Do I need a bootable USB stick?

Jun 24, 2019 in 08:30 AM | Posted By Janelle W.
Do I need a bootable USB stick?

The answer to this question is, well, most people probably don’t. But bootable USB sticks do come in handy in a couple of scenarios:

  • Reinstalling the core operating system – Windows, Mac OS or Linux.
  • Booting the system to a different OS for demonstration/experimentation/learning/dual platform purposes.
  • Using your OS on a borrowed computer.

Let’s start with what kind of USB you want to make any of the above work.

First, we’d recommend USB 3.0 (most commonly found version of the 3.0 protocol). They are 10x’s faster than USB 2.0 and those seconds often matter – even just to reduce the frustration you may already feel because something isn’t working right. Also, your flash drive’s memory should be large enough to hold the OS and files a you need to boot – at minimum 4G.

See Logotech’s 3.0 drives here.

Other considerations:

  • Use a keychain USB- or even a credit card usb drive you will remember to take with you after you are done.
  • You might need a USB-A to USB-C adapter depending on the computer you are booting the drive to/from.

With those factors in mind, let’s go back to those first three scenarios

  • Reinstalling the core operating system

Computers crash. Computers are equipped with systems to recover your files, you are probably doing your work in the cloud, and you or your company should know to perform regular system backups. That said, it’s not a bad idea to have the OS on a thumb drive just in case things go horribly wrong. If you can’t get on the web because your computer isn’t working, you certainly can’t download the OS either.

  • Booting the system with a different OS for demonstration/experimentation/learning purposes.

What we, and you, may see are web searches for Ubuntu Bootable USB to either experiment with or use Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a popular Linux-based, free operating system. You can download it to a USB drive, install it on a computer or just run it off the USB, and use the Linux OS on any other machine – Mac or PC. In fact, many Linux-based OS are available, free, as a web download and it might be time to experiment with it.

  • Loading the OS on a borrowed computer.

You are in Denver for a conference and your laptop got left in Chicago. You’d like to get some work done. The office you are at has a computer you can borrow for the day. A bootable flash drive (like that credit card style one you keep in your wallet) will save the day, allowing you to access what looks a lot like your own desktop and allow you into your cloud service, too.

How to make my USB bootable

Just because you loaded your OS onto a USB drive doesn’t mean it’s bootable. You need to force the computer to boot from the USB – and force the USB to accept the OS, too. Once you make the USB into a bootable drive, it will no longer be usable for other data, so pick your USB wisely (and move anything off you may have had on it already).

Every computer has different specs on how to boot from anything other than the internal hard drive. Search online for your machine’s specific guide – someone on the internet has outlined how to do that for your machine. Look up the maker and model of your computer with "usb boot" or "flash drive boot" (including quotation marks). It’s a good idea to print those directions when your machine is healthy and not wait for a crash first.

There are also good programs on the web to format USB drives to become bootable. Two suggestions:

https://unetbootin.github.io/

http://rufus.ie/

Also, we offer USB flash drive preloading for our customers. If you want all your employees to have your OS – and access to your cloud system – on a branded, custom USB drive, we can help with that.