Installing A New Operating System Via USB

Hello readers,


Whether you’ve done it once or a million times, installing a new operating system can be either utterly painless, or a nightmare, depending on a few critical factors. In this article we’ll focus on making it as logical and straight forward as possible to set up an OS from scratch using a USB and even set up for dual booting alongside other systems.

What you’ll need:

  • USB thumb drive large enough to hold the installation media
  • Lan cable or smart phone that allows tethering (in case the wifi drivers aren’t included)
  • Computer with at least the minimum required specs to run the target installation
  • Coffee — or beverage of choice

Initially you will need to decide whether you wish to install in a dual boot configuration or as a primary OS. If you are multi booting alongside Windows 10 you should follow these instructions. Of course it doesn’t matter which other operating system you are using provided it can install a boot manager. This is why we often install Linux second, regardless of the distribution.

*Note if the Linux you are installing has UEFI support then you probably won’t need to disable UEFI for the dual boot.

Pre-planning is key if you are moving over to a new primary operating system, you’ll undoubtedly want to keep certain things like pictures, browser settings, etc. Mozilla Firefox for example allows you to set up “synch” and password protects your settings so that you can simply sign in on a new Mozilla Firefox. Google Chrome does this through your google settings as well.

Google Dropbox is a great way to move your data over to new OS and on Linux for example it synchs and imports that data rather quickly.


Selecting an ISO for installation


Most modern computers use a 64 bit OS though the rule of thumb is over 4Gb Ram = 64 bit OS, Under 2Gb Ram = 32 bit OS. Essentially anywhere between 2-4 Gb ram will be mostly 32 as well but it’s really a choice.


So for example a Linux Mint 64 Bit Cinnamon Desktop ISO is selected from a nearby host i.e. James Madison University, downloaded and then you have the ISO sitting in downloads on a Windows based OS – Rufus is a tool to turn that into an installer.  It works quickly, costs nothing, and to run it you merely execute the file then click to the right of the words ISO Image to open the file search. Navigate to your downloads and select the ISO – Pop in your thumb drive – and run the writer.

(On Linux systems this can be done with Unetbootin, or any usb image writer)


If you are on the machine you’ll be installing to, you can simply reboot the machine and interrupt the boot process by pressing F10 (on some systems it’s F12 or even F8) whichever button takes you to “setup.”

In the setup for bios select your startup order and add your installer to the list ahead of anything else. It will likely call the usb installer a USB hard disk, or perhaps by its manufacturer name (toshiba usb device) but it certainly isn’t a cd/dvd or an ata hard drive or sata hard drive etc so by process of elimination you should be able to determine which device it is, After setting it as the first device to boot, save the settings and allow the machine to reboot. It will ask if you want to boot the usb so hit enter.


*Refill Coffee


Select the installation option or the live environment (which generally has the installation option on the desktop or in the menu.)

If at the desktop you see it can connect to the internet, silently do a happy dance and start installing. Most of the questions on modern installers are self explanatory. Otherwise connect the lan or the smartphone and run the installation. You’ll need to leave it this way until after you’ve rebooted and installed the drivers but in no time you’ll find the driver installer and everything will be okay. Unless you are on Fedora or Debian and have Nvidia – in which case start googling like crazy.


To dual boot select install alongside current OS. And to use as the only OS use the relevant option. If you are prompted to select a download mirror because you are using Debian be prepared to try many of them. Debian Linux mirrors often do not 100% cooperate during these types of installations.


When prompted to reboot your system do so, and as the power light goes off remove the usb installer until you are back to the main desktop. Then if you like you can format the usb drive (details below.)


*Sometimes installing alongside Windows 10 works but then the bootloader doesn’t show up. To correct this in Windows turn on legacy boot option.
*From the same bios as startup you can also disable/enable virtualization if you still don’t see the grub menu. Failing that you can boot back in from the usb installer if needs be and follow these steps.


Once you are on the desktop of any installed operating system you can format the usb stick to be a blank one again. On Linux there are often usb image tools or disk management tools that are very easy to find. On Windows they are available by selecting the disk from file manager and right clicking – selecting format.

Immediately you’ll notice that updates are available, if they run quickly you are now ready to check everything out. If they hang you can do the following:


Short term solution for updates that wont complete due to either security repos or similar repo freezes (i.e. google chrome):
I installed nano so I’ll use it for this example but of course geany or any other text editor will work, in terminal type or copy-paste:
sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list.d/official-package-repositories.list
On the page that opens add a # in front of the repo that won’t update until you find one that does to replace it with.
For example if it’s a google chrome repo: (I use Google Chrome mostly anymore because it has a much better flashplayer – works with silverlight – netflix – etc.)
sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list.d/google-chrome.list and then put a # in front of it’s line reading: deb [arch=amd64] stable main
Then run update from the terminal to get the updates you can, and optimally go hunt for working security repos sometime soon.


*Configuring Firefox after signing in to synch is easier than doing it twice but remember to look at the options under adding search engines because most of us don’t like Yahoo as a main search engine. (Advnced search engine options has a page for selecting google etc)

Screenshot from 2016-08-27 18-47-23



If you like adding google chrome just download and install it, it’s not different than doing so on windows but save the file, then in downloads right click and select the top option. You may find they have hanging updates periodically and you can comment those out the same way as you would a broken security repo.

Check out the software manager – and feel free to ask me about anything on any system. If I don’t have the answers I certainly have people who do.

Dropbox for Linux is here.

Be sure to check out every article about Linux that we have because… They rock?

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428 thoughts on “Installing A New Operating System Via USB

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