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Arch linux live usb

USB flash installation medium

This page discusses various multi-platform methods on how to create an Arch Linux Installer USB drive (also referred to as «flash drive», «USB stick», «USB key», etc) for booting in BIOS and UEFI systems. The result will be a LiveUSB (LiveCD-like) system that can be used for installing Arch Linux, system maintenance or for recovery purposes, and that, because of the nature of SquashFS, will discard all changes once the computer shuts down.

If you would like to run a full install of Arch Linux from a USB drive (i.e. with persistent settings), see Installing Arch Linux on a USB key. If you would like to use your bootable Arch Linux USB stick as a rescue USB, see Change root.


BIOS and UEFI bootable USB

Using automatic tools

In GNU/Linux

Using basic command line utilities

This method is recommended due to its simplicity and universal availability, since these tools are part of coreutils (pulled in by the base meta-package).

Run the following command, replacing /dev/sdx with your drive, e.g. /dev/sdb . (Do not append a partition number, so do not use something like /dev/sdb1 ):

  • using cat :
  • using cp :
  • using dd :
  • using tee :

See [1] and [2] for a comparison and perspective on the use of those tools and why dd may be the least adapted one.

Using GNOME Disk Utility

Linux distributions running GNOME can easily make a live CD through nautilus and gnome-disk-utility . Simply right-click on the .iso file, and select Open With Disk Image Writer. When GNOME Disk Utility opens, specify the flash drive from the Destination drop-down menu and click Start Restoring.

Using MultiWriter

gnome-multi-writer is a simple GTK3 based graphical tool to write an ISO file to one or multiple USB devices at once.

Using Kindd

Kindd is a Qt based graphical frontend for dd. It is available as kindd AUR .

Using etcher

Etcher is a OS image flasher built with node.js and Electron, capable of flashing an SDCard or USB drive. It protects you from accidentally writing to your hard-drives and ensures every byte of data was written correctly. There are 5 related packages in the AUR.

In Windows

Using Rufus

Rufus is a multi-purpose USB ISO writer. It provides a graphical user interface and does not care if the drive is properly formatted or not.

Simply select the Arch Linux ISO, the USB drive you want to create the bootable Arch Linux onto and click START.

This method does not require any workaround and is as straightforward as dd under Linux. Just download the Arch Linux ISO, and with local administrator rights use the USBwriter utility to write to your USB flash memory.

Using win32diskimager

win32diskimager is another graphical USB iso writing tool for Windows. Simply select your iso image and the target USB drive letter (you may have to format it first to assign it a drive letter), and click Write.

Using Cygwin

Make sure your Cygwin installation contains the dd package.

Place your image file in your home directory:

Run cygwin as administrator (required for cygwin to access hardware). To write to your USB drive use the following command:

where image.iso is the path to the iso image file within the cygwin directory and \\.\x: is your USB flash drive where x is the windows designated letter, e.g. \\.\d: .

On Cygwin 6.0, find out the correct partition with:

and write the ISO image with the information from the output. Example:

dd for Windows

A GPL licensed dd version for Windows is available at http://www.chrysocome.net/dd. The advantage of this over Cygwin is a smaller download. Use it as shown in instructions for Cygwin above.

To begin, download the latest version of dd for Windows. Once downloaded, extract the archive’s contents into Downloads or elsewhere.

Now, launch your command prompt as an administrator. Next, change directory ( cd ) into the Downloads directory.

If your Arch Linux ISO is elsewhere you may need to state the full path, for convenience you may wish to put the Arch Linux ISO into the same folder as the dd executable. The basic format of the command will look like this.

Simply replace the various null spots (indicated by an «x») with the correct date and correct drive letter. Here is a complete example.

The factual accuracy of this article or section is disputed.

You can find out the physical drive number by typing wmic diskdrive list brief at the command prompt or with dd —list

Any Explorer window must be closed or dd will report an error.

In macOS

First, you need to identify the USB device. Open /Applications/Utilities/Terminal and list all storage devices with the command:

Your USB device will appear as something like /dev/disk2 (external, physical) . Verify that this is the device you want to erase by checking its name and size and then use its identifier for the commands below instead of /dev/diskX.

A USB device is normally auto-mounted in macOS, and you have to unmount (not eject) it before block-writing to it with dd . In Terminal, do:

Now copy the ISO image file to the device. The dd command is similar to its Linux counterpart, but notice the ‘r’ before ‘disk’ for raw mode which makes the transfer much faster:

This command will run silently. To view progress, send SIGINFO by pressing Ctrl+t . Note diskX here should not include the s1 suffix, or else the USB device will only be bootable in UEFI mode and not legacy. After completion, macOS may complain that «The disk you inserted was not readable by this computer». Select ‘Ignore’. The USB device will be bootable.

In Android


EtchDroid is a OS image flasher for Android. It works without root permissions on Android 5 to Android 8. According to bug reports it doesn’t always work on Android 9 and Android 4.4.

To create an Arch Linux installer, download the ISO image file on your Android device. Plug the USB drive to your device, using a USB-OTG adapter if needed. Open EtchDroid, select «Flash raw image», select your Arch ISO, then select your USB drive. Grant the USB API permission and confirm.

Keep your phone on a table while it’s writing the image: a lot of USB-OTG adapters are a bit wobbly and you might unplug it by mistake.

Using manual formatting

This article or section needs expansion.

In GNU/Linux

This method is more complicated than writing the image directly with dd , but it does keep the flash drive usable for data storage (that is, the ISO is installed in a specific partition within the already partitioned device without altering other partitions).

  • If not done yet, create a partition table on /dev/sdX .
  • If not done yet, create a partition on the device. The partition /dev/sdXn must be formatted to FAT32.
  • Mount the ISO image, mount the FAT32 filesystem located in the USB flash device, and copy the contents of the ISO image to it. Then unmount the ISO image, but keep the FAT32 partition mounted (this may be used in subsequent steps). For example:

Booting requires specifying the volume on which the files reside. By default the label ARCH_YYYYMM (with the appropriate release year and month) is used. Thus, the file system’s label has to be set accordingly. Alternatively, you can change this behaviour by altering the lines ending by archisolabel=ARCH_YYYYMM in the file /mnt/usb/arch/boot/syslinux/archiso_sys.cfg (for BIOS boot), and in /mnt/usb/loader/entries/archiso-x86_64.conf (for UEFI boot). For example, to use an UUID instead, replace those portions of lines with archisodevice=/dev/disk/by-uuid/YOUR-UUID .

Syslinux files for BIOS systems are already copied to /mnt/usb/arch/boot/syslinux . Install the syslinux package and follow Syslinux#Manual install instructions to make the partition bootable.

In Windows

  • Partition and format the USB drive using Rufus USB partitioner. Select partition scheme option as MBR for BIOS and UEFI and File system as FAT32. Uncheck «Create a bootable disk using ISO image» and «Create extended label and icon files» options.
  • Change the Volume Label of the USB flash drive X: to match the LABEL mentioned in the archisolabel= part in \loader\entries\archiso-x86_64.conf . This step is required for Official ISO (Archiso). This step can be also performed using Rufus, during the prior «partition and format» step.
  • Extract the ISO (similar to extracting ZIP archive) to the USB flash drive using 7-Zip.
  • Download official Syslinux 6.xx binaries (zip file) from https://www.kernel.org/pub/linux/utils/boot/syslinux/ and extract it. The version of Syslinux should be the same version used in the ISO image.
  • Run the following command (in Windows cmd prompt, as admin):
  • Install Syslinux to the USB by running (use win64\syslinux64.exe for x64 Windows):

Other methods for BIOS systems

In GNU/Linux

Using a multiboot USB drive

This allows booting multiple ISOs from a single USB device, including the archiso. Updating an existing USB drive to a more recent ISO is simpler than for most other methods. See Multiboot USB drive.

Making a USB-ZIP drive

For some old BIOS systems, only booting from USB-ZIP drives is supported. This method allows you to still boot from a USB-HDD drive.

  • Download syslinux and mtools from the official repositories.
  • Find your usb drive with lsblk .
  • Type mkdiskimage -4 /dev/sdx 0 64 32 (replace x with the letter of your drive). This will take a while.

From here continue with the manual formatting method. The partition will be /dev/sdx4 due to the way ZIP drives work.

Using UNetbootin

UNetbootin can be used on any Linux distribution or Windows to copy your iso to a USB device. However, Unetbootin overwrites syslinux.cfg , so it creates a USB device that does not boot properly. For this reason, Unetbootin is not recommended — please use dd or one of the other methods discussed in this topic.

In /dev/sdx1 you must replace x with the first free letter after the last letter in use on the system where you are installing Arch Linux (e.g. if you have two hard drives, use c .). You can make this change during the first phase of boot by pressing Tab when the menu is shown.

In Windows

The Flashnul way

flashnul is an utility to verify the functionality and maintenance of Flash-Memory (USB-Flash, IDE-Flash, SecureDigital, MMC, MemoryStick, SmartMedia, XD, CompactFlash etc).

From a command prompt, invoke flashnul with -p , and determine which device index is your USB drive, e.g.:

When you have determined which device is the correct one, you can write the image to your drive, by invoking flashnul with the device index, -L , and the path to your image, e.g:

As long as you are really sure you want to write the data, type yes, then wait a bit for it to write. If you get an access denied error, close any Explorer windows you have open.

If under Vista or Win7, you should open the console as administrator, or else flashnul will fail to open the stick as a block device and will only be able to write via the drive handle windows provides

Loading the installation medium from RAM

This article or section is a candidate for merging with Multiboot USB drive#Using Syslinux and memdisk.

This method uses Syslinux and a Ramdisk (MEMDISK) to load the entire Arch Linux ISO image into RAM. Since this will be running entirely from system memory, you will need to make sure the system you will be installing this on has an adequate amount. A minimum amount of RAM between 500 MB and 1 GB should suffice for a MEMDISK based, Arch Linux install.

For more information on Arch Linux system requirements as well as those for MEMDISK see the Installation guide and here. For reference, here is the preceding forum thread.

Preparing the USB flash drive

Begin by formatting the USB flash drive as FAT32. Then create the following folders on the newly formatted drive.

Copy the needed files to the USB flash drive

Next copy the ISO that you would like to boot to the Boot/ISOs folder. After that, extract from the following files from the latest release of syslinux from here and copy them into the following folders.

  • ./win32/syslinux.exe to the Desktop or Downloads folder on your system.
  • ./memdisk/memdisk to the Settings folder on your USB flash drive.
Create the configuration file

After copying the needed files, navigate to the USB flash drive, /boot/Settings and create a syslinux.cfg file.

For more information on Syslinux see the Arch Wiki article.