How to Make a Bootable USB Drive With Etcher in Linux

Boot disks (or bootable drives) are a vital tool for troubleshooting system issues on any operating system. They allow you to temporarily access the file system of a broken computer and fix the problem that caused the breakdown.

Moreover, bootable drives also serve as live USB drives and facilitate access to your system on any device, anywhere. To create a bootable drive, you need to flash an image file onto your removable device using an image flashing utility.

If you’re on Linux, you can use Etcher to create a bootable drive. Here’s a guide to help you through the process.

What Is Etcher?

Etcher, also referred to as balenaEtcher, is a program used for writing image files onto storage devices, such as USB flash drives and SD cards. It’s free to use and available across all major platforms: Linux, macOS, and Windows.

With Etcher, you get a pretty intuitive graphical user interface (GUI): one that’s both easy to navigate and use. To create a bootable drive with it, all you need to do is perform a few simple steps, and it’ll take care of flashing the image file onto your selected storage media.


One aspect of Etcher that separates it from some of the other image flashing utilities is its ability to validate the removable device before initiating the flashing process. So if you accidentally plug in a defective SD card or flash drive, the software will notify you about the same, rather than flashing the image file onto the corrupted drive and leaving you wondering why your boot drive isn’t working.

How to Install Etcher on Linux

Before you start using Etcher, you first need to install it and set it up on your computer. There are two ways to go about this: you can either download the Etcher AppImage from Balena’s official website or install the software directly via the command line.

1. Run Etcher Directly Through the AppImage

The easiest way to run Etcher on your Linux system is by downloading the AppImage file.

Download: Etcher (Free)

Once downloaded, follow the steps below to get started:

  1. Extract the downloaded ZIP file to get the Etcher AppImage.
  2. Right-click on the AppImage file and select Properties.
  3. Go to the Permissions tab and tick the checkbox next to Allow executing file as program.
  4. Click Close.
  5. Double-click on the AppImage file to launch Etcher.

Alternatively, you can also use the chmod command to assign executable permissions to the file.

sudo chmod +x ./balenaEtcher.AppImage

Make sure to provide the exact name of the AppImage file in the aforementioned command.

2. Install Etcher Using the Terminal

If the above method doesn’t work and you’re unable to run Etcher from its AppImage, install it via the command line using a package manager.

But first, you’ll have to add the Etcher repository to your system using cURL. If you’re using a Debian-based distribution like Ubuntu, issue the following command:

curl https://dl.cloudsmith.io/public/balena/etcher/setup.deb.sh | sudo -E bash

Install Etcher on Debian/Ubuntu using APT:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install balena-etcher-electron

On RHEL-based distros like CentOS and Fedora, add the Etcher RPM repository:

curl https://dl.cloudsmith.io/public/balena/etcher/setup.rpm.sh | sudo -E bash

Then install the package using the DNF package manager:

sudo dnf update
sudo dnf install -y balena-etcher-electron

You can also use yum instead of DNF:

sudo yum update
sudo yum install -y balena-etcher-electron

Since Etcher is available in the Arch User Repository, you can install it directly using yay:

yay -S balena-etcher

How to Make a Bootable USB Drive

Flashing an image file onto a removable device with Etcher involves three steps. However, before you begin, you’ll need to address a few prerequisites.

Prerequisites

First, you must back up the entire data of the storage device on which you intend to flash an image. This is to prevent loss of data on the drive since Etcher formats everything on it while flashing the image.

And second, you need to download the image file, which you want to flash on the USB drive or SD card, to your computer.

Although Etcher does allow you to import image files using their URL, the process isn’t very reliable and is known to pose errors in some instances. Hence, we recommend downloading the image to your local machine beforehand and then using it with Etcher.

Etcher supports three image formats: ISO, IMG, and ZIP. So make sure the image file you download is in any one of these file formats.

Flash the Image File Using Etcher

With everything set, connect the storage device to your computer and launch Etcher. Follow the steps below to flash the image file onto your storage device.

  1. Click on the Flash from file button below the + icon and navigate your file system to locate the image file you want to flash.

  2. Hit the Select target button, and Etcher will automatically detect and highlight all the removable devices attached to your computer. Click on your drive and hit Select to proceed

  3. Click the Flash button to begin the flashing process. If prompted for a password, provide one and click on Authenticate.

Depending on the size of the image file you’ve selected, it’ll take a while for Etcher to flash the file onto your selected storage device and validate the flashed image. So sit back and wait for the process to finish. Once it’s complete, you should see a message on Etcher that reads Flash Complete.

If you wish to flash an image on multiple devices at once, it is possible to do so with Etcher. For this, first, connect the storage devices to your computer on which you want to flash the image file. And then, on the Select target window in Etcher, tick the checkboxes for the drives you’ve just connected.


Successfully Creating a Bootable Drive With Etcher

Using the above steps, you should be able to create a bootable USB drive or SD card with Etcher in just a few clicks.

While you can do this with pretty much any other image flashing utility out there, Etcher has the upper hand over most of them, thanks to its polished, user-friendly interface and a relatively faster flashing process, which makes the entire task seamless and convenient .

In fact, Etcher isn’t just available for Linux, you can also use it to install operating systems on a Raspberry Pi.

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