Ubuntu: Creating non-buntu Startup Disks

I ran into this problem while trying to create a startup disk for OpenSUSE in Ubuntu using the included Startup Disk Creator. I noticed that only Ubuntu and Ubuntu-based isos were being listed in the program, and even when browsing to the other isos, I found that clicking to open them in the program did nothing.

After some brief searching, I came across the following thread in Ubuntu Forums. The second post within the thread was extremely helpful to me, and following its instructions led to a successful bootable USB drive with which I was able to test OpenSUSE. On top of that, I learned from the post that the Startup Disk Creator software included in Ubuntu is actually limited to only Ubuntu-based isos.

So, I thought it would be worthwhile to repost the command here on my blog for both my own records and for anyone else who might not have managed to come across the use of dd to create bootable disks in Ubuntu. From what I understand, it should work for just about any type of bootable disk. However, I can only testify that it worked for the OpenSUSE disk from my own experience so far. As always, make sure you are certain of what you’re inputting when working with CLI, and this command could cause some serious pain in terms of data loss if you accidentally designated the wrong location.

sudo dd if=/path-to-iso of=/dev/sdX bs=4096

The command should be fairly straight-forward. The if argument should be the full path that points to the location of the iso. The of argument should be the device that is being written to as the startup disk. That’s probably obvious, but I felt it was necessary to clarify just in case. I’m assuming that bs is referring to the boot sector location of the device being written to, but that is purely speculation on my part and the value was simply left as-is when I used this method of creating the boot disk.

You can also use the mount  command to list all mounted devices currently connected to your computer. If you know the name of the device (which you can see by hovering over the USB drive’s icon on the Unity launcher) you can then look through the list of devices displayed from mount  and find what device it is so that you supply the right value for the of argument when using dd. A more graphical method would be to open the Disk Utility and find the USB drive listed in the left pane. Clicking on it will then display the device information in the right pane, including where the device is mounted.

I’ve been meaning to create a Windows boot disk using this, to at least see if it would work. I need to re-install Windows on a laptop that doesn’t have a disc drive built into it, and the USB method seems my best option. I’ll add a comment or update the post with the results once I run it.