Using balenaEtcher to create a bootable Linux USB stick

I’m running on a Mac Pro which I can dual boot with Windows. I figured it’d be good to install Linux (Ubuntu) on a USB stick, just to try it out - so I followed some instructions that I found here:-

The above link uses balenaEtcher to write Ubuntu onto a USB stick (after first downloading an ISO file). Ubuntu’s ISO file was huge (over 2GB) so I chose an 8GB USB stick and formatted it in accordance with the above instructions.

But by the end of the process, Etcher had created a tiny partition on the USB stick of just 2MB (megabytes - not gigabytes). This tiny partition contains just 2 x files, called bootx64.efi and grubx64.efi and the rest of the USB stick seems to have been left empty (in fact, unformatted).

So I’m just wondering where Etcher put the rest of the Ubuntu files?? Ubuntu can’t possibly fit into 2MB but I’d be surprised (and disappointed) if Etcher’s written it all to my Mac’s hard drive…

Did you try to boot using the USB stick? What I imagine is going on here is that OSX can only read the boot partition (which I believe it FAT) and the other partitions it cannot so it shows them unformatted. I would try to boot the stick, as it’s quite likely that will work.

Many thanks CameronDiver but just to clarify… the USB stick will boot me into Ubuntu just fine - that’s not the problem… the problem is that I don’t understand where it’s getting the Ubuntu files from.

Apart from OS-X’s disk utility, I can also view the USB stick in Windows (under Computer Management). And apart from those two, I also have a 3rd party utility (for Windows) called Paragon Drive Backup. All 3 of them show the USB stick containing just a tiny 2MB partition. Strangely enough it seems to be in the centre of the USB stick with space on each side of roughly 4GB. In each case, the space is shown as being unformatted. I’d be happy to upload a screenshot (except that most forums won’t allow you to upload files if you’re a brand new member).

If I get a chance I’ll try to use the memory stick on some different computer. It’d be interesting to see if it can still boot into Ubuntu on some totally different machine.

It seems like the usb stick is formatted correctly, but neither Windows nore OSX understand the partitions, except for the EFI boot partition. You could try to boot Ubuntu and use fdisk, cfdisk or gnome-disks to look at the USB stick. Maybe this shows the full disk. Also the mount command in Ubuntu will show you which partitions are mounted where in the filesystem.

Thanks guys, it looks like you’re right.! I took the USB stick to a totally different computer and Ubuntu still booted just fine. So (while I was in Ubuntu) I looked at the partition table. The small 2MB partition is of type FAT-12 and is called /dev/sdc2. Just to the left of it there’s a 2GB partition called /dev/sdc1 which is of a type I’ve never heard of before, called 0x00 (bootable)

So it looks like either Etcher (or more likely, Ubuntu) has created a partition of a type that only Ubuntu can recognise.

Weird… :pensive:

That appears to be the expected behavior as Etcher writes whatever is in the image and some partitions may not be recognized by Windows. Let us know if you have any further questions we can help with.

This morning (just as an experiment) I used balenaEtcher again to install Ubuntu onto a larger USB stick (32GB this time, as opposed to my previous 8GB stick). However, it still only gave me a 2GB Linux partition which is very small by modern standards… and unfortunately, Linux itself can’t resize the currently mounted partition. :cry:

So when I’m using Etcher to install from an ISO image, is there any way I can specify the partition size I’d like? Or is it all determined by the ISO file itself??

balenaEtcher basically just takes what is there on the iso and puts it on the SD card. Etcher doesnt do any of the volume manipulation, it just writes data. In case you want something more than 2GB you are going to have to create your own iso instead of using the one from Canonical.