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How to Create and Boot From a Linux USB Drive on Mac

Linux has long been synonymous with bootable flash drives, whether it’s to fix some sort of problem with your primary operating system, or for trying various distros.

There are a few ways to create an Ubuntu (or other Linux) bootable USB drive for Mac. You can go the freeware route for an easy option, or put a little bit of time into creating the drive yourself using Terminal. Let’s look at both methods.

First: Prepare Your USB Drive

When you’re looking to create a bootable Linux USB drive on a Mac, the first step is to make sure you’ve got the right USB drive for the job, and that it’s formatted correctly to avoid any problems.

Some Linux variants may require larger volumes, so pay attention to the requirements when downloading. Generally speaking, anything above 4GB will do the job. Others don’t have any strict requirements, but formatting to FAT beforehand is a good idea regardless.

Warning: Everything on your drive will be erased when you do this!

  1. Insert your USB drive into your Mac and launch Disk Utility (under Applications > Utilities, or search for it using Spotlight with Cmd + Space).
  2. Select your USB device in the menu on the left, then click Erase.
  3. Give it a name and choose MS-DOS (FAT) under Format and GUID Partition Map under Scheme.
  4. Hit Erase to apply the changes. If it fails, try again—sometimes the system doesn’t unmount the volume in time and the process will be unable to complete.

Mac Disk Utility format

If you have persistent problems, try another USB drive. Now download a Linux distro to install on your USB stick, and you’re ready to get started.

Make a Bootable Linux USB Drive With Etcher

balenaEtcher is a free open source tool for burning disc images onto USB and SD drives. It makes creating bootable devices completely foolproof:

  1. Grab your desired Linux image, then download Etcher and install it.
  2. Insert your USB stick, then launch Etcher.
  3. Click Select image and find the Linux image you downloaded—Etcher supports IMG, ISO, and ZIP, among others.
  4. Ensure the correct USB device is selected—hit Change to see a list of connected devices.
  5. Finalize the process by clicking Flash and wait for the process to complete.

etcher bootable linux usb drive

You’ll likely see an error message warning that your USB drive isn’t compatible with your Mac. That’s normal—simply eject and go. Your bootable Linux USB drive is now ready; you can now skip to the Booting Your USB Drive section below.

Create a Live USB Using the Terminal

If for some reason you don’t want to use Etcher (maybe you’re on an incompatible version of macOS), you can accomplish this task using the command line. It’s possible using Terminal, your Mac’s built-in command line interface.

While this method requires a little more thought and patience, it’s actually pretty straightforward. You might even learn something new, plus you’ll feel smart afterwards. Assuming you’ve formatted your drive per the earlier instructions, here’s how it works:

1. Convert Your ISO

Launch Terminal and take note of where your Linux disc image is stored in Finder. Convert your image (usually an ISO) to an IMG file using the hdiutil convert command:

hdiutil convert [/path/to/downloaded.iso] -format UDRW -o [/path/to/newimage]

Replace [/path/to/downloaded.iso] with the location of your own ISO (you can drag and drop directly into the Terminal window if you want) and [/path/to/newimage] to wherever you want the new image file to be created.

convert iso to dmg

Note: Modern versions of macOS will automatically create a .DMG file. If your version doesn’t do this, try appending IMG to the end of your new image file name, such as [/path/to/newimage.img]

2. Write the Image to USB

Next, you’ll need to identify your drive’s mounted location so you can tell the Mac which drive to use. With Terminal open, use the following command to list all connected drives:

diskutil list

set up external drive

You’ll likely be able to identify the drive by its name, format, and size using a process of elimination. Take a note of the listing under the IDENTIFIER column, then unmount the drive using the following command:

diskutil unmountDisk /dev/[diskX]

You’ll need to replace [diskX] with the corresponding number, like disk3—if successful, Terminal will report that the disk was unmounted. If you’re having trouble unmounting a drive, you can launch Disk Utility, right-click on a drive, then choose Unmount (don’t eject the drive, though).

unmount drive mac

The final step is to write the image to your USB stick, using the dd command:

sudo dd if=[/path/to/newimage.dmg] of=/dev/[diskN] bs=1m

Replace [/path/to/newimage.dmg] with the path to the file created in the first step (again, drag and drop works best), and [diskN] with the location identified earlier. You’ll need to authorize with your administrator password immediately afterwards, since you used the sudo command.

install linux on usb drive mac

You’re now done, and your drive is ready for booting.

Booting Your USB Drive

Assuming all went well, you’ll now have a USB drive that will let you boot into Linux. Plug it into the Mac you want to use it on, then shut down the computer.

In order to access your Mac’s boot menu, you’ll need to hold the Option (Alt) key while it boots. The best way to do this is to shut down, hold the Option key, start your Mac, and wait. If you did it correctly, you’ll see a few options including your built-in hard drive and the USB device created earlier, titled EFI Boot.

Mac choose boot disk

To boot into Linux, select the USB device and click the arrow (or double-click it). Depending on what you’re using, you may get another menu which acts as a bootloader for your particular flavor of Linux.

Linux boot menu

If you have problems, or your USB drive won’t show up, try running the process again, using an alternative method above, running off a different USB stick or port, or consulting your respective distro’s help documentation.

The Best Way to Try Linux on Your Mac

Assuming all went well, you now have Linux running on your Mac and you can test it out or install it outright if you’re tired of macOS. You still have an Apple recovery partition which is accessible by holding Cmd + R while your machine boots. This can help you reinstall macOS (or apply other fixes) if you decide to go back.

Ubuntu running on a MacBook Air

There are other tools that claim to help you do this, but not all of them work, and some cost money. Unetbootin is still a popular choice for Linux and Windows users, but is not as good as Etcher on a Mac (and has some issues on newer versions of macOS).

There’s also our old favorite Mac Linux USB Loader, which is open source and actively maintained. It’ll cost you $5 for a pre-compiled binary, assuming you don’t want to download Xcode and compile it yourself. This low entry fee helps keep the project maintained, but it’s hard to justify paying for something when there are perfectly good free alternatives.

For more, check out how to install macOS from a USB flash drive. And if you’d prefer to install Linux on your internal drive, our guide on how to dual-boot Linux on your Mac is your essential next read.

Read the full article: How to Create and Boot From a Linux USB Drive on Mac


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How to Connect Any Phone or Tablet to Your TV Using USB

Connecting a phone to your TV isn’t as simple as you might think. Whether you want to enjoy Netflix, share photos, or use it for home working, hooking up a cable between your phone and TV can be tricky.

But it’s not impossible—it’s all a matter of selecting the right cable.

Here’s what you need to know about how to connect an Android or iOS phone or tablet to a TV using a USB cable.

Why Use USB to Connect Phones, Tablets, and TVs?

With the ease and prevalence of casting to mirror a phone screen wirelessly, you might be curious why you should use a USB to TV connection for your phone.

If you hook a phone to your TV with a hardwired connection, you benefit from a low-latency signal. For instance, if you plan to mirror your phone to a television for gaming, you’ll want a USB connection rather than a wireless configuration. This vastly reduces lag.

Plus, for situations where you lack Wi-Fi or have a weak wireless signal, you’ll need a wired connection instead.

To connect your phone or tablet to a TV, you can use one of the following methods:

  • Android:
    • USB-C cable with DisplayPort
    • USB cable with MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link)
    • USB cable with SlimPort
  • iPhone/iPad
    • Lightning cable (iPhone and iPad)

Which option you use depends on your specific device and operating system. Although all methods are similar, the process differs for connecting an iPhone versus an Android device.

Similarly, your connection method varies depending on your needs. Simply viewing photos on a compatible television requires your charging cable and mobile device. But for screen mirroring, you’ll need a USB adapter.

How to Connect Android Phones and Tablets to TVs With USB

You have two options for connecting Android phones and tablets to your TV:

  1. USB-C cable with DisplayPort support
  2. USB cable with MHL
  3. USB cable with Slimport

We’ll look at each below.

1. Connect Your Phone to a HDMI TV Using USB Type-C

The most recent Android smartphones feature a USB Type-C port. Also known as USB-C, this is a cylinder-shaped input that replaces micro-USB and is used for charging and data transfer.

Including support for the DisplayPort standard, USB-C can be used to mirror your phone or tablet’s display to a TV.

Simply connect the USB-C cable to Android, then connect this to a suitable docking station or USB-C to HDMI adaptor.

USB C HUB Adapter USB C HUB Adapter Buy Now On Amazon $23.99

2. Connecting Phone to TV Using USB With MHL

MHL is one of the most common solutions for connecting a phone to a HDMI TV with a micro-USB cable. This technology allows MHL-compatible devices such as smartphones and tablets to connect to televisions and projectors.

You can browse a list of MHL-enabled devices on the official MHL website.

To use Mobile High-Definition Link, you will need

  • MHL-enabled phone
  • USB to HDMI MHL adapter or cable
  • HDMI cable
  • Power cable

Although this is the general setup, the specific cable you’ll need varies. Google MHL cable [your device name] to find a list of compatible cables.

For a USB to TV connection using MHL, first hook up your phone via an MHL adapter. The adapter will require power either from a USB port on the cable or an external source.

Although MHL initially required a power connection, MHL 2.0 makes this non-essential. Still, since MHL does draw power from the mobile device, it’s wise to connect a power cable.

Next, connect your phone to your television with the MHL cable. After that, you should see your phone screen on your TV; it’s plug-and-play.

Overall, Mobile High-Definition Link is one of the best solutions for connecting an Android phone to a TV using a USB cable.

3. Connecting Phone to TV Using USB SlimPort

If you have an older phone, you might connect your phone to a TV with a SlimPort cable. While similar to MHL, SlimPort offers different outputs, but uses the micro-USB connection.

Whereas MHL is limited to HDMI, SlimPort outputs to HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort, and VGA. This makes it better suited to a variety of displays, including older monitors and TVs with no digital inputs.

Unlike MHL, SlimPort does not draw power from mobile devices.

You’ll need the following to connect a phone to your TV using a SlimPort adapter:

Begin by plugging the SlimPort adapter into your phone. Then, attach the SlimPort adapter to your display using the proper cable. You should then be able to view your phone’s screen on a TV. Like MHL, it’s plug-and-play.

Can You Connect an iPhone or iPad to TV With USB?

As iPhones and iPads don’t have USB, you can’t use this as a connection method. But you can connect them to a TV using a cable.

If you own an iPhone 5 or newer, it will have a Lightning connector. To connect your iPhone to a TV you’ll need the Lightning digital AV adapter for HDMI outputs, or the Lightning to VGA adapter if you have a VGA display. Buy the cable that fits your TV.

Older iOS devices with the old 30-pin port instead use the 30-pin VGA adapter.

You can connect an iPad to your TV through the same means. Again, you’ll most likely need a Lightning cable for this. Only the iPad 3 and earlier use a 30-pin cable. All other iPads, including every iPad Mini and iPad Pro, use a Lightning cable.

Once you’ve plugged in your adapter, simply hook up the video output to your display. Then, your phone screen will mirror to the TV. Apple’s official Lightning adapters contain an additional Lightning port for charging while viewing content on a second screen.

USB to TV: Connecting as a Storage Device

While the most common use case for connecting a phone to a TV using USB is for screen mirroring, there’s another option. Instead of screen mirroring, you can also simply view files like pictures on a TV.

However, this will require a compatible monitor, TV, or projector. Most modern displays should accept USB storage.

Of the various USB to TV connection options, this is the easiest. Since it only requires a phone, USB cable, and TV with a USB input, it’s simple to set up. Which specific cable you need depends on your phone.

On an iPhone or iPad, use a Lightning cable (or 30-pin for older devices). Alternately, Android users need a micro-USB or USB-C cable. The USB cable that came with your phone or tablet should work fine.

USB to TV: Connecting to View Photos

Modern Android devices don’t support USB Mass Storage, so your TV won’t view your device as a true external drive.

This assumes that your TV or monitor features a USB input capable of displaying files from a connected storage device.

Simply connect your cable to your phone, then to the TV. With the standard USB end of the cable connected to your display, change the input on your TV to USB.

On Android, it’s likely you’ll need to change your USB settings to Transfer files or Transfer photos (PTP). To do this, drag down your notifications from the top of the screen when connected. In the menu, tap the USB is charging this device notification to change it.

Note that this doesn’t work with all TVs. In some cases, the USB ports are purely for firmware updates.

Use Samsung DeX to Connect Your Samsung Phone to a TV

Among the most popular Android devices available, you’ll find Samsung flagship handsets. These feature connectivity with televisions and monitors. For pure screen mirroring, you’ll need a USB-C to HDMI cable.

To connect a Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+/Note 8 and later to your TV, merely hook up a USB-C to HDMI adapter. Plug the USB-C male into the USB-C charging port on your Samsung Galaxy device. Then run the HDMI cable into your TV.

QGeeM USB C to HDMI Adapter QGeeM USB C to HDMI Adapter Buy Now On Amazon $15.99

However, Samsung Galaxy S8, S9, and Note 8/9 devices also include DeX. Bridging the gap between mobile and desktop, DeX offers a desktop experience run from your handset. You can run all the same Android apps, however, access your phone’s gallery, and basically get everything on the big screen

Use Samsung DeX to get Android apps on a big display

Since this is proprietary technology, the method for connecting a DeX-enabled Samsung phone to a TV differs from standard hookups.

For the entire Galaxy S8 and Note 8 line up, as well as S9 and S9+, you’ll need a dock to use DeX.

However, the Note 9 doesn’t require a dock. Instead, the Note 9 enters DeX mode with merely a USB-C to HDMI cable. That’s far more useful than a dedicated dock.

If using a dock, you will also need a power cable for powering the dock and charging your device. To find out more, see our guide to using DeX to turn your phone or tablet into a computer.

Connect Phones, Tablets, and TVs With USB: Success!

While a USB to TV connection varies by device, connection type, and display inputs, it’s thankfully simple to set up. However, don’t forget that wireless casting is usually more convenient.

Regardless of whether you’re using an Android, iPhone, or a Samsung device running DeX, there’s a way to connect your phone or tablet to a TV for viewing on a larger screen.

For more, check out our master list of ways to cast your screen.

Read the full article: How to Connect Any Phone or Tablet to Your TV Using USB


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Running Linux From a USB Drive: Are You Doing It Right?

You’ve probably heard about previewing and installing Linux from USB drives, but did you know that you can also save your data between uses or even run a full permanent Linux installation on a USB stick? This can have massive benefits for your productivity, especially if you’re a remote worker, or cannot afford your own PC.

In short, we’re talking about turning Linux into the ultimate ultra-portable platform: running Linux from a USB flash device. Here are your three options for carrying Linux in your pocket. Find out which method is best for you.

Choose the Right USB Stick

Before you get started, it’s worth considering buying a new USB stick. Older USB sticks have already had their lifespan reduced considerably, and as flash has a finite number of read/write cycles, a fresh stick of flash makes sense. Something affordable with a handy amount of storage space would be the best flash drive for a bootable version of Linux.

SanDisk Ultra 32GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive SanDisk Ultra 32GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive Buy Now On Amazon $8.99

Also, you should consider the hardware you’ll be connecting the USB flash drive to. Does it support USB 3.0? If so, you’ll enjoy considerable speed (and other) advantages over old-fashioned USB 2.0.

To check if the destination computer has USB 3.0, look at its USB ports. If they have blue plastic in them rather than black, that’s a good visual clue. Not all USB 3.0 ports use this shorthand, however, so look up the specs of the PC. On Windows, you can check the Device Manager.

Write a Live ISO to USB

balenaEtcher tool for flashing ISO to a flash drive

It has become really easy to take an ISO image of your favorite Linux distribution and write it to any appropriately sized USB drive. From there, you can boot up a Linux system on any computer that supports booting from USB media. There are plenty of tools that can burn an ISO for you, and this method is compatible with virtually every Linux distribution out there.

One option is balenaEtcher, a free and open source tool available for Linux, macOS, and Windows. While burning an ISO isn’t as complicated as it sounds, Etcher is about as simple as it gets.

However, the downside to this approach is that you’ll lose all of your data as soon as you shut down or restart the computer you’re working on. As a Live environment, all data is kept in RAM and none of it is written to the USB drive; therefore, none of it is saved when the system turns off.

If you’d like to keep a customized Linux environment in your pocket, this isn’t what you want. However, if you’re wanting to use the drive as a way to perform secure communications (think banking, or any activities that require the use of TOR) and ensure that no sensitive information is stored anywhere, this is definitely the way to go.

Download: balenaEtcher

Enable Persistent Data

mkusb tool to create boot drives from ISO files

Depending on your distro, you may have the option to enable persistent data on your USB drive. This is great: it lets you write a relatively compact ISO file to boot from, and you can actually keep your extra installed applications and saved documents.

To make this work, you will need a compatible program to perform the installation. One option is Rufus, a Windows app that supports creating live Linux USB sticks with persistent storage. If you’re already on Linux, you might try mkusb instead. The tool will run on Ubuntu and Debian-based distros, plus some others.

Having persistent data is ideal if you use a large variety of systems with the USB drive, as the live environment will detect what hardware is available every time it boots. So the advantage in this scenario is that you can save your stuff, use up less drive space, and have maximum support for whatever hardware you plug into.

The downsides: you automatically boot into the live user account, which isn’t password protected. Also, you have to be careful with software updates, as newer kernels could break the bootloader.

Download: Rufus for Windows

Download: mkusb for Linux

Do A Full Install to USB

Ubuntu installer

Lastly, you can choose to do a full install onto the USB drive. You’ll have to use a disc or another USB drive for the installation media, but this method literally lets you have a full Linux system in your pocket—one that is as flexible as any other traditional installation.

The advantages are pretty obvious: you get your own system setup just the way you like it, right in your pocket. But there are still a few downsides.

First, you’ll need a larger USB drive for this type of installation. Granted, that’s not as much of an issue as it used to be. If your only option is an old drive lying around, 8GB is feasible. But with 128GB and 256GB drives having drastically dropped in price, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to run Linux on a flash drive comparable in size to an SSD.

Second, as the system thinks it’s installed normally, it will tend to make changes that are ideal for the hardware you’re currently working with, but not necessarily hardware you’ll encounter in the future.

This primarily concerns the use of proprietary drivers. For maximum compatibility, don’t use them. The open drivers are plenty good for most uses.

Linux Loves USB

Surprised? You shouldn’t be! Linux has always been very flexible, so that it can meet all sorts of needs. And the fact that there are no licenses involved means that running Linux on a USB stick is rather simple to do, unlike Windows and macOS.

Now that you know what your options are, it should be very easy to decide which solution is best for your needs. Or, now that you’re aware of your options, maybe it’s not so easy.

To help you with your choice of distro, we have rounded up the best Linux distros to install on a USB stick. By the way, you can also run Chrome OS from a USB drive!

Read the full article: Running Linux From a USB Drive: Are You Doing It Right?


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What Is a USB Hub? 3 Reasons Why You Need One

Many gadgets in our daily lives need a USB connection in some way or another, and a USB hub is useful for keeping everything organized. But what is a USB hub, and should you get one?

Let’s explore the uses of a USB hub and why you might—or might not—want one.

What Is a USB Hub?

Full USB hub plugged into a laptop
Image Credit: Mirage3/Depositphotos

A USB hub is a handy way of adding additional USB ports to a setup. They’re the USB version of a regular plug extension lead, converting a single USB socket into a hub of them. You plug it into your computer, then use the additional ports to use mice, keyboards, and other USB devices all from a single port.

Much like extension leads, USB hubs also have limitations. You can’t load too many power-hungry devices onto it, else difficulties arise. However, if you want to use a keyboard, mouse, and a phone charger on one USB port, a hub can achieve this.

Reasons Why You Might Need a USB Hub

Now that we’ve explored what a USB hub is used for, let’s explore some use-cases where you might want to grab one.

1. You Want to Increase the Number of USB Ports on a Laptop

While there are some laptops out there that come with a bunch of USB ports, many only have two. This restrictive number of ports really isn’t great in our current USB-saturated landscape. If you use a USB keyboard and mouse, you don’t have any spare ports to charge devices, hook up an external hard drive, or connect a printer.

Of course, this may be fine depending on what you do with your laptop. If you’re always on the move and you don’t need a mouse or a keyboard, you won’t have this problem. Maybe you’ll just need to charge your iPad and use an external hard drive or a two-factor authentication key.

However, if you use a laptop as your primary computer, or regularly do more than just sending emails and writing while you travel, a small USB hub might be a really useful tool.

2. You Want to Charge a Multitude of Devices on One Port

A USB hub is great for charging a number of different devices at once. While unpowered USB hubs need to be plugged into your computer to do that, powered hubs instead use the mains. This lets you charge as many devices as you like, regardless of if your computer is on or not.

USB hubs are the perfect companion for someone with lots of power-hungry USB devices. From phones to tablets to desk gadgets, a USB hub can meet the needs of any gadget that needs USB power. It’s also convenient that you don’t need to hunt for a spare mains plug; just plug everything into the same hub.

3. You Want to Move a Lot of Data Between USB Devices

This is one of the rarer kinds of USB hub uses, but it’s still very valid. If you find yourself in the situation of needing to move a lot of data between a bunch of different devices, a USB hub can be very useful.

If you want to back up photos from your computer, tether your mobile phone to use cellular data on your PC, download images from your camera, print some documents, and upload music to your iPad, a high-quality USB hub can help you do all of that at the same time.

Again, this admittedly isn’t a common situation for most people, and it would only warrant a USB hub if it happens on a regular basis. However, if you do find yourself moving data like this a lot, investing in a USB hub is going to make your life easier.

Reasons Why You Might Not Need a USB Hub

USB hubs are useful, but they’re not for everyone. There are instances where you’re better off saving your money or taking a different approach to solving the problem.

1. Don’t Get a Hub If You’re All Wireless

A lot of devices have made the move to wireless connections. You can now find Bluetooth-enabled keyboards and mice, while printers, scanners, and external hard drives can live on your Wi-Fi network. While there are some good arguments against using Bluetooth devices, wireless connections are very convenient.

As such, if you hate wires and plugs and want everything to connect wirelessly, you may not need a USB hub. If you’re only using your USB ports for two-factor authentication keys or memory sticks, a hub may be overkill for your use case.

2. Don’t Get a Hub If You Have Extra Ports Hiding on Your Hardware

Many monitors now come with USB ports for connecting and powering devices. If you can use an HDMI port to connect it to your computer, you’ll be getting a port or two (or more) without taking up any of the USB space that’s provided by your computer.

Routers often have a number of USB ports as well, and these can be used to connect some devices. This works best when you’re connecting something you don’t need to access very often or if your router is close to your computer, so it might not work for everyone. Despite this, it’s another good option.

3. Don’t Get a Hub If Something Else Can Do a Better Job

Imagine you have two plug sockets next to your bed. Your USB charging plug uses one socket, and a bedside lamp uses the other. You want your phone and your fitness tracker by your bed, so you can quickly grab them in the morning. However, you want to charge both devices overnight on one socket without swapping the cable.

While a USB hub can help, a USB mains adapter is even more useful. These adapters are like a USB hub, except they also have a standard plug socket on them. In the above example, you can purchase a USB adapter with two USB ports on it. That way, a single plug socket can accommodate the lamp, phone, and fitness tracker at the same time. Some even have surge protection built-in to protect your devices from electrical spikes.

A power strip with additional USB plugs
Image Credit: denisds/Depositphotos

If you want to dream bigger, you can even get plug extenders with USB plugs installed on them. This makes for a great balance between your USB devices and your household appliances; just be sure not to overload it!

You can also get plug socket wall fittings with USB ports built-in. If you want to do some home renovating and need more USB ports, this is a great way to expand your charging options.

Getting the Most Out Of Your USB Ports

Technology enthusiasts and gadget fans need as many USB sockets as they can muster, but some computers and laptops have a fairly low number of them. If you’re always unplugging devices to make room for others, the USB hub is a fantastic companion. Still, they’re not perfect; in some situations, there are solutions that work better for you.

If you want to make the best use out of your USB ports, why not check out these uses for a USB stick you didn’t know about?

Read the full article: What Is a USB Hub? 3 Reasons Why You Need One