If you’ve ever had to make multiple Linux live USB sticks at once, you’ll agree: it’s painful and tedious. A good alternative to dealing with the tediousness of flashing one USB drive after another on Linux is with the Gnome MultiWriter tool. It lets you write to multiple USB drives at once.
SPOILER ALERT: Scroll down and watch the video tutorial at the end of this article.
Gnome MultiWriter is a simple tool that allows users to write one ISO image to multiple removable USB devices at one time.
Getting the MultiWriter tool working on Linux is very easy no matter what Linux distribution you’re using, as it’s considered part of the Gnome project. To install the app, open up a terminal and follow the instructions corresponding to your operating system.
sudo apt install gnome-multi-writer
sudo apt-get install gnome-multi-writer
sudo pacman -S gnome-multi-writer
sudo dnf install gnome-multi-writer
sudo zypper install gnome-multi-writer
Gnome Multi-Writer is part of the Gnome project, so the software should be easy to install on even the most obscure Linux distributions. Still, if you can’t find it, the project has its code readily available on the internet. To get the code, head over to the official website, and download the latest snapshot. Alternatively, use the Git tool and clone the latest build to your PC.
Inside of the code, read the “README file. This file outlines in detail how to build MultiWriter.
Using Gnome MultiWriter
Gnome MultiWriter has a single purpose: burning OS images in the form of ISO files to multiple USB devices at a time. Officially, the app can handle USB drives from 1 GB to up to 32 GB. There is no specific limit to how many USB drives it can handle at a time but it’s probably a good idea not to overdo it.
Note: USB flash drives DO NOT have to be identical in size for burning to work correctly.
Before burning anything with Gnome MultiWriter, you’ll need an OS image. Download your OS image of choice to your Linux PC and open the Gnome MultiWriter app.
Inside of Gnome MultiWriter, click the menu icon at the top left-hand section of the window. Look for the “Import ISO” option and select it. Selecting the “Import ISO” option will bring up a file-browsing window and allow the user to choose the OS image to use during the writing process.
Use the file browser window to search for your ISO image, and click the “Import” button to load it up.
With the ISO image imported into Gnome MultiWriter, it’s safe to plug in all USB devices.
When all USB devices are plugged in and ready, click the “Start Copying” button to start the writing process.
Burning IMG files
You may wish to write a raw OS image file (IMG) to a USB device. Natively, it is not possible to do this with Gnome MultiWriter, as it only supports ISO files. Still, if you absolutely have to write an IMG file, there’s a simple workaround: converting IMG to ISO.
Currently, the best way to convert an IMG file to ISO on Linux involves using the CCD2ISO program. Sadly, the CCD2ISO app doesn’t come pre-installed on any Linux distribution, so you’ll have to install it. To install the app, open up a terminal and enter the command that corresponds with your Linux distribution.
sudo apt install ccd2iso
sudo apt-get install ccd2iso
sudo pacman -S ccd2iso
sudo dnf install ccd2iso
sudo zypper install ccd2iso
Need CCD2ISO and on a lesser-known Linux distribution? Don’t worry, the developer has a downloadable Tar archive of the app on SourceForge. To get it, head over to this page and download the Tar archive. Then, open up a terminal and extract the archive.
cd ~/Downloads tar -zxvf ccd2iso.tar.gz
Convert IMG To ISO
With the CCD2ISO app installed on your Linux PC, open up a terminal and enter the following command:
ccd2iso ~/location/of/img.img name-of-new-iso-file.iso
Converting a raw IMG file to an ISO file takes time, so be patient. When the process is complete, mount the ISO file. This part of the conversion process isn’t mandatory, but doing it will allow you to confirm that the conversion process worked and that the files are accessible.
To mount an ISO, do the following:
mkdir ~/Desktop/iso-mount mount -o loop name-of-new-iso-file.iso ~/Desktop/iso-mount
Verify that the contents of the ISO are viewable in Linux by moving the terminal to the iso-mount folder.
View the contents of the ISO with ls.
If everything looks good, unmount the ISO file and delete the mount folder.
umount ~/Desktop/iso-mount rmdir ~/Desktop/iso-mount
Finish up the process by opening Gnome MultiWriter and burning the ISO image to USB.