, in theory anyway. I don't have an extra hard drive laying around to test it with... But this method should allow you to boot multiple ISOs from your external hard drive.

You will need to use YUMI (Your Universal Multiboot Integrator) to perform this task. This tool is put together by the friendly creator of PendriveLinux.com I have used it before, and to get what you need from it simply: plug in your external hard drive, start the program, select the "Show All Devices" tick box, select your drive, Tell it the distro you are using, navigate to it, and click create.

As stated earlier when this process completes you will be asked if you want to add another iso/distro. Whenever you want to add another after this initial run, all you have to do is start the program and follow the above instructions. And if you ever need to delete an installed system, simply click the "View or remove installed distros".

As per the comments, it looks like Lili USB creator also works. However I have never tried it. So I cannot walk you through the steps.

Hope this helps!

  • The need is not to test linux systems, is to be able to install a SO from a usb external hard drive without having to do it manually. – Nanoc Nov 12 '15 at 9:39
  • @Nanoc if that is the case, then the only way I can think of doing it is with grub or another bootloader... I will do some research into it and get back with an edit to my current answer. – Lektonic Nov 12 '15 at 11:19
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    Also Lili usb creator works well, add it to the answer, perfect answer should tell if is there a way to fake the Windows USB Tool to make it install on external hard drives. – Nanoc Nov 16 '15 at 8:49
  • How it was removed? I use it all the time to install iso on USB disks. It's the "see all drives" that has been removed, not the fact to be able to detect an USB hard drive! – Quidam Apr 26 '20 at 13:39
  • "This means there is NO way to do this using Unetbootin." -> not true. The virtualiation cannot replace an USB medium to install a distro. It's totally different things, and a different one to use a virtualized OS. Yumi is very good, but there are many other tools, like Multisystem, etc.... – Quidam Apr 26 '20 at 13:42

The problem is that you can't actually download the iso file for Ubuntu all by itself. You'll need to download an iso file to flash to a USB first. That would turn the USB into an installation medium, not an OS. So even if you flashed to hard drive successfully, you will only get an installation medium.

This is how to install Linux images correctly

  1. You can use Unetbootin to flash the image to a USB, and then restart your computer to boot from the USB
  2. Click on the install shortcut on the desktop
  3. Go through the installation process
  4. After the 'type of installation' stage, choose your hard drive once you have plugged it in (probably sdb or sdc)
  5. Install
  6. Now you can boot from you hard drive into Linux
  • This only works if your computer has at least two available USB ports. – Vu Thoung Jan 20 '19 at 0:19
  • ISOs are typically pretty small relative to hard drive capacity. What about creating a small partition and using it for the installation media, then installing on the rest of the same drive? – fixer1234 Jan 20 '19 at 0:31
  • Uh? What about LiveCD ISOs? This gives fully working OS. – galinette Apr 22 '20 at 9:18
  • It depends the distro. I some distro, they don't need to be installed, they can be run as live CD (live USB key rather) with the same efficiency. – Quidam Apr 26 '20 at 13:38

It's not your USB disks that are not recognized, it's your partition format that aren't.

So, be careful to format the USB disk (or key, or whatever, but not SD card), with a FAT32 format, nothing else.

It's a very very good thing that they removed the option "show all disks", as some users installed the live ISO directly to the disk that was in use, and obviously, broke all their installation, being unable to boot again in the OS they used to run Unetbootin.

If you installation medium is an USB card, you can use your Android phone, or an Android OS on PC (Bliss-OS/Android-x86, Phoenix OS, PrimeOS....), and run Etchdroid or DriveDroid, or other similar apk apps.

Even if it was possible, I won't trust Unetbootin to install ISO to SD Card anyway, as it was not made for this.

For instance, I'm using right now Unetbootin under another LiveCD OS.
I cannot boot my PC anymore, so I've made a Multisystem USB key, and from it, I use either Unetbootin or Multisystem-program (included in this distro) to make a bootable USB disk.

Unetbootin is for only one OS, and Multisystem can make a multiboot, with several OS, and you can add repair tool for instance, if they come as ISO (boot-repair, ISO of antiviruses, etc...), or Yumi on Windows, etc...

  1. I used Gparted from this liveCD to partition the USB disk that I want to use as an installation medium. I partitioned it, and gave to the first partition (the one we'll use here the FAT32 format). I use the first partition, as I'm never sure that utility like Unetbootin sees the other one (I think they don't), it's the safe way.
    I labelled it "FAT32" to be safe.

  2. Whatever you did, whether you followed the first part or not if you already had a sane FAT32 partition, you have to make sure the partition you want to use is mounted.
    Sometimes, you think that Unetbootin doesn't detect the partition, and it's simply that's not properly mounted. Happend to me several times.

To mount it, you have several ways, you can mount it or check via the terminal, see here for instance, it's very detailed: https://www.thegeekstuff.com/2013/01/mount-umount-examples/

I use the GUI method, as Multisystem allows me to do so very quickly and easily. As it's based directly on Ubuntu, it has the program called "Disks" (Full name: Gnome-disks-utility), the only think I have to do is to click the arrow to mount a partition, and it's done.

Usually, just plugging the USB make it mounted, but it depends on your distro, and things are not always like it is in theory, sometimes it's not automatically mounted, we don't know why.

So, when you have your FAT32 partition, mounted, don't unplug it, as it would make it unmounted, and you'll have to mount it again, and the id of the partition could also change.

I'm a little paranoid, so I always use Gparted to check visually if I'll be working on the good partition. Note the id of the partition, for instance, mine is sdc1.

I have 2 choices in Unetbootin, USB or disk in the field "type", for your type of medium, click both, and search for the partition id.
I had to close and start again Unetbootin to see my sdc1 partition in the field.

That's it. I burned an ISO to my USB external disk with Unetbootin, so whoever tells it's not possible is wrong.
The only problems that can arises are not sane partition, not rightly formatted partition, and not properly mounted partition.

After that, I make sure that my OS is able to boot directly from the USB I've just created, I launch it, and I install the OS I burned to my hard drive.

For your question about better alternatives, there are tons of alternatives, but if you have problems to use Unetbootin, you'll have problems to use them too, as they are not easier, or better, some are equivalent.

For Windows, there are tons of sofwares, but the one I use and consider trustable, it's YUMI, Multisystem or Sardu. They are the more famous, and have the advantage to allow multiboot, but you will find a lot more of them.

Unetbootin is really cool as it's simple to use, but often I prefer multibootable ones.

Even if FAT32 are the safer format to use with Unetbootin (and tools like this in general), some users use workaround: https://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?t=165389

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