USB flash installation media
This page discusses how to put Arch installation media onto a USB key (or "flash drive"). The result will be a LiveCD-like system that will discard all changes when it is shut down. If you would like to install and run Arch Linux on a USB key (ie. with persistent settings), see Installing Arch Linux on a USB key.
- 1 On GNU/Linux
- 2 On Mac OS X
- 3 On Windows
- 4 Old Method from ISO, deprecated
- 5 After booting from the USB stick:
- 6 Notes and Troubleshooting:
Overwrite the USB drive
Beginning from release 2010.05, all ISO files can be directly written to USB media. Download them from your local mirror. To install, first ensure the USB device is unmounted and then issue the following command:
# dd if=archlinux.iso of=/dev/sd[x]
archlinux.iso is the path to the ISO file and
/dev/sd[x] is your USB device.
Without overwriting the USB drive
With release 2011.08.19 or later, you can install the Arch image to USB without overwriting its contents. This is slightly more complicated than copying the image directly, but keeps the drive usable for data storage. Before you begin, make sure that your USB device is formatted as either FAT32, ext2/3/4 or btrfs (for interoperability with other operating systems, you probably want to use FAT32). Also make sure you have syslinux 4.04 installed (older or newer syslinux 4 versions may work, syslinux 3.XX will not work).
First, download and mount the ISO image:
$ mount -o loop /path/to/image/archlinux-XXX.iso /path/to/iso/
Second, mount the USB drive and copy the contents of the /arch folder to its main directory:
$ cp -r /path/to/iso/arch/ /path/to/usb/
The image also contains a /syslinux folder, but you do not need it.
Third, install syslinux to the USB drive:
$ extlinux --install /path/to/usb/arch/boot/syslinux/
Next you will need to adjust the boot configuration files in order for your system to boot.
From /path/to/usb/arch/boot/syslinux/*.cfg, replace:
Labels can be changed with e2label (for ext2/3/4) and dosfslabel (for FAT/FAT32):
# e2label /dev/sdb2 ARCH_201108 # dosfslabel /dev/sdb2 ARCH_201108
If your USB drive has a partition table (most of them do), then you need to install an MBR and make the first partition active:
$ dd bs=440 conv=notrunc count=1 if=/usr/lib/syslinux/mbr.bin of=/dev/sd[x]
where sd[x] is your USB drive's device node (the drive itself, not the first partition).
The partition table should look similar to this one:
$ fdisk -l /dev/sd[x] [...] Device Boot Start End Blocks Id System /dev/sdx1 * 2048 15663103 7830528 b W95 FAT32
As you can see, the first partition (sdx1) has the bootable flag set.
Your USB drive is now bootable.
On Mac OS X
To be able to use dd on your usb device on a Mac you have to do some special maneuvers. First of all insert your usb device, OS X will automount it, and run
in Terminal.app. Figure out what your usb device is called - mine was called /dev/disk1. (Just use the `mount` command or `sudo dmesg | tail`.) Now you run
diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk1
to unmount the partitions on the device (i.e., /dev/disk1s1) while keeping the device proper (i.e., /dev/disk1). Now we can continue in accordance with the Linux instructions above (but use bs=8192 if you are using the OS X dd, the number comes from 1024*8).
dd if=image.iso of=/dev/disk1 bs=8192 20480+0 records in 20480+0 records out 167772160 bytes transferred in 220.016918 secs (762542 bytes/sec)
it is probably a good idea to eject your drive before physical removal at this point.
diskutil eject /dev/disk1
Image Writer for Windows
Image Writer is the only native Windows image writer (except Cygwin) that writes the whole image without any changes (like dd) - other writers unpack the image and then copy all the files to a FAT filesystem.
Download win32 disk imager from http://launchpad.net/win32-image-writer. Run the program. Select the arch image-file and usb stick. The Win32 Disk Imager's file browser assumes image files end with .img, so if the image-file you have selected ends with .iso, you will have to type its name in manually; this difference in suffixes is simply cosmetic however, the image will be written fine regardless. Click on the write button. Now you should be able to boot from the usb stick and install Arch Linux from it.
Linux Live USB Creator
LiLi USB Creator can be used to create a bootable USB key for Arch either using a manually downloaded iso or automatically downloading the iso itself. It also supports automatic installation of VirtualBox on the USB key which can be used to boot Arch inside Windows.
The steps involved are well described by LiLi itself but can be summarized to: download & install LiLi, download Arch iso, insert USB key, start LiLi & choose drive (1), source (2), options (4) and create (5).
I have tested all features except the automatic download of iso, and all works and are quite fast.
The Universal USB Installer
I had problems booting from a USB key created with flashnul under Windows or dd under Linux. I gave a try to the "Universal USB Installer" and it created the bootable USB key which worked fine.
The Flashnul Way
From a command prompt, invoke flashnul with -p, and determine which device index is your USB drive. For example, my output looks like this:
C:\>flashnul -p Avaible physical drives: Avaible logical disks: C:\ D:\ E:\
In my case, it is drive E:
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. In my case, it would be
C:\>flashnul E: -L path\to\arch.iso
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
Note: Confirmed that you need to use drive letter as opposed to number. flashnul 1rc1, Windows 7 x64. -bgalakazam
The Cygwin Way
Make sure your cygwin installation contains the dd package. Or if you do not want to install Cygwin, you can simply download dd for windows from http://www.chrysocome.net/dd.
Place your image file in your home directory, in my case it is:
Run cygwin as administrator (required for cygwin to access hardware). To write to your USB drive use the following command:
dd if=image.iso of=\\.\[x]:
where image.iso is the path to the iso-image file within the cygwin directory and \\.\[x]: is your USB device where x is the windows designated letter, in my case "\\.\d:".
On cygwin 6.0 find out the correct partition with
and write the ISO image with the information from the output. Example:
dd if=image.iso of=/dev/sdb
Another way to make a USB drive bootable, is by using UNetBootin (see above)
Old Method from ISO, deprecated
- Prepare USB stick:
The arch-ftp.img is about 150 MB, so it should fit on a 256 MB USB stick. The arch-core.img is ~300 MB and should fit on a 512 MB stick.
Partition the USB stick.
Create one partition with FAT16 type, make it bootable. Remember its name, such as /dev/sd[x]1.
Make a FAT16 filesystem (you need dosfstools)
Get the arch-base install ISO from archlinux.org
wget http://www.archlinux.org/iso/2010.05/archlinux-2010.05-netinstall-dual.iso.torrent pacman -Qq rtorrent || pacman -S rtorrent rtorrent archlinux-2010.05-netinstall-dual.iso.torrent
Mount the iso to an temporary directory
mkdir -p /mnt/archcd mount -o loop /Path/to/iso /mnt/archcd
Mount the USB Stick
mkdir -p /mnt/usb/ mount /dev/sd[x]1 /mnt/usb/
Copy the .iso to the USB Stick
cp -ra /mnt/archcd/* /mnt/usb/
Copy the boot data
cd /mnt/usb/isolinux/ cp vmlinuz /mnt/usb/ cp initrd.img /mnt/usb/ cp boot.* /mnt/usb/ cp isolinux.cfg /mnt/usb/syslinux.cfg
cd /mnt/usb/ cp boot/isolinux/isolinux.cfg ./syslinux.cfg sed /IPAPPEND/d syslinux.cfg cp /usr/lib/syslinux/vesamenu.c32 ./ cp /usr/lib/syslinux/chain.c32 ./ cp /usr/lib/syslinux/reboot.c32 ./
Install MBR and syslinux(1)
lilo -M /dev/sd[x] mbr syslinux -s /dev/sd[x]1
syslinux --install /dev/sd[x]1 cat /usr/lib/syslinux/mbr.bin > /dev/sd[x]
After booting from the USB stick:
Start the installation by logging in as root and invoke the command "/arch/setup".
The installer should mount the source media automatically. If it fails you can manually mount the source media on the stick to the /src directory with the following command:
mount /dev/sd[x] /src
Notes and Troubleshooting:
(1) Using lilo is not really needed because syslinux does the "floppy" loading stuff. But if you get some error like "Can't load operating system" you have to perform the lilo command.
(2) If you get "Cluster sizes larger than 16K not supported" error when booting this means you need to install more recent version of syslinux.
(3) Space not used on the USB stick can still be used for storing files... Use a utility like gparted and add a partition to the unused space.