Create a USB stick for (almost) any OS

For the past 20 years, I used to buy spindles of blank CD-R and DVD-R media in order to create bootable discs. I had nearly stopped burning optical media for the last 5 years, but occasionally I do find an ISO or disk image that could not properly written to a USB stick.

My two go to programs for writing USB sticks are Unetbootin and Rufus. I use Rufus by default as it is very fast and it works with almost all operating systems for PC’s, with the exception of Linux. Rufus is faster and easier to use than Microsoft’s USB/DVD Download Tool. Microsoft’s USB/DVD Tool lacks the flexibility to easily work with slipstream images or even images created with the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit. The MDT is an amazing and free tool from Microsoft– highly recommended for anyone that is imaging Windows computers. Rufus also works well with VMWare’s ESXi hypervisor iso.

However, in the last two days I had to install CentOS 6.6 and Ubuntu Server 14.04 LTS on physical computers. I tried to use Rufus to make the USB stick from the respective ISO’s. The process completed in Rufus, I even checked for bad blocks as part of the image process. Due to some known bugs in the CentOS installer, the USB stick would not boot properly. It was complaining about not finding the kickstart config file. I tried to correct the error my pointing the installer to the correct device (sda, etc), but the install process would lock up. I went back and burned a CD disk and carried on. My luck using Ubuntu Server 14.04 with Rufus was poor as well. Instead of burning a CD, I instead gave UNetbootin a try. Much to my surprise, Ubuntu’s installer moved past where I was stuck with the Rufus based USB stick. Very strange.

Two smalls thing to note about UNetbootin: it can automatically download the needed ISO’s for many Linux based operating systems and that it does not work very well on MacOS X computers to make USB sticks.