Linux: How to Create Windows Bootable USB Drive Via CLI

Creating a Linux bootable USB on a GNU/Linux machine is too easy, especially via GUI. Here, we’re looking at the extra work required to make a Windows variant.

Step 1: be sure to locate the correct device to match the intended USB

root@kimlinux:/home/kim# fdisk -l /dev/sdc
Disk /dev/sdc: 7.47 GiB, 8004304896 bytes, 15633408 sectors
Disk model: Cruzer          
Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disklabel type: dos
Disk identifier: 0x00696988

Device     Boot Start      End  Sectors  Size Id Type
/dev/sdc1  *     2048 15633407 15631360  7.5G  c W95 FAT32 (LBA)

Step 2: Format or reformat the drive

WARNING: the correct disk must be known prior to executing these instructions as picking the wrong device will wipe out its data beyond recovery (if changes were not reverted immediately)

# select the device (not partition) for formatting
root@kimlinux:/home/kim# fdisk /dev/sdc

Welcome to fdisk (util-linux 2.34).                                                                                            
Changes will remain in memory only, until you decide to write them.                                                            
Be careful before using the write command.

# Print the config prior to changes
Command (m for help): p   
Disk /dev/sdc: 7.47 GiB, 8004304896 bytes, 15633408 sectors
Disk model: Cruzer          
Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disklabel type: dos
Disk identifier: 0x00696988

Device     Boot Start      End  Sectors  Size Id Type
/dev/sdc1  *     2048 15633407 15631360  7.5G  c W95 FAT32 (LBA)

# Delete partition(s)
Command (m for help): d
Selected partition 1
Partition 1 has been deleted.

# Create a new partition
Command (m for help): n
Partition type
   p   primary (0 primary, 0 extended, 4 free)
   e   extended (container for logical partitions)
Select (default p): p
Partition number (1-4, default 1): 
First sector (2048-15633407, default 2048): 
Last sector, +/-sectors or +/-size{K,M,G,T,P} (2048-15633407, default 15633407): 

Created a new partition 1 of type 'Linux' and of size 7.5 GiB.
Partition #1 contains a vfat signature.

Do you want to remove the signature? [Y]es/[N]o: yes

The signature will be removed by a write command.

# Set partition file system type
Command (m for help): t
Selected partition 1
Hex code (type L to list all codes): L

 0  Empty           24  NEC DOS         81  Minix / old Lin bf  Solaris        
 1  FAT12           27  Hidden NTFS Win 82  Linux swap / So c1  DRDOS/sec (FAT-
 2  XENIX root      39  Plan 9          83  Linux           c4  DRDOS/sec (FAT-
 3  XENIX usr       3c  PartitionMagic  84  OS/2 hidden or  c6  DRDOS/sec (FAT-
 4  FAT16 <32M      40  Venix 80286     85  Linux extended  c7  Syrinx         
 5  Extended        41  PPC PReP Boot   86  NTFS volume set da  Non-FS data    
 6  FAT16           42  SFS             87  NTFS volume set db  CP/M / CTOS / .
 7  HPFS/NTFS/exFAT 4d  QNX4.x          88  Linux plaintext de  Dell Utility   
 8  AIX             4e  QNX4.x 2nd part 8e  Linux LVM       df  BootIt         
 9  AIX bootable    4f  QNX4.x 3rd part 93  Amoeba          e1  DOS access     
 a  OS/2 Boot Manag 50  OnTrack DM      94  Amoeba BBT      e3  DOS R/O        
 b  W95 FAT32       51  OnTrack DM6 Aux 9f  BSD/OS          e4  SpeedStor      
 c  W95 FAT32 (LBA) 52  CP/M            a0  IBM Thinkpad hi ea  Rufus alignment
 e  W95 FAT16 (LBA) 53  OnTrack DM6 Aux a5  FreeBSD         eb  BeOS fs        
 f  W95 Ext'd (LBA) 54  OnTrackDM6      a6  OpenBSD         ee  GPT            
10  OPUS            55  EZ-Drive        a7  NeXTSTEP        ef  EFI (FAT-12/16/
11  Hidden FAT12    56  Golden Bow      a8  Darwin UFS      f0  Linux/PA-RISC b
12  Compaq diagnost 5c  Priam Edisk     a9  NetBSD          f1  SpeedStor      
14  Hidden FAT16 <3 61  SpeedStor       ab  Darwin boot     f4  SpeedStor      
16  Hidden FAT16    63  GNU HURD or Sys af  HFS / HFS+      f2  DOS secondary  
17  Hidden HPFS/NTF 64  Novell Netware  b7  BSDI fs         fb  VMware VMFS    
18  AST SmartSleep  65  Novell Netware  b8  BSDI swap       fc  VMware VMKCORE 
1b  Hidden W95 FAT3 70  DiskSecure Mult bb  Boot Wizard hid fd  Linux raid auto
1c  Hidden W95 FAT3 75  PC/IX           bc  Acronis FAT32 L fe  LANstep        
1e  Hidden W95 FAT1 80  Old Minix       be  Solaris boot    ff  BBT            
Hex code (type L to list all codes): b
Changed type of partition 'Linux' to 'W95 FAT32'.

# Set partition as Active
Command (m for help): a
Selected partition 1
The bootable flag on partition 1 is enabled now.

# View pending changes
Command (m for help): p
Disk /dev/sdc: 7.47 GiB, 8004304896 bytes, 15633408 sectors
Disk model: Cruzer          
Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disklabel type: dos
Disk identifier: 0x00696988

Device     Boot Start      End  Sectors  Size Id Type
/dev/sdc1  *     2048 15633407 15631360  7.5G  b W95 FAT32

Filesystem/RAID signature on partition 1 will be wiped.

# Commit or write changes
Command (m for help): w
The partition table has been altered.
Syncing disks.

# Format the partition
root@kimlinux:/home/kim# mkfs.vfat /dev/sdc1
mkfs.fat 4.1 (2017-01-24)
mkfs.vfat: /dev/sdc1 contains a mounted filesystem.

# Unmount the partition
root@kimlinux:/home/kim# umount /dev/sdc1

# Re-try formatting the disk as FAT32
root@kimlinux:/home/kim# mkfs -t vfat /dev/sdc1 
mkfs.fat 4.1 (2017-01-24)

Step 3: Create startup disk

# Type 1: Linux ISO
# call a utility named 'dd' to copy from an ISO to the USB partition, block size 4096k, convert data stream to fully synchronize between source and destination to avoid incomplete transfers

root@kimlinux:/home/kim/Downloads# dd bs=4M if=Linux.iso of=/dev/sdc1 conv=fdatasync
919+1 records in
919+1 records out
3858546688 bytes (3.9 GB, 3.6 GiB) copied, 827.498 s, 4.7 MB/s

# Type 2: Windows ISO

# Install unetbootin, if it's not already available on the system
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gezakovacs/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install unetbootin

# Mount the USB partition onto the expected mount directory
root@kimlinux:/home/kim/Downloads# mount /dev/sdc1 /mnt
NTFS signature is missing.

# Start Unetbootin
root@kimlinux:/home/kim/Downloads# unetbootin &
[1] 105143

Click on the three dots ‘…’ > locate the ISO file > select Type = USB Drive, Drive = /dev/sdc1 (or whichever is your USB address on your system) > click OK

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