Linux Mac

How to Create and Boot From a Linux USB Drive on Mac

Andy Betts Updated 25-05-2020

Linux has long been synonymous with bootable flash drives, whether it’s to fix some sort of problem with your primary operating system, or for trying various distros.


There are a few ways to create an Ubuntu (or other Linux) bootable USB drive for Mac. You can go the freeware route for an easy option, or put a little bit of time into creating the drive yourself using Terminal. Let’s look at both methods.

First: Prepare Your USB Drive

When you’re looking to create a bootable Linux USB drive on a Mac, the first step is to make sure you’ve got the right USB drive for the job, and that it’s formatted correctly to avoid any problems.

Some Linux variants may require larger volumes, so pay attention to the requirements when downloading. Generally speaking, anything above 4GB will do the job. Others don’t have any strict requirements, but formatting to FAT beforehand is a good idea regardless.

Warning: Everything on your drive will be erased when you do this!

  1. Insert your USB drive into your Mac and launch Disk Utility (under Applications > Utilities, or search for it using Spotlight with Cmd + Space).
  2. Select your USB device in the menu on the left, then click Erase.
  3. Give it a name and choose MS-DOS (FAT) under Format and GUID Partition Map under Scheme.
  4. Hit Erase to apply the changes. If it fails, try again—sometimes the system doesn’t unmount the volume in time and the process will be unable to complete.

Mac Disk Utility format


If you have persistent problems, try another USB drive. Now download a Linux distro to install on your USB stick The 5 Best Linux Distros to Install on a USB Stick USB are great for running portable versions of Linux. Here are the most useful Linux distributions to run from a live USB drive. Read More , and you’re ready to get started.

Make a Bootable Linux USB Drive With Etcher

balenaEtcher is a free open source tool for burning disc images onto USB and SD drives. It makes creating bootable devices completely foolproof:

  1. Grab your desired Linux image, then download Etcher and install it.
  2. Insert your USB stick, then launch Etcher.
  3. Click Select image and find the Linux image you downloaded—Etcher supports IMG, ISO, and ZIP, among others.
  4. Ensure the correct USB device is selected—hit Change to see a list of connected devices.
  5. Finalize the process by clicking Flash and wait for the process to complete.

etcher bootable linux usb drive

You’ll likely see an error message warning that your USB drive isn’t compatible with your Mac. That’s normal—simply eject and go. Your bootable Linux USB drive is now ready; you can now skip to the Booting Your USB Drive section below.


Create a Live USB Using the Terminal

If for some reason you don’t want to use Etcher (maybe you’re on an incompatible version of macOS), you can accomplish this task using the command line. It’s possible using Terminal, your Mac’s built-in command line interface.

While this method requires a little more thought and patience, it’s actually pretty straightforward. You might even learn something new, plus you’ll feel smart afterwards. Assuming you’ve formatted your drive per the earlier instructions, here’s how it works:

1. Convert Your ISO

Launch Terminal and take note of where your Linux disc image is stored in Finder. Convert your image (usually an ISO) to an IMG file using the hdiutil convert command:

hdiutil convert [/path/to/downloaded.iso] -format UDRW -o [/path/to/newimage]

Replace [/path/to/downloaded.iso] with the location of your own ISO (you can drag and drop directly into the Terminal window if you want) and [/path/to/newimage] to wherever you want the new image file to be created.


convert iso to dmg

Note: Modern versions of macOS will automatically create a .DMG file. If your version doesn’t do this, try appending IMG to the end of your new image file name, such as [/path/to/newimage.img]

2. Write the Image to USB

Next, you’ll need to identify your drive’s mounted location so you can tell the Mac which drive to use. With Terminal open, use the following command to list all connected drives:

diskutil list

set up external drive


You’ll likely be able to identify the drive by its name, format, and size using a process of elimination. Take a note of the listing under the IDENTIFIER column, then unmount the drive using the following command:

diskutil unmountDisk /dev/[diskX]

You’ll need to replace [diskX] with the corresponding number, like disk3—if successful, Terminal will report that the disk was unmounted. If you’re having trouble unmounting a drive, you can launch Disk Utility, right-click on a drive, then choose Unmount (don’t eject the drive, though).

unmount drive mac

The final step is to write the image to your USB stick, using the dd command:

sudo dd if=[/path/to/newimage.dmg] of=/dev/[diskN] bs=1m

Replace [/path/to/newimage.dmg] with the path to the file created in the first step (again, drag and drop works best), and [diskN] with the location identified earlier. You’ll need to authorize with your administrator password immediately afterwards, since you used the sudo command.

install linux on usb drive mac

You’re now done, and your drive is ready for booting.

Booting Your USB Drive

Assuming all went well, you’ll now have a USB drive that will let you boot into Linux. Plug it into the Mac you want to use it on, then shut down the computer.

In order to access your Mac’s boot menu, you’ll need to hold the Option (Alt) key while it boots. The best way to do this is to shut down, hold the Option key, start your Mac, and wait. If you did it correctly, you’ll see a few options including your built-in hard drive and the USB device created earlier, titled EFI Boot.

Mac choose boot disk

To boot into Linux, select the USB device and click the arrow (or double-click it). Depending on what you’re using, you may get another menu which acts as a bootloader for your particular flavor of Linux.

Linux boot menu

If you have problems, or your USB drive won’t show up, try running the process again, using an alternative method above, running off a different USB stick or port, or consulting your respective distro’s help documentation.

The Best Way to Try Linux on Your Mac

Assuming all went well, you now have Linux running on your Mac and you can test it out or install it outright if you’re tired of macOS. You still have an Apple recovery partition which is accessible by holding Cmd + R while your machine boots. This can help you reinstall macOS (or apply other fixes) if you decide to go back.

Ubuntu running on a MacBook Air

There are other tools that claim to help you do this, but not all of them work, and some cost money. Unetbootin is still a popular choice for Linux and Windows users, but is not as good as Etcher on a Mac (and has some issues on newer versions of macOS).

There’s also our old favorite Mac Linux USB Loader, which is open source and actively maintained. It’ll cost you $5 for a pre-compiled binary, assuming you don’t want to download Xcode and compile it yourself. This low entry fee helps keep the project maintained, but it’s hard to justify paying for something when there are perfectly good free alternatives.

For more, check out how to install macOS from a USB flash drive. And if you’d prefer to install Linux on your internal drive, our guide on how to dual-boot Linux on your Mac How to Install and Dual Boot Linux on Your Mac Here's how to install Linux on your Mac. You can try dual-booting Ubuntu, or replace macOS with Linux entirely! Read More is your essential next read.

Related topics: Install Software, Linux Tips, Mac Tips, Operating Systems, USB.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. gorilla
    August 3, 2020 at 12:07 pm

    The article is updated in may 2020, but still they don't mention the fact that none of the solutions in this article will work on newer Macs because of the T2 chip that prevents booting from anything other than macOS.

  2. Manfred
    July 17, 2020 at 1:52 am

    I have a late 2019 MacBook Air on which i tried to boot Linux from a USB drive (yes, had to use an adapter); no go, since Apple's T2 Security chip prevents booting from anything other than macOS. However, on my early 2009 iMac, which does not have said T2 chip, I'm golden.

  3. Manfred
    July 14, 2020 at 4:49 am

    For the most part, my early 2009 iMac running 10.11.6 does allow me to boot Linux from a USB stick simply by holding down the option key as the machine powers up.
    However, not so for my late 2019 MacBook Air, which has Apple's T2 Security chip which prevents loading of any other operating system except the latest "Approved" OS X or mac OS SW.

  4. William Opundo
    January 25, 2020 at 6:46 pm

    Thank You So much for this very straight forward.. I actually used the Terminal commands and felt so smart after that :) (Still do). Thanks for the simple explanations very easy to follow

  5. Dave
    January 8, 2019 at 11:49 am

    Great, thank you.

  6. cheesedoff
    December 7, 2018 at 10:46 am

    Doesn't work - tried all combinations of MBR GUID FAT32 extFAT and none boot under El Cap with latest Ubuntu dist 18.04.1

  7. Bert
    October 16, 2018 at 1:03 pm



    I'm a quite old Gnu Linux (now Debian) user and I use to make my bootable usb sticks using dd. I use bootable usb sticks a lot because I need them to repair PCs, recover data, make diagnostics etc...
    Now I need to boot a live on a Mac.
    My question is: if I make a bootable usb on Linux using Etcher, is it bootable on a Mac? In other words, if I want to boot a Linux Distro on Mac do I need to use Etcher on a Mac or it is the same if I create it on Linux?

    Thank you!

  8. Pat DeMills
    June 25, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    People were attracted to Macs because they were simple. Linux should be the new Mac but it's always such a tedious process just to get the freaking thing installed. Or to get it not-quite-installed and then give up, yet again.

    Is there no Steve Jobs of the Linux world to give us one simple solution that actually, and effortessly, works?!

  9. Brian
    November 29, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    Everything went well, but trying to use the USB boot using the Option key gives only the normal boot from HD option, so I can't boot from the USB.

    2009-era Macbook pro. GUID partition of 8 GB USB worked fine (although overwriting with dd pretty much negates whatever partition is in place prior). Coversion of Puppy Linux Precise 5.7.1 ISO went fine. DD to USB worked fine. Doing a diskutil list afterwards shows /dev/disk1 as a single partition CDROM 8.1 GB. It appears Mac OSX 10.6.8 cannot see this USB at all any more - while running the OS or while trying to boot.


  10. Walter Whitman Moore
    August 5, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    Uh oh. I may have spoken too soon. Everything seemed to be working, but now all I have on the MacBook Pro is a non-blinking hyphen. "Houston, we've got a problem."

  11. Walter Whitman Moore
    August 5, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    My brain was about to explode because I kept following all the various steps on every other "how to" article about this on the internet, and none of them worked! I don't think any of the other authors actually tried the steps they were explaining, because if they had, the would never even have gotten a bootable stick! (There's a 21st-Century phrase for you.)

  12. nate
    June 1, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    Will this work on both Windows and Mac or would you need separate ones?

  13. nate
    June 1, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    Is it possible to make live USB that can run on Mac and windows computers?

  14. mark
    May 14, 2017 at 10:24 pm


  15. mark
    May 14, 2017 at 10:24 pm


  16. spoudaious
    May 14, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    Hi there,
    I have found this page: //
    Would like to ask you a question about it.
    You say that Macs cannot boot from the SD card. Are you sure about that?
    I’m using a macmini with El Capitan on a SD card (no HD or SSD installed). It works great. However, I am now trying to boot a linux system from another SD card and it’s not working. The SD card image is not appearing when I start up with the option key pressed down. I have tried the same exact process with a USB stick and it works… So I’m confused about the possibilities here. I really need the computer to boot the linux system from the sd card. Do you know what should be done?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you.

    December 9, 2016 at 2:48 am

    This doesn't work on 10.11.6. When I get to the part where I have to click on "Partition" I cannot click it (It was grey from being deactivated). Can anyone tell me why and how to get around this problem.

      February 1, 2017 at 8:43 am

      If you are talking about the internal drive (where OS X/MacOS reside on), you have to click on the parent one (Mine says "APPLE SSD SM0256G Media", yours may differ). If you are trying to partition the "Macintosh HD" part, it won't work, because you need to go to the parent part (one level above "Macintish HD").

      If you are talking about the external drive (USB drive), you need to format it first then partition it while in the process of formatting, not after.

  18. leti
    November 15, 2016 at 10:23 am

    Thanks a lot for your article! It has great contents!
    I have a problem with my dual boot installation. I'm trying to install Ubuntu in my Mac with an USB, and when clicking in the Ubuntu installer, it does not recognize the Mac OS, but I want to maintain it. There are only two options: to delete all the other OS or "Other option", instead of "Installing Ubuntu alongside MacOS".
    Do you know what the problem is? Can you help me?

  19. BigAl
    October 12, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    Has the Mac Linux USB loader been updated since 2015? I don't see any updates in the last 18 months or so. I'd like to use just part of an external SSD hooked to my MBP (mid-2015 model) to run Ubuntu 16.04 from. Will it support the latest versions?

  20. SevenBits
    October 9, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    Hi Justin,

    I’m the author of Mac Linux USB Loader. The application is now at version 3.3. Its user interface has been totally re-designed since this article was posted and it has new features too! I recommend that everyone try it out:

  21. Natz
    September 18, 2016 at 7:03 am

    Hi, thanks for the article. THough I came in quite late in doing this, it works ok. My question pertains to downloading drivers on my Macbook Pro. Everytime I would log out, and would again log in using Linux, my wifi cannot be detected, and I still have to download the drivers again thru the net. IS there a way to wake the need to download disappear, and save the drivers, so that next time I wanna use Linux, don't have to download anything anymore.. Thanks

    • SevenBits
      October 9, 2016 at 4:24 pm

      If you’re setting up Ubuntu on your USB, you can use persistence to save drivers (for wireless, etc.) between runs. Mac Linux USB Loader can set it up for you.

  22. plashgarlou
    August 28, 2016 at 1:21 am

    I have followed all the instructions but when i boot in and pick the USB option, the Mac OS X loads and not linux. any idea what I am doing wrong? any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • SevenBits
      October 9, 2016 at 4:24 pm

      What model of Mac are you trying to boot on?

  23. Features
    August 12, 2016 at 7:56 am

    I can't select WiFi. Please help

  24. fg
    May 1, 2016 at 1:02 am

    I want to create a USB stick from my Mac to install on a headless NUC. I assume I format per your directions and then manually drag and drop the relevant iso file, correct?

  25. Bilal Ahmed
    March 15, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Thanks for the article. Really helpful. But I was wondering how to make it so that my mac always starts up with OSX, but I can use Linux if I just press the option key when it starts up. In other words, how do you get rid of that screen on startup that asks what you want to boot with?

    • Justin Pot
      March 15, 2016 at 10:56 pm

      So far as I'm aware, what you're asking for isn't possible. You're stuck with that screen.

    • Anonymous
      April 4, 2016 at 3:40 pm

      When you reach the boot volume selection screen, hold down the Control key before hitting Return. On most Macs that should turn the arrow into a circular arrow, indicating that the selected volume will be automatically booted from thereafter.

  26. Martin
    February 1, 2016 at 9:47 pm

    Just tried ubuntu (latest version) with Mac Linux USB loader (latest version) but it has problems with loading kernel. It just never want to boot. Manually downloading Linux Mint and see if that will work with the USB loader.

  27. ManuBermu
    January 31, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Hello, is it possible to install Linux on a usb with more than 4GB of persistence?

  28. Anonymous
    January 25, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    Hi Justin, good to see you still writing. Thought I'd point out that the name of the boot loader depends on the architecture of the EFI rather than the operating system. So, bootX64.efi will only work on Macs with 64-bit EFI (2008 & later), earlier Macs would require bootIA32.efi.

    • Justin Pot
      January 25, 2016 at 3:26 pm

      Good point, though are there many (or any?) 32-bit Macs?

      • Anonymous
        January 25, 2016 at 5:39 pm

        Intel Macs from early to mid 2006 have 32-bit EFI with a 32-bit-only Core Duo CPU and are stuck at OS X Snow Leopard, while Macs from late 2006 to mid 2007 have 32-bit EFI and a 64-bit Core 2 Duo, and so are stuck at OS X Lion. Macs since then which officially support Mountain Lion and later have 64-bit EFI. It's worth pointing out since models that have fallen off of the support wagon are more likely to get the Linux treatment.

        • Justin Pot
          January 25, 2016 at 6:11 pm

          It's good to know, thanks for pointing it out!

  29. Hateyouapple
    January 6, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    Why the hell must apple f*** someone so hard? Why isn't it possible to just create a regular bootable usb drive, boot of it and install a damn distro? Honestly I don't get it. Hell I wouldn't even complain if I actually bought one, but my girlfriend has one and honestly, I think mac os sucks just to bad to get used to. So I've installed a couple of month ago windows via boot camp ( still don't get the sense of that) because she play wanted to play some games. Unfortunately she doesn't like windows (just like me...) for regular use. Ok to be honest I'd prefer windows over mac but that's another topic. So I wanted to install a nice easy Linux distro additionally. Why? Because Linux just runs. And I'm quite shure it's way faster as macos (which is on her Macbook painfully slow). Hell even windows manages to run faster and with more performance. And now I'm reading stuff and watching how in the sake of satan I'm supposed to install a God damn Linux distro additionally. Why the hell must apple make this process hard and annoying? On every damned regular pc it's easy as pie. I'm sick of apple. I'd never ever buy apple PCs (and yes an apple computer is nothing more than a damn PC) after facing all this crap when using my girlfriends laptop.

    • Justin Pot
      January 6, 2016 at 4:34 pm

      I've run into complications installing Linux on many computers, but it's true that Macs are more complex than most. I recommend you stick to your own computer and leave your girlfriend's Mac alone.

      December 9, 2016 at 2:50 am

      Mac OS isn't bad, it just stops you from doing some things at times.

  30. charles
    January 3, 2016 at 11:05 am

    Thanks for the help but i have a problem, there is no usb choice that i can select for destination for mac linux usb loader. I'm using the latest version and I've also tried the one before and still the same problem.

    usb is formatted as you instruct but just not showing up.

    Please help


    • Justin Pot
      January 4, 2016 at 2:35 pm

      That's really quite odd, not sure how to help to be honest. Do you have another drive? If so, does it show up?

      • Dan
        February 27, 2016 at 11:54 am

        same issue, tried two different drives.

  31. Anonymous
    November 26, 2015 at 4:44 am


    Problem: Kali boots fine, however when I view my drive on Kali, it only has about 970 MB for disk storage even though my USB drive has nearly 60 GB of free space. I cannot update Kali or do anything that takes up storage because of this.

    Info: I am running Kali Linux on my MacBook Air using Mac Linux USB Loader. I have formatted the USB drive to FAT and set up persistence (which isn't working either). Kali is bootable but only able to use 970 MB of storage. I am hoping to have the OS recognize the USB drive so I can save files and update Kali. Please help!

    Thank you.

  32. (\/)
    November 11, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    So.. You guys are awesome! :) I've been looking for a way to run Kali Linux on my Mac for a while. My first attempt was at dual booting which resulted in me mucking about in terminal, following the instructions on the Kali website, following those instructions precisely, only to have a different response in terminal than the one outlined on the Kali website. Which ultimately resulted in a lot of wasted time and effort. Fast forward to now.. and here I am witnessing a beautiful sight to behold. Kali Linux running perfectly on my Mac computer. The screen I'm looking at right now is something I've wanted to see for a long time. And I would not have been able to were it not for this article and the wonderful software Mac Linux USB Loader. I think this process was actually even easier than the last OS X update I installed. So a very sincere thank you to both the software developer and to the author of this article for making a complicated process so incredibly easy. Cheers!!

    • Justin Pot
      November 11, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      I can't tell you how great it feels to know something I wrote 2 years ago is still helping people. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

      • Kevin
        December 18, 2015 at 9:18 pm

        It just helped me install Kali and make it work. Now if I could just figure out how to make it persistent.

  33. Anonymous
    June 30, 2015 at 2:58 am

    Hi, this is the problem I run into "The installation failed because the Enterprise source that you have selected is either incomplete or missing." when I try to install on my USB.

    I am admittedly as uneducated as it comes to computers so this may be a simple fix that I just don't understand so any help would be appreciated greatly!

    • Justin Pot
      June 30, 2015 at 1:30 pm

      Hey Nathan, which distro were you trying to set up?

  34. Bazith Siraj
    May 30, 2015 at 7:53 am

    while i press option key , its just take me to a grey screen with a lock icon enter a password. i tried my passwords ..but yet none works!! plz help

  35. Spooky
    February 23, 2015 at 11:14 pm

    When I tried to load kali onto a usb, It would say that there was a mount error. That or it would just go to my regular boot screen

    • Justin Pot
      February 24, 2015 at 12:04 am

      According to the project's wiki, there have been problems with Kali.

      I don't know what else to try, except possibly waiting for an update. Sorry.

    • Kevin
      December 18, 2015 at 9:19 pm

      Mine worked perfectly. Make sure you partition it exactly as stated above, and make sure you have the latest release of Kali. Hope that helps.

  36. Hans
    February 23, 2015 at 10:17 am

    OK solved: just had to take another USB stick

    • Justin Pot
      February 23, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      Glad you figured it out! Let me know if you have any other issues.

  37. Hans
    February 23, 2015 at 7:46 am

    I have a problem at step 2: after clicking "Create Live USB" I cannot see any disk, even though I have a freshly formatted USB drive in my machine. I am running OSX 10.10.2. Have tried reformatting several times. It is MBR formatted in FAT32. Any idea what could be the problem?
    Thanks in advance.

  38. Anonymous
    February 6, 2015 at 4:03 am

    Thank You so much! This is the only WORKING tutorial I could or can find.

    • Justin Pot
      February 6, 2015 at 3:06 pm

      I'm glad this was helpful for you! I spent a lot of time searching for a solution, and when I couldn't find a working tutorial I put my research together into this.

  39. Pietro
    January 18, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    Thank you!
    Now i have a live distro in my MBP pro middle 2009
    Just a little problem...I can't have a persistent mode...
    I've used ubuntu 14.10 with mac linux usb loader V 3.0.2 (8093)

    • Justin Pot
      January 19, 2015 at 2:28 pm

      I've yet to figure out how to get a persistent Linux install on an external drive that will boot on a Mac, I think it would be another tutorial entirely. Sorry. :/

  40. Alec
    January 14, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    I am having problems with the USB loader. It wont let me choose the destination that i should instal the ISO to (i think that is the USB but i cant select it). Anyone know what to do?

    • Justin Pot
      January 14, 2015 at 9:44 pm

      Try reformatting the drive? I'm not sure.

  41. fra
    January 9, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    is not working anymore with the new version of MacLinux USB.

  42. P.J.Berg
    January 7, 2015 at 12:41 am

    I have reformatted the memory stick several times and it is not possible to get it to mount. Due to a faulty graphics card I am running in safe mode, that could possibly be the reason? I wanted to test Linux as a last resort. I did burn a disk with Linux 14.4 but the screen went black when it started to load the Live files.

  43. P.J.Berg
    January 6, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    Hi and thanx for the response.
    The 4GB memory stick was formated and partitioned correctly, it simply will not mount on Yosemite.


    • Justin Pot
      January 7, 2015 at 12:06 am

      That's really odd, haven't had that problem myself and can't find much information on it. My only suggestion is to try reformatting in Disk Utility and see if that helps.

  44. Anonymous
    January 6, 2015 at 1:31 am

    How can I mount the FAT formatted usb stick on my Mac? I see the stick in the Disk Utility but I can't mount the volume(showed as BOOT in the instructions).


    • Justin Pot
      January 6, 2015 at 3:01 pm


      Mounting the volume usually doesn't take any extra steps: you just plug it in and it works. Does this same disk work on other computers? If not, consider reformatting it.

  45. ChuckG
    December 22, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    Using Mint, receive error message "no suitable video mode found". After that just a screen with multiple black and white stripes.

  46. John
    December 16, 2013 at 4:52 am

    I can't get it to work at all. I'm running Mountain Lion on a mid 2012 15" Retina MacBook Pro. Why won't it work?

    • Justin P
      December 16, 2013 at 11:25 pm

      Which version of Linux are you trying to boot?

  47. Redd
    December 15, 2013 at 8:46 am

    For some reason, it didn't quite work for Mint 15. Gonna try it with Ubuntu now.

  48. Samuel
    November 29, 2013 at 12:59 am

    Can u use this for Kali linux?

  49. Andi Hofs
    November 26, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Hello Justin!
    Booted "fine" with Ubuntu on Mac Book Pro retina late 2013
    (standard Config 16gb 500GB 2,3GHz i7)
    But: does not start X, lot of lines in logs. Are you interested in logs, I could copy them. Which files specifically would interest you or seven bits?
    Thanks for your work!
    Wouldn't have dreamt it was such a hassle to get a linux up and running.

    Thanks a lot!


    • Justin P
      November 26, 2013 at 3:56 pm

      I'm just some guy who wrote about this, and am not behind the software in any way – I don't think logs will help me very much. You could let the developer know what's up, but if you're getting that far into the process I'm fairly certain the problem is with Ubuntu itself. Your hardware isn't yet supported by the OS, would be my guess.

      It's astounding how complex getting Linux onto a Mac is. It never used to be this bad, but drivers were always an issue with brand new ones.

    • SevenBits
      November 28, 2013 at 8:45 pm

      @Andi and anyone else: please contact through my site at and we can chat about any issues that we are helping. I think the author of this post should put that URL in his post to direct people my way.

  50. Greg
    November 21, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Great read and program! worked 1st time with mint 15 on a intel macbook running 10.7. Now i just need to find a program that lets you load and save from a usb stick.

    thanks again!

  51. Jeff
    November 19, 2013 at 4:08 am

    Hey. I followed the instructions and am trying to use the USB loader but when I try to create the live USB for whatever reason the software does not recognize or see the usb drive. It only sees my SD card, which I do not want to use. I am using a SanDisk and I followed the formatting instructions you provided. Any ideas? Thanks.

  52. Marty
    November 16, 2013 at 12:33 am

    Does this work for Intel-based macs. followed everything to a T but even though it probes the usb ports it does not recognize the partition. Does it not need to be GPT partition?

    • Justin P
      November 16, 2013 at 6:37 pm

      This does work for intel-based Macs, though some readers are reporting problems with Mavericks. Haven't gotten around to testing that yet.

      In my experience you need an MBR partition for this to work, but you could try GPT if you like. Report back.

  53. Jeff
    November 15, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    Hey. I followed the instructions and am trying to use the USB loader but when I try to create the live USB for whatever reason the software does not recognize or see the usb drive. It only sees my SD card, which I do not want to use. I am using a SanDisk and I followed the formatting instructions you provided. Any ideas? Thanks.

  54. Mike
    November 9, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    Everything worked up until it got stuck booting the kernels. Any idea on how to fix this?

    • Justin P
      November 15, 2013 at 9:16 pm

      Not specifically, sadly – it's all very guess and test. What distro were you using?

  55. Joe the plumber
    November 9, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Thanks for the article.
    Just managed to boot Mint on my mini MAC by usb.


  56. denyo
    November 8, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    Hi, nice article!
    Is it possible to use (start linux) the stick at other PC's? (Windows)


    • Joe the plumber
      November 9, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      Just tried to boot on my other PC with an 'old' BIOS & Debian.
      No success there.

  57. Ben
    November 5, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    Doesn't seem to be working on Mavericks- app runs, but it can't see my USB stick and therefore can't do its thing.

    • John
      November 6, 2013 at 3:32 am

      Have you formatted like it shows in the article?

  58. MoDuX
    October 25, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    Running no problem, just one question whats the password for supperuser in terminal? What it so i can run android studio. Oh and great articale

    • Justin P
      October 26, 2013 at 12:38 am

      There is no superuser in Ubuntu, just the main user. You can type "sudo -i" in the terminal for a similar function, however.

    • Anonymous
      October 27, 2013 at 9:36 pm

      Thanks, as you can tell I'm more at home with android. Next question is bit more of a difficult one, how do I make it persistent from USB?

    • Justin P
      October 27, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      If and when I figure that out I'll let you know. I haven't yet.

    • MoDuX
      October 28, 2013 at 5:06 pm

      Ya thought it be a bit of pain alright, trying to make it for the brother. Only starting messing with linux last week and have puppy running from usb like a charm and got mint running alongside my win7 without having to format the harddridve, then i hit the wall that is Apple. Thanks for you help, keep me up to date.

  59. useè
    October 18, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    JK read the first comment; step one is a must if your USB has been windows-formatted in the past. Don't skip it; spay and neuter that USB drive.

    • Justin P
      October 22, 2013 at 5:21 pm

      Yeah, skipping that step can cause exactly the problem you had, and pet neutering is important if we want to maintain a balanced ecosystem free of stray cats and dogs.

  60. useè
    October 18, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    Trying to boot BackTrack 5 R3 from an 8g usb using this program on a MacBook Pro (2011 I believe), the process hangs on "OK, fasten your seatbelts..."
    I let it sit there for about 15 minutes before I assumed it wasn't going anywhere and had to hard-power-off the laptop.

    How long does the boot generally take from the seatbelt message?

  61. simon
    October 12, 2013 at 12:28 am

    A complete nubee question - would a USB DVD be a work around? If you got the -mac edition? I have a iMac with a dvd , and booted Ubuntu to it, but I never noticed the -Mac in the name...

    • Justin P
      October 12, 2013 at 6:45 pm

      If you have Apple's USB DVD drive booting from it should not be a problem. Older Macs may not need the Mac-specific ISO, either.

  62. Max
    September 21, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Thanks! I was looking for this GUI. Everywhere else they used the terminal method!

    • Justin P
      September 22, 2013 at 12:48 am

      Yeah, it's a little-known tool but it sure makes life a lot easier.

  63. Tom
    September 15, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Apologies - formatting was lost - doh !

  64. Tom
    September 15, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Hey Justin/SevenBits
    Firstly thank you for all your respective time and effort.
    - greatly appreciated.
    Attempting to create a ubuntu USB install on the following system:
    Model Name: MacBook Pro
    Model Identifier: MacBookPro5,4
    Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo
    Processor Speed: 2.53 GHz
    Boot ROM Version: MBP53.00AC.B03
    SMC Version (system): 1.49f2
    Memory 4 GB 1067 MHz DDR3
    Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 9400M 256 MB
    OS: OS/X 10.8.5 (Mountain Lion)

    USB: SanDisk 32GB 2.0
    Mac Linux USB Loader v1.1

    Followed the excellent instructions provided by Justin, "exactly".
    - Clean erase/partition/format of USB -used (ubuntu-13.04-desktop-amd64+mac.iso)
    - Create Live USB: result no GUI was loaded only CLI.
    Dropped into bash environment, not being a Unix guru, i decided to try alternate *.iso's...
    After repeated try's only got past the dreaded "fasten you seat belts" once, the first time all subsequent attempts froze at the the "fasten seat belts phase" .
    ( Attempts were via the Mac Linux USB loader app - download distribution icon)

    Thus given my system, is it the recommendation to acquire a "PC" and install Ubuntu that 'just works?" or have I missed something obvious...
    - apologies for the long post, appreciate you taking the time reading this,
    any and all advice appreciated and welcome.

    ps. like (most) others have searched extensively on alternate methods and sunk a lot of time on what I would have hoped to be a rather straightforward procedure. :-)
    pps: me suspects I have the *wrong* macbook pro :/
    Cheers !

    • Justin P
      September 16, 2013 at 8:48 pm

      I'm not sure what could be causing the hangup in your case. Have you verified that an actual CD will boot? I know it sucks, but it might help us know if this is an Ubuntu problem or a USB-boot problem...

  65. Serge
    September 11, 2013 at 7:15 am

    Thanks. If *you* have tried and haven't succeeded, it ain't gonna be easy as 1-2-3 ;-)
    I'll put this on hold for a while. Is there a way to get notifications, or subscribe to this article? One more note. Replacing the optical drive with a HD/SSD, would that allow me to boot (Linux) from it?


    • Justin P
      September 11, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      I'm just a guy who enjoys writing about technology, I'm sure if you gave it a shot you could figure out how to do this just as quickly as me.

      You can boot Linux from a second drive on your Mac, sure, and also from a partition on your primary Mac drive. I installed to a partition, myself.

    • SevenBits
      September 11, 2013 at 7:15 pm

      I'm afraid that persistence really hasn't been messed around too much on Linux when booting in UEFI mode. The steps are as easy as 1, 2, 3 - assuming you don't have extra needs, of course.

      You can boot Linux from an SSD, as Justin said, and you can install to a partition, and choose whether to want to boot with BIOS mode or UEFI.. I, however, would leave the optical drive in place so that you can boot Linux distributions that don't work with Mac Linux USB Loader.

  66. Serge
    September 10, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    Great read.
    What are my options to boot into a (persistent) Linux on a 2011 13" MBP?
    I have a Bootcamp setup at the moment that I cannot afford to lose, w/ virtualized Debian.

    SD card seems to be disfunctional on recent models, and this article is about live Linux.

    I'm thinking (internal) optibay, (external) TB, FW, ...
    Your suggestions for working (and proven) setups highly appreciated.


    • Justin P
      September 10, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      I've yet to get a persistent install to work on an external drive, and I've tried. So I'm afraid I can't help right now, but expect an article on this site as soon as I get it working.

  67. Aaron
    September 9, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Fail. I could not go past step 1 because what I see on my screen doesn't match the screen here in this tutorial. See the screen in step 1 that has buttons for "First Aid", "Erase" and "Partition"? My buttons differ; I don't have "Partition". Please help as I'm about to return my MacBookPro. Oh, it's running Mountain Lion.

    • Justin P
      September 9, 2013 at 2:45 pm

      You need to click the drive you want to partition before those buttons will come up, if I'm understanding correctly.

  68. maxou
    August 29, 2013 at 10:39 am

    Hi ! Very nice GUI app
    In few steps can be dual bootable and installable this way :
    Resize your mac partition and leave free space for linux using diskutils( select your hardrive in diskutils and click on partiton and resize with the mouse.

    install refit : and then just simply after having plug the usb stick :
    $ diskutil list
    $ diskutil unmountDisk /dev/diskX (disk number that is the usb stick)
    sudo dd if=/Users/username/Downloads/linuxlivecd.iso of=/dev/rdiskX bs=1m

    reboot press ALT and choose your usb for an install of linux

    • Curt
      January 7, 2015 at 4:30 pm

      I see this thread is 17 months old, but the above procedure posted by maxou worked for my old 2006 Pro 1,1 a few weeks ago. I had to download a package called "macfancltd" to get my cpu fans up to speed. Linux out of th box (Mint) doesn't govern fan speed, and overheating can become an issue.

  69. Stratomat
    August 19, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    A small inaccuracy:
    "Note that Macs cannot boot from the SD card reader"

    This general statement seems not correct. I've just copied (using dd) a converted ubuntu-12.04.2-desktop-amd64.iso to a SD memory card, and it is well booting on MacBookPro5,5 (Mid 2009) from SD card slot.

    And you can also install Mac OS X on an SD storage device and use it as a startup volume.

    • Justin Pot
      August 19, 2013 at 8:47 pm

      So weird – I tested mine several times and even looked this up. Perhaps it's just with newer Macs? Or perhaps I messed up? Maybe someone else knows something.

    • Stratomat
      August 23, 2013 at 7:10 pm

      I just tried booting Ubuntu (above version) on Macmini6,1 (Late 2012) from SD card slot and it doesn't work. Booting from the same SD card using an USB card reader actually works well.

      So you're right, it affects only newer newer Macs.

      • Justin Pot
        August 23, 2013 at 9:15 pm

        Glad I'm not simply going insane... :)

  70. Matt
    August 8, 2013 at 12:36 am

    This actually did work! Much to my surprise after spending hours on gamer apps that didn't. BUT now for stupid questions...why can't I save anything?

    • Justin Pot
      August 8, 2013 at 11:26 pm

      It's basically a live CD on a USB disk – not a persistent install.

  71. Steve
    August 3, 2013 at 3:19 am

    Been trying to use this software with a 500GB Seagate drive but the loader does not see this hard drive at the Make Live USB screen. I tested it with a 1GB thumb drive which was recognized with no problem. Perhaps the program cannot handle a large external HD? Any guidance?

    • Justin Pot
      August 3, 2013 at 3:30 am

      No idea why a large drive wouldn't boot. Did you reformat the drive? Flash drives are probably a better idea in any case...

  72. Dean
    August 2, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    This is great! Very very cool, and exactly what I needed to find after 4 or 5 hours of trawling the internet and formatting my USB umpteen zillion times for various ways to get around the efi problem. Nice easy, logically laid out, I like it!

    The catch for me is that I'm running 10.6.8 and so miss out, just ;-) is there a mailing list or something I can subscribe to in case it becomes backwards-compatible? I'd really love to get a good version of linux up and running on my Mac, and Mint looks soooo good :-( *tear* ;-)

    That said, keep up the good work!!!
    Cheers from NZ

    • SevenBits
      August 5, 2013 at 8:29 pm

      Hello Dean,

      Sorry, there's no mailing list. I am considering a solution for you guys running older OS X releases, as I have received numerous requests about this. However, a full port is unlikely to occur unless a generous Internet user wants to oblige.

      Are you sure that you can't upgrade to at least Lion? Lion is 100% supported.

  73. joe
    July 30, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Hi Justin,
    Thanks for the article. I was trying to create usb for Kali-Linux. -I tried using Linux Mint and Win 7 but neither was recognized by Mac OS 10.8

    Does Kali Linux have or need a Mac Distro?

    • Adam
      August 9, 2013 at 10:36 pm

      It doesn't:/ Also I wouldn't recommend using Kali on Mac hardware unless you have an external wireless interface (ie: usb, pci, etc.) because the Broadcom cards don't have monitor support currently, or even an open source module in the kernel for that matter.

  74. Brian
    July 29, 2013 at 10:31 am

    I cannot get this to work. I beleave i have correctly follwed the instructions, but the computer just does not see the USB stick as a start up disk, I am trying to boot a 64 bit Intel Core 2 duo Mac Mini. The USB stick has been formated to MS-DOS (FAT32)2 and i have tried with several versions of linux including two downloaded with the app.

    • Justin Pot
      July 29, 2013 at 2:25 pm


      That's too bad. Is your drive connected directly, or through a USB hub of some sort? Just ideas, assuming you've read most everything above...

  75. Troy
    July 27, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    It worked!

    I have been playing around with linux live usb on a mac for a while, with little joy. I found another app called 'Linux USB Builer' but I couldn't get it to work on Mountain Lion.

    So far I have tried Ubuntu and Mint. Main issue I have so far is that they only work with ethernet and not the wireless connection.

    Thanks for the tutorial Justin! It was very clear. And thanks to SevenBits for the code. I am going to have a look now at their github page and follow this app's progress.

    • SevenBits
      July 27, 2013 at 5:15 pm

      Glad it worked for you, Troy! Always happy to make tools that help people.

      WiFi is always an issue when running Linux on Apple hardware. You'll need to install non-free drivers to get it working (hint: the wireless cards are largely Broadcom devices).

      I hope you continue to use Mac Linux USB Loader - a plethora of new features are planned for future releases!

  76. Nick V
    July 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Unfortunately I can’t seem to get this to work. Followed the steps to the letter and it just hangs on the black “fasten your seat belts” screen.

    I have a 64bit capable Mac, downloaded the Mac version of Ubuntu from the USB loader app, have a properly formatted USB thumb drive (San Disk Cruzer Glide 32GB) but Fail for me.

    One note: your instructions say “When it’s done you’ll see there are only two new folders and three new files on your drive.” but I only see two folders and TWO files, not Three. Was this a typo or is there supposed to be three files? (your screen shot only shows two as well.)

    Any further help greatly appreciated!

    • Nick V
      July 21, 2013 at 9:10 pm

      Nobody? No help at all?

    • Justin Pot
      July 22, 2013 at 2:25 pm

      It's two files, sorry about the inconsistency.

      This is very odd. What Mac are you trying this on?

      • Nick V
        July 22, 2013 at 5:41 pm

        I am on a late 2008 Macbook Pro upgraded with 8GB of ram.

      • Nick V
        July 22, 2013 at 5:45 pm

        Specifically, late 2008 Macbook Pro, 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 8GB 1067 MHz DDR3

        • Justin Pot
          July 22, 2013 at 10:43 pm

          The only thing I can think of is that that drive is massive, but I don't think it should make a difference. What version of OS X are you using? Could be your Mac is old enough that our software isn't necessary, and software like UNetBootin will do the job.

        • Nick V
          July 22, 2013 at 10:59 pm

          Mac 10.8.4. Just thought this would be the easiest way to do it. Everything seems to install fine on the thumb drive, I even tried the "blessed" version of the USB loader, but the Macbook Pro just won't boot from it... baffled.

        • Justin Pot
          July 23, 2013 at 1:14 am

          Well, you could always ask the developer – he commented above. Here's his blog post about the program:

  77. Kyle
    July 16, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    So I followed the instructions very carefully but after I selected my USB it showed up with the black screen in the tutorial only after that, it said it couldn't find my boot.iso file, help?

    • Justin Pot
      July 16, 2013 at 10:52 pm

      Which version of Linux are you trying to boot? I was only able to get this working with the (Mac) version of Ubuntu, which the app provides automatically...and the Fedora version offered by the program.

      • Kyle
        July 16, 2013 at 11:26 pm

        Thank you for such a quick response. I am using the one provided by the Ubuntu website because I was unaware that there was a mac-specific version offered by this program. If you don't mind me asking, how does this version differ from the one offered by the official website?

        P.S. I am downloading the Mac one as I type this.

        • Kyle
          July 16, 2013 at 11:58 pm

          It works now, but I am still curious about what's different about this version.

          Thank you for your help.

        • Justin Pot
          July 17, 2013 at 1:13 am

          From what I understand the difference is superficial, but the Ubuntu team needed to make a minor change or Macs would not boot. I believe all reference to the bios is removed...

          Did some searching, there's a decent answer here halfway down:

        • Kyle
          July 17, 2013 at 2:32 am

          Thank you I appreciate it, really.

  78. Dustin Hughson
    July 16, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    So I have gotten everything to work fine... except when it boots I am at the GNU Grub screen and dont know where to go from there :(

    • Justin Pot
      July 16, 2013 at 6:10 pm

      Same thing happened to me. For me, the fix was to ensure the drive was properly formatted, and that the ISO was Mac-compatible. Did you check those things?

  79. Jim Trapp
    July 14, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Thanks very much for this software. Works great and very easy to setup. One question though: Is there capability to create a persistent live usb linux boot? Which gives the ability to retain any settings or app installs.

    • Justin Pot
      July 14, 2013 at 3:06 pm

      This software doesn't currently offer that, nor have I found a simple way to make such a drive. Sorry about that.

  80. SevenBits
    July 6, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Just found that you had posted this… thanks a lot for reviewing my tool and your kind words, and your in-depth instructions and explanations are great. I'm really happy that this has helped you! I think I'll link this in the wiki - you wrote a better article than I could have… :)

    • Justin Pot
      July 6, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      Thanks for making the software! I spent a long time figuring out how to do this, and your tool works consistently – and is a lot easier to explain than alternate methods. You made writing this article much, much easier!

  81. Justin
    July 2, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Right now I don't have any PCs around to try this on but will it also boot on PC? or would this one be mac specific. Is there a way to do both?

    • Justin Pot
      July 2, 2013 at 9:47 pm

      Sadly I don't know of a process that will work on both Macs and PCs, but if you want a PC disk there are easy enough tools for the job. I recommened UNetBootin

      • Justin
        July 2, 2013 at 10:06 pm

        Aww man...we aren't there yet huh? Well either way great find. Thanks for the share

        • Justin Pot
          July 2, 2013 at 10:54 pm

          Well, it used to work. Apple changed a bunch about how booting works...

  82. Cory
    June 28, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Found out what it was! It seemed that I had a windows partitioned usb drive, and thought it would be okay and dandy to use it, however, Mac didn't like that partition , so creating a new one (once again) with the steps above, worked awesome. Ubuntu booted fine! Awesome eh! Thanks for the quick reply! You guys rock!

    • Justin Pot
      June 28, 2013 at 3:35 pm

      I'm glad you got it working! What was the problem? Was the drive not formatted MPR?

      • Nick V
        July 20, 2013 at 8:46 am

        Unfortunately I can't seem to get this to work. Followed the steps to the letter and it just hangs on the black "fasten your seat belts" screen.

        I have a 64bit capable Mac, downloaded the Mac version of Ubuntu from the USB loader app, have a properly formatted USB thumb drive (San Disk Cruzer Glide 32GB) but Fail for me.

        One note: your instructions say "When it’s done you’ll see there are only two new folders and three new files on your drive." but I only see two folders and TWO files, not Three. Was this a typo or is there supposed to be three files? (your screen shot only shows two as well.)

        Any further help greatly appreciated!

  83. Cory
    June 27, 2013 at 12:29 am

    Weird, it worked all the way to .. the black hold on and seatbelts screen, then nothing, black screen, waited 10 mins and nothing happened. I'm running a awesome MAC with everything (yes it even has the latest OSX) - But all in all, FAIL. Thought i'd leave a comment for anyone else trying. Maybe it will work for them , but bummer!

    • Justin Pot
      June 27, 2013 at 1:07 am

      Oh man, that's too bad. What Linux version were you trying? And what's the model? Just for everyone else's sake...

    • Ziggy
      December 8, 2013 at 3:08 pm

      Exactly the same with me. I'm running os x 10.7.5 on a 2.66GHz Core i7 (only dual core I believe). 4GB ram.

      I tried the Linux Mint 15. Will now try the ubuntu for Mac. tbh all I want is somewhere I can format my external HDD to back up my linkstation!

    • Ziggy
      December 8, 2013 at 5:56 pm

      Right so the ubuntu did the same. I was using an 8GB stick so tried with a 1GB one and different errors:

      With ubuntu it would actually launch into the OS, but the display is all wrong - i could just about make out the 'ubuntu' with the dots counting up to launch. But once it launched it was all scrambled. Could only make out loads of pixels moving around when I moved the mouse, but couldn't do anything useful.

      With the linux mint 15 - same result as using 8GB stick. I think the issue is the display...