4.3. Preparing Files for USB Memory Stick Booting

To prepare the USB stick, we recommend to use a system where GNU/Linux is already running and where USB is supported. With current GNU/Linux systems the USB stick should be automatically recognized when you insert it. If it is not you should check that the usb-storage kernel module is loaded. When the USB stick is inserted, it will be mapped to a device named /dev/sdX, where the X is a letter in the range a-z. You should be able to see to which device the USB stick was mapped by running the command dmesg after inserting it. To write to your stick, you may have to turn off its write protection switch.

[Warning] Warning

The procedures described in this section will destroy anything already on the device! Make very sure that you use the correct device name for your USB stick. If you use the wrong device the result could be that all information on for example a hard disk could be lost.

4.3.1. Preparing a USB stick using a hybrid CD/DVD image

Debian installation images can now be written directly to a USB stick, which is a very easy way to make a bootable USB stick. Simply choose an image (such as the netinst, CD, DVD-1, or netboot) that will fit on your USB stick. See Section 4.1, “Official Debian GNU/Linux installation images” to get an installation image.

Alternatively, for very small USB sticks, only a few megabytes in size, you can download the mini.iso image from the netboot directory (at the location mentioned in Section 4.2.1, “Where to Find Installation Images”).

The installation image you choose should be written directly to the USB stick, overwriting its current contents. For example, when using an existing GNU/Linux system, the image file can be written to a USB stick as follows, after having made sure that the stick is unmounted:

# cp debian.iso /dev/sdX
# sync

Information about how to do this on other operating systems can be found in the Debian CD FAQ.

[Important] Important

The image must be written to the whole-disk device and not a partition, e.g. /dev/sdb and not /dev/sdb1. Do not use tools like unetbootin which alter the image.

[Important] Important

Simply writing the installation image to USB like this should work fine for most users. The other options below are more complex, mainly for people with specialised needs.

The hybrid image on the stick does not occupy all the storage space, so it may be worth considering using the free space to hold firmware files or packages or any other files of your choice. This could be useful if you have only one stick or just want to keep everything you need on one device.

Create a second, FAT partition on the stick, mount the partition and copy or unpack the firmware onto it. For example:

# mount /dev/sdX2 /mnt
# cd /mnt
# tar zxvf /path/to/firmware.tar.gz
# cd /
# umount /mnt

You might have written the mini.iso to the USB stick. In this case the second partition doesn't have to be created as, very nicely, it will already be present. Unplugging and replugging the USB stick should make the two partitions visible.