If you want to create a bootable USB on Windows, you must first download Rufus. This is a widely used application for creating bootable CDs from ISO files. However, it is only available in the portable *.exe format for Windows. For a Linux or Mac, you need to use other rufus alternatives.
Here we will take a look at 14 alternative programs that will allow you to make your own bootable USBs. We’ll discuss their features, their compatibility with different operating systems, and whether they’re free or not!
Balena Etcher (Windows | Linux | Mac | Portable)
Balena Etcher is the most popular cross-platform Rufus alternatives. Their official website claims over 2 million bootable drives are created every month. They started by making a minimal application for flashing SD cards.
Now, Balena has a host of other solutions. This includes cloud, balenaOS, balena Engine, and even their flashing hardware called balenaEtcherPro. Balena Etcher is perfect for creating ready-to-go bootable drives. But, It does not provide options for persistence. They still support a wide range of iso images including Windows iso.
UNetBootin (Windows | Linux | Mac)
UNetBootin is another cross-platform alternative to Rufus. It has the option to choose between downloading the latest iso images or choosing your iso file. UNetBootin has a list of supported Linux distributions available on their website.
It also lets you configure extra free space for persistence storage. But, it does not support creating Windows bootable images. UNetBootin also provides command-line utility for power users.
Universal USB Installer (Windows)
Universal USB Installer is a simple tool to put Operating System on a USB drive. It allows setting persistence storage for storing user files even after reboot. It can format fat32 flash drives for a clean installation.
Most other tools generally use the DD command. But Universal USB uses other faster methods to achieve results. With this application, you can claim lost space on the drive after the process is complete. But, this utility does not support adding many distributions to the same drive.
Microsoft’s Media Creation Tool (Windows)
Microsoft created this application for Windows 10 for easy installation of Windows. Media Creation Tool can create installation media of Windows on a USB drive. It supports all editions of Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, and Windows 10 as well.
They even support creating the Chinese Language Edition for Windows 8. Media Creation Tool supports creating bootable drives from verified sources only. So, it will start downloading once the flash process starts. It downloads from official sources only, so no need to worry about file authenticity too. Still, this tool does not support any Linux or Mac OS or any customized Windows editions as of now.
DiskMaker X (Mac)
DiskMaker X is an application built to create a bootable drive of the macOS operating system. DiskMaker X scans and finds the OS X Install program and lets the user start the build process for the image.
Once done, the drive has the macOS installer that you need for complete Mac installation. This application helps you start fresh on your Mac from scratch. Their website tells us that the application supports seven different versions of macOS. DiskMaker X 9 needs at least Mac v10.10 or later. As of now, the application has no plans to support Windows or Linux platforms yet.
Win32 Disk Imager (Windows)
Win32 Disk Imager is a popular tool targeted at the Windows platform. Version 0.9 of the tool can also flash older legacy systems such as Windows XP and Vista.
The latest versions supported by this tool are Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and Ubuntu. Win32 Disk Imager is available for the Windows platform only. Compared to Rufus, it takes longer to create a bootable drive. Win32 Disk Imager also supports UEFI boot support for both NTFS and FAT32 file systems.
Raspberry Pi Imager (Windows | Linux | Mac)
This is the official imager application developed by the Raspberry Pi foundation. Raspberry Pi foundation is well known for its tiny card-sized Single Board Computers. The foundation has released this app on all three Windows, Linux, and Mac platforms. Raspberry Pi Imager supports installing Raspberry PI OS. This OS on SD cards acts as a bootable drive to plug into their raspberry pi hardware. Raspberry Pi OS is Linux operating system built for their product.
Apart from that, it has a list of supported Linux distributions that you can choose from. Image files can either be downloaded online or selected from a disk. Apart from that, it can also install other utilities such as EEPROM recovery or format as FAT32. What’s even better is that it lets you select custom .img files from your PC as a source for bootable drives.
Deepin Bootmaker (Windows | Linux | Mac)
Made by the Deepin Technology Team, this app makes deepin OS boot disks in USB drives. Deepin is a Linux operating system developed in Wuhan, China. It is the most popular Linux distribution across Chinese users.
For users looking to install Deepin, the dev team came up with their utility for flashing USB drives. Deepin Boot Maker is available for all three platforms. It supports installing Deepin OS versions only. You do need to download the Deepin iso first before using this application. Along with this utility, the dev team has worked on other tools such as installer, store, driver manager, and so on. All these tools are verified and shipped within the Deepin ecosystem.
Dd (Linux | Mac)
Perhaps the most powerful tool on this list, dd is a command-line tool for Linux or Mac users. Also known humorously as the short form of “disk destroyer”, dd lets you copy the image of one disk onto the other. Dd works by specifying the input and output drive locations.
It is used for data conversions, wiping block devices, hard disk backup, compression, and block skipping. Dd command is available by default on both Ubuntu and any macOS. To prevent accidental wipes, always verify the correct input and output locations. Also, you should verify the hash integrity of the downloaded iso file as well. This ensures the target disk is not corrupted. Once verified, launch the flash process as follows :
sudo dd if=ubuntu-20.10.1.iso of=/dev/sdb bs=1M status=progress
- Sudo to execute the command as the root user
- If specifies the input file
- Of specifies the location of the target disk
- Bs specifies the largest read and writes size at a time. E.g. 1 MB written as 1M
- status=progress shows the output as of process
YUMI is also known as the successor to the Universal USB Installer. Your Universal Multiboot Installer (YUMI) is a multi-system bootable USB drive creator. It has various usage including boot tools.
It also can install antivirus utilities, disc cloning, diagnostic tools, and penetration testing. It installs boot files within a multiboot folder for easy selection when booted. It comes in two variations,
- YUMI Legacy for BIOS boot for NTFS/Fat32
- YUMI UEFI for UEFI boot for FAT32
Same as Universal USB, it also supports persistence storage setup. Other features include drag-and-drop support, Unlisted ISO support, and Syslinux instead of GRUB.
Ventoy (Windows | Linux)
Ventoy is another open-source tool with large file support. It includes flashing image files of the following format ISO, WIM, IMG, VHD, and EFI. It can target drives including USB, Local Disk, SSD, and SD card. Not only that, but it also has support for UEFI Secure Boot as well as persistence. Tested with over 700 iso files, it can take care of handling many Linux, Windows, ChromeOS, and Unix systems.
Ventoy is available for both Windows and Linux. With Ventoy, it provides the option to copy the files over to the USB drive. This is much better than, say, formatting the disk each time you need a new operating system as bootable.
Available for Windows, Flashboot is a lightweight and low-resource option comparable with Rufus. It is compatible with all versions of Windows from Windows XP through Windows 10. Flashboot can create a bootable version of the above Windows system.
The pro version also has the option to clone the existing setup. Hence, with Flashboot you can also start taking backups of your system. In case of data loss, Flashboot can help you restore your files in Windows.
MultiBoot USB (Windows | Linux)
MultiBoot USB lets you install many Linux distributions on a single USB drive. Released for Windows and Linux platforms, it detects ISO files and starts adding them to the drive. Unlike other alternatives, this app does not format your USB drive during installation.
Another special feature includes testing live boots from the included QEMU emulator. This prevents you from having to restart your system to test the bootable drive. MultiBoot also supports installing bootloaders such as GRUB as well as Syslinux. The uninstall or install of one OS does not impact the others on the same drive.
Easy2Boot (Windows | Linux)
As per their website, Easy2Boot or E2B has had over a million downloads. It supports three menu systems for an easy bootable process
- Easy2Boot is the original E2B solution
- agFM is for Legacy/MBR and UEFI32/UEFI64 boot options with Secure boot bypass
- Ventoy for E2B based on Ventoy
E2B claims more success in booting newer Linux ISO images than other alternatives. When a new Linux comes out, other applications make you wait for an update for bootable support. But with E2B, it can use its algorithm to flash bootable drives better than others. It also supports creating bootable versions of Windows as well as Mac OSX images.
As you now know, there are a lot of Rufus alternatives out there. Some may work as well as Rufus. Others may break or even fail to create a bootable USB drive. Some applications also provide features that Rufus does not have. Omit, your choice of application should depend on what you are trying to achieve. All the boot tools listed above are free with paid editions in some. The choice comes down to which operating system you want to make the bootable drive for.