jueves, 26 de mayo de 2011

How to Create a Live USB Key Using Syslinux

I learned this trick from Anticapitalista at the MEPIS Forums. It lets you create a bootable USB key quite easily by means of iso hybridization.

You'll need:

1. To download and install Syslinux. You'll find information about it here.

2. To have an iso of your distro and a spare USB key with enough room available. Well, this one was to be expected...

3. To lose your fear of the CLI/terminal/Console. You will have to type in two commands as root. :P

4. To test your patience. The process may take some time, especially the part of copying the files to the USB Key. During that time you either wait or do something else while you let the terminal be.


1. Place a copy of your iso into a folder and note its location. Also, insert your USB key and note how it shows on your system. You'll need that information. I placed my MEPIS 11 iso on the desktop, in a folder I named "Distro." Thus, the location is:


My USB shows as sdb1, so I must remember "sdb" (without the 1.)

2. Open a terminal and make sure you are located into that folder. In my case, the prompt looks like this:


3. Become root. In my case, I did it by typing "su" and then my root password when prompted. Now, my prompt looks like this:



1. WARNING: this step will turn your original iso into a hybrid one. If you want to keep your original iso, then work with a copy. Making sure you are root, type "isohybrid" (without the quotation marks) and add the name of your iso. In my case, it was this:

isohybrid MEPIS11.iso

The conversion was fast! However, I got this warning:

"Warning: more than 1024 cylinders (1336).
Not all BIOSes will be able to boot this device."

2. WARNING: this step will delete all the contents of your USB key and will render it unusable as a storage device. As root, copy the contents of the now hybrid iso to the USB key by following this model:

dd if=/path-to-iso-file/nameofdistro.iso of=/dev/sdx

In this model, "if=" means input file and "of=" means output file. Likewise, "sdx" represents the name of your USB key.

Again, in my case, it was like this:

dd if=/home/myName/Desktop/Distro/MEPIS11.iso of=/dev/sdb

This step will take a while. Wait until your terminal finishes. If everything goes well, it will give you some technical details. This is what I got:

"2736128+0 records in
2736128+0 records out
1400897536 bytes (1.4 GB) copied, 1248.62 s, 1.1 MB/s"

That's it! As you can see, my live USB creation took 20 minutes (1248 seconds.)

Please note that this trick does not guarantee success. So far, I've tested it with MEPIS 11, antiX M-11, and Mandriva 2011 alpha. All of them worked, but I cannot be certain that it will work with any distro. I'll keep experimenting with other distros, though.

Good luck!

1 comentario:

  1. I have questions concerning the hybridization part. I thought that Mepis 11 and Mandriva isos were already hybrid because I use Mandriva seed for the same purpose and it only works with hybrid isos. Check if your method works with Zenwalk.