How to Install Multiple Bootable Operating Systems on a USB Drive
Want to run multiple operating systems from a single USB stick? Maybe boot into a live environment or even install the operating system? Learning to boot from a USB flash drive is easier than you think!
Multiboot USB drives can host live Linux distributions and installation media for Windows. That is, small operating systems explicitly designed to maintain a computer from outside the computer’s operating system.
This article will review several free Windows programs that can create dual-boot and multi-boot USB media. Make sure to use a high quality USB flash drive, preferably larger than 8GB.
WinSetupFromUSB is a highly recommended choice for installing Windows from USB and multiboot USB drives. It is an intuitive multiboot software option. However, WinSetupFromUSB is only compatible with Windows 2000/XP and later, as well as Linux and BSD.
- Using WinSetupFromUSB is simple. Open the software and select your USB drive from the drop-down menu.
- Next, check the button next to your preferred operating systems.
- Next, you will need to navigate to the volume containing the operating system you wish to install on your multiboot USB. When you are ready, click the To go button.
- If you are interested, check out the View Log option to display detailed information about what is happening.
- Finally, when the installation is complete, you will see a Accomplished job message.
- If you want to install a second operating system, restart the process.
Overall, WinSetupFromUSB is quite easy to use and offers a fast write time. It also has a QEMU mode, and it’s a small portable app.
To download: WinSetupFromUSB (Free)
MultiBootUSB is quite a popular open source program to create multi-OS bootable USB drive. The software is also a portable application, which means that it will work from your USB drive and you don’t need to install it. This gives you great flexibility, if you want to change things up but are away from your home or office computer.
Adding multiple bootable OS distributions is easy.
- Navigate under Select picture and choose your ISO. Note that although MutiBootUSB works on both Windows and Linux, you can only create Linux Live USB systems.
- Once you click choose your image, select how much persistence you want if you want to be able to save files to the partition, then click Install the distro.
A nice feature of MultiBootUSB is the addition of QEMU virtualization software, which allows you to test both individual Linux ISOs and your USB drive without rebooting the computer.
For an easy way to put multiple Linux distros on a USB drive, MultiBootUSB is a great lightweight option.
To download: MultiBootUSB (Free)
XBoot has a lot more documentation than MultiBootUSB, but both programs don’t require a lot of instructions to use. XBoot offers a similar experience and is also portable, making it convenient to use on the go.
Installing XBoot is quite simple.
- Double click on the executable file and it opens in seconds.
- From there, it’s pretty straightforward to add your ISOs. Just drag and drop them into the main box.
- Then click on the Create a USB key button. The program will ask you to select the USB drive where you want to install the ISOs and select the type of bootloader you want to use. If your USB key is formatted in FAT32, XBoot recommends Syslinux. If the USB key is formatted in NTFS, Grub4DOS is recommended. You can also select Do not install any Bootloaderbut since you want the USB to be bootable, you’ll probably ignore it.
- Click on OKAY, and we are on our way!
XBoot also has the same QEMU functionality, where you can boot a live ISO CD or boot the USB you just created.
Although a slightly more substantial program, XBoot runs a bit faster than MultiBootUSB. Another nice touch is the ability to download ISO files directly through the XBoot Downloader.
To download: XBoot (Free)
4. YUMI: Your Universal Multiboot Installer
YUMI is a well-respected tool, not as feature-rich as the others on this list, but a solid choice for creating multiboot USB drives.
YUMI has a slightly different workflow. First, you choose the distro you want from the list before browsing the ISO on your hard drive or following the provided link to the homepage of the chosen distro. In addition, there are also two different versions of YUMI:
- The YUMI legacy: Works with NTFS or FAT32 format. BIOS USB boot only.
- YUMI-UEFI: Supports FAT32 only, as well as USB BIOS and UEFI booting via GRUB2 (although this depends on the distro).
So, if you are booting one of the latest versions of Windows, such as Windows 10 or Windows 11, you should select the YUMI UEFI version (unless you are running your BIOS in CMS Legacy mode). The UEFI version of YUMI is a relatively new tool at the time of writing, but is a handy upgrade to support modern operating systems. The images below are taken from YUUMI UEFI.
- Select your distribution, in this case Lubuntu, and locate the ISO on your hard drive. Alternatively, you can select the Download link option, which will take you to the download page for the selected distro or operating system.
- When you’re ready, click Create. It will take a few minutes. Then you can repeat the process to add additional operating system images to your disk.
YUMI does not have the QEMU tools of MultiBootUSB or XBoot. But what it has is the support of countless network administrators and technicians who use it in their daily professional lives!
To download: YUMI (Free)
One USB for all your operating systems
To use the USB drives you create, it helps to know how to change the boot order on your PC so you can choose which one to boot from each time.
Remember that you cannot switch between operating systems once you have booted into the operating system. You must choose the operating system you want to use during the boot process, restarting your computer to switch between each different operating system as you want to use them. Of course, if you want to use a
How to Create a Bootable CD/DVD/USB to Install Windows
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