Is it possible to dual boot from a USB flash drive? Also is it possible to boot the operating system from an ISO image (like the Ubuntu Live CD)?

How would you go about doing this and what software would be needed?

2 Answers 2


I have done this only recently - works really well. I have an 8GB usb key with several ISO images on it. When I boot from the key, I get to choose which ISO to boot from. Pretty damn cool. This is all courtesy of GRUB. Instructions here:


In the example it is showing how to boot a single Acronis recovery ISO, but you can add as many as your key will fit into the menu.lst txt file.

A word of warning though, the ISO images MUST be contiguous on disk (not fragmented) so copy them all at once, and if you have to delete one and/or replace it, you may have to delete all of the ISOs and re-copy them.

You can check to see if the ISO is contiguous by running:

c:> chkdsk z:\myiso.iso

where Z: = your flash key.

Have fun!

  • Does this method allow for any customizations to be saved on the USB key (ie - save docs/bookmarks etc in a persistent home directory)
    – Brent
    May 15, 2009 at 16:08
  • oh, you mean you want to install an O/S onto the usb key like it was an actual disk. Sure, you can do this. The method I am talking about is for booting WINPE like environments where a ramdrive is typically used for temporary r/w.
    – x0n
    May 15, 2009 at 16:15
  • I'm guessing if you want the system booted from an ISO to point to a certain home directory you would have to set that up yourself. Grub is a bootloader and does not configure any system variables.
    – Simurr
    May 15, 2009 at 16:15
  • 1
    You said, "you can do this". Could you post another answer/modify your current answer to explain how, unless your current answer already is persistent? If your current answer already does work, could you edit it to make this clearer? Thanks.
    – Daniel H
    Sep 1, 2010 at 14:33

Yes this is possible.

Two solutions

unetbootin http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/#install
fedora live usb http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/How_to_create_and_use_Live_USB

UNetbootin UNetbootin not only makes a live cd, it allows the installation to save data to the drive (only works on ubuntu for some reason)


Fedora Live USB Fedora live cd creator works just like UNetbootin. It also allows for persistent storage, however it has the advantage of not being limited to ubuntu.

Fedora Live USB

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