How to Install Multiple Bootable Operating Systems on a USB Stick
Whatsapp Pinterest
Advertisement

Do you want to run multiple operating systems from a single USB stick? Perhaps boot into a live environment, or even install the operating system? Learning how to boot from USB is easier than you’d think!

Multiboot USB drives can host live Linux distributions and installation media for Windows. That is small operating systems explicitly designed to provide maintenance to a computer from outside of the computer’s operating system.

In this article, we’ll look at several free Windows programs that can create dual-boot and multiboot USB media. Be sure to use a high-quality USB drive, preferably one that’s larger than 8 GB!

1. WinSetupFromUSB

WinSetupFromUSB is a highly recommended pick for installing Windows from a USB and multiboot USBs. It’s 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 easy. Open the software, and select your USB disk from the dropdown menu.

WinSetupFromUSB1

Next, check the button next to your preferred operating systems.

How to Install Multiple Bootable Operating Systems on a USB Stick WinSetupFromUSB2 360x500

Then you’ll need to browse to the volume containing the operating system you wish to install on your multiboot USB. When you’re ready, click the Go button.

How to Install Multiple Bootable Operating Systems on a USB Stick WinSetupFromUSB4 360x500

If you’re interested, check the option by Show Log to view detailed information on what’s going on.

How to Install Multiple Bootable Operating Systems on a USB Stick WinSetupFromUSB3 401x500

Finally, when installation is complete, you’ll see a Job Done message.

How to Install Multiple Bootable Operating Systems on a USB Stick WinSetupFromUSB5

Overall, WinSetupFromUSB is pretty simple to use and features a quick write time. It’s also got a QEMU mode, and it’s a small, portable app.

Download: WinSetupFromUSB (Free)

2. MultiBootUSB

MultiBootUSB is a pretty popular program for just this kind of task. The software is also a portable application, it’ll run from your USB drive, and you do not need to install it. This gives you a great deal of flexibility, should you want to change things up but you aren’t at your home or office computer.

Adding multiple bootable OS distros is easy, browse under Select image and choose your ISO. Note that while MutiBootUSB runs on Windows and Linux, you can only create Linux Live USB systems.

MultiBoot USB is lightweight and easy to use

Once you’ve clicked chosen your image, select your desired amount of persistence if you want to be able to save files on the partition, and click Install distro.

Adding Multiple ISOs

A great feature of MultiBootUSB is the addition of QEMU virtualization software, which allows you to test both individual Linux ISOs and your USB stick without restarting the computer.

QEMU is included for testing

For a simple way to put multiple Linux distributions on a USB stick, MultiBootUSB is a great lightweight option.

Download: MultiBootUSB (Free)

3. XBoot

XBoot has a lot more documentation than MultiBootUSB, but both programs don’t require a lot of instruction to use. XBoot provides a similar experience and is also portable media making it handy to use on the move.

Installation of XBoot is pretty straightforward. Double-click the executable file, and it opens in seconds. From there it’s quite simple to add your ISOs – drag and drop them into the main box.

bootable usb drive

Next, click on the Create USB button. The program will prompt you to select the USB drive that you wish to install the ISOs on and to select the kind of bootloader that you want to use. If your USB stick is formatted to FAT32, XBoot recommends Syslinux. If the USB stick is formatted to NTFS, Grub4DOS is recommended. You could also select Do not install any Bootloader, but since you want the USB stick to be bootable, you’ll probably ignore that.

Click OK and we’re on the way!

bootable usb drive

bootable usb drive

Xboot also has the same QEMU features, where you can boot a live CD ISO or boot the USB that you just made.

xboot-qemu

Despite being a slightly more substantial program, XBoot works a little faster than MultiBootUSB. Another nice touch is the ability to download ISO files directly via the XBoot downloader.

Download: Xboot (Free)

4. YUMI: Your Universal Multiboot Installer

YUMI is a well-respected tool, which is not as feature rich as others in this list but a solid choice for creating multiple booting USB drives.

YUMI has a slightly different workflow. You choose which distro you want from the list, before browsing to the ISO on your hard drive, or following the provided link to the home page of your chosen distro.

YUMI Distro selection menu

Select your distro, in this case Lubuntu, and locate the ISO on your hard drive.

Installing Lubuntu with YUMI

When you are ready, click Create. It’ll take a few minutes. Then you can repeat the process to add further OS images to your drive.

Additionally, YUMI doesn’t have the QEMU tools of MultiBootUSB or XBoot. What it does have, is the support of countless network administrators and tech workers who use it in their daily work lives!

Download: YUMI (Free)

One USB for All Your Operating Systems

To use the USB drives you create, it’s worth knowing how to change the boot order on your PC so you can choose which one to boot from each time.

Multi OS USB sticks might be overkill for many users, and you might be better off with a simple bootable Windows USB stick How to Make a Bootable CD/DVD/USB to Install Windows How to Make a Bootable CD/DVD/USB to Install Windows Need installation media to reinstall Windows? Our tips show you how to create a bootable CD, USB, or DVD with an ISO from scratch. Read More .

Explore more about: Dual Boot, Operating Systems, USB Drive.

Enjoyed this article? Stay informed by joining our newsletter!

Enter your Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Bitloks
    April 22, 2019 at 12:20 am

    I just tried EASY2BOOT.
    This thing works and works well!
    Thanks Volker!
    I now have one USB that will install Windoze 7&10, 2 flavors of Linux and boot several ISO based utility disks!! Just what I was looking for!

    • Steve Si
      July 24, 2019 at 11:00 am

      Glad you like my software! :-)
      E2B also supports persistence with many different types of linux ISOs, booting from full OS images, UEFI booting and Secure UEFI-booting.

  2. Bitloks
    April 21, 2019 at 11:14 pm

    Well WinSetupFromUSB does not appear to do MULTIPLE OS's and the first time I used xboot it crashed. Great recommend!

    • SSi
      May 8, 2019 at 1:15 pm

      yes it does. Just add another. Rinse and repeat.

  3. volker
    November 25, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Personnaly and at work, I use EASY2BOOT.
    it permits to use any iso, img or vhd to boot with!!
    it is well documented on their website.
    a really must have tool!!

  4. Andrew
    November 21, 2017 at 2:39 am

    From what I understand you can't put win7 and win10 install isos on the same usb stick.
    Try it. Try as long as you like with yummi and the all the other applications more. It wont work for both.
    You will get the menu's working well but during the install the process it will fail for one or the other o/s. It seems both of those installers (7 and 10) need the wimm image to be on the root folder of the usb stick - so only one O/S will work for a given usb stick. (xp and win7 can be on the same usb but not win7 and win10)
    There are supposed to be ways around this but I have not found a way that works.

    • USB Booter
      May 13, 2019 at 7:40 pm

      The way to do this is to split up your USB into 2 partitions. 1 for Linux/Other iso's. The other for Windows7/10. Windows partition needs to be UEFI readable.

  5. Miguel
    August 21, 2017 at 11:14 am

    What about persistence?

  6. Mike Walsh
    August 17, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    Those of us in 'Puppy' Linux land have for some time been aware of a project written by one of our forum 'gurus' ( who goes by the sobriquet of rcrsn51.....better known to the rest of us simply as 'Bill'), which will allow multi-booting from the LiveCD ISO files of multiple Puppies, and indeed, other Linux LiveCDs.

    It's known as 'ISObooter'.....and you can find the link for it right here:-

    http://www.murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=67235

    There are some truly inspired projects being developed by afficionados of some of the smaller, less 'mainstream' distros.....and this is one such project. From personal experience, this thing just WORKS.