Netboot: Never Make Another USB Installer for Linux Again

Netboot: Never Make Another USB Installer for Linux Again

Writing Linux distributions to USB disks can be tedious. Formatting that one USB drive over and over can leave dozens of ISO files and USB images littered in your file system. The whole exercise gets tiresome after a while and might even keep you from trying out the latest Linux distributions.

Good news! There’s a fascinating tool available right now for your computer. This tool is attempting to make it so you’ll never have to make another bootable USB installer again. How great is that?

With it, it’s possible to download most popular Linux distributions directly onto your machine. Everything is done with Netboot.xyz‘s own iPXE server and DHCP so you won’t need to touch a thing. Just make a disk, plug it in, select your option and get going.

The installation ISO is about 1 megabyte in size. If you’re intending on making a USB image, head over to this page to read how to write the USB image to a flash drive. Alternatively, Netboot can also be burned to a DVD or CD.

netboot-burning-iso-file

Once you have the disk written to your media of choice, just configure the BIOS on your machine to boot from it. After that, look through the menu and select the operating system or utility you desire.

When the Netboot tool is loaded on your computer, you’ll be able to start using it right away. Using the Up and Down arrow keys on your keyboard, move up and down the menu. After you’ve found the option you’d like to select, just press the Enter key.

netboot-ubuntu-options-menu.

Netboot is very straightforward. Find an operating system or tool you want to use, find it and use it. From there everything is distribution-specific and easy to navigate. For example: if you’ve installed Fedora before, selecting it in Netboot is no different. It’s the same for all other options.

Netboot makes it easy to download a Linux distro right from the BIOS and get going. What operating systems are included? Here’s a detailed list:

  • Arch Linux
  • CentOS
  • CoreOS
  • Debian
  • Fedora
  • FreeBSD
  • Gentoo
  • Kali
  • Mageia
  • OpenBSD
  • OpenSUSE
  • RancherOS
  • Scientific
  • TinyCoreLinux
  • Ubuntu

Along with being able to load each operating system installation image directly from Netboot’s iPXE server, you can access specific rescue options, too. It’s more than just an operating system/utility downloader.

netboot-operatingsystems

For example: If you select Ubuntu from the menu, not only will you get a list of Ubuntu releases to choose from (Currently 12.04 – 15.10), but you’ll get to choose from different options. The options for Ubuntu are “Ubuntu install,” “Ubuntu rescue mode,” “Ubuntu expert mode” and “Ubuntu specify preseed URL.”

Each operating system on this selection list has its own set of options to choose from when selected. This is what makes Netboot stand out from other downloader tools.
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netboot-utilities

Along with installing the mainstream Linux distros, Netboot supports various popular utilities. Here’s a detailed list of all the utilities that come with this tool.

  • AVG Rescue CD
  • Clonezilla
  • DBAN
  • GParted
  • HDT
  • Memtest
  • Partition Wizard
  • Pogostick – Offline Windows Password and Registry Editor
  • Super Grub2 Disk

This is another reason why you’ll never need to create another DVD, CD or live USB device again. Need to clone a hard drive? Netboot has Clonezilla. Grub is broken? Check out the Super Grub2 disk! Memory malfunctioning? Load up the included Memtest. It even comes with HDT (Hardware detection tool). Just about everything you’d ever need to fix your computer – Linux or otherwise – is included in Netboot.

Burning USB images (or even DVD/CD) can be incredibly annoying and time-consuming. Nobody likes downloading big ISO files, going into an imaging tool and waiting ten two twenty minutes for a disk image to be created. Netboot attempts to solve this problem.

Maybe the download can be a little slow sometimes, and maybe it’d be nice if it included some smaller, lesser-known operating systems, but for the most part, it does a great job. Who doesn’t like the ability to boot off a thumb drive and have twenty-four individual options to choose from? It’s a great tool, if you don’t mind trusting everything on Netboot.xyz’s ability to keep a server up and running.

Do you like the idea of a tool like Netboot? Tell us below!

Image Credit: Leawo.org

16 comments

  1. Netboot should be great for the Window Whiners who complain that they are paralyzed by the number of distro choices in Linux. But then even 15 is too many for those coming from the one-choice universe.

    • As a long time (twenty plus years) linux user I would have to say the single thing that has kept it from being a real competitor to windows is the arrogance and holier than thou attitude exhibited by the geeks who don´t understand that some people actually have lives and children and jobs. So you can read and cut and past commands from your browser to your terminal big deal. Linux has come along way, to bad you have not kept up. Get a girlfriend, go sking or hiking. I have a mechanic for a reason. I enjoy driving and convenience.

      • “the single thing that has kept it from being a real competitor to windows is the arrogance and holier than thou attitude exhibited by the geeks”
        Talk about a red herring!!! Do you actually believe this or are you playing devil’s advocate?

        As such a “long time user” you should know that with the advent of such distros as Ubuntu and Mint, terminal use is no longer required of even suggested. CLI is there for those that like to get their hands dirty under the hood but those who enjoy driving can spend their entire Linux career never getting out of GUI.

      • Exactly Darren!
        The biggest complaint I hear from Windows users is that they run into someone like dragonblow-hole in a forum. This isn’t a Windows/Linux thing…this is a ‘tech can be confusing’ thing! I taught IT courses for over 12 years and you have to treat everyone like they are 6 years old and hand hold them through it. I’ve seen the smartest Linux users be completely dumbfounded by Windows and not able to understand it or figure out how to do ABC or XYZ. Everyone and anyone can be totally overwhelmed and Linux is a very confusing and overwhelming world. Geeez, imagine having the desire to give Linux a try only then to have to decide what distro…then when they get past that hurdle and the froum fanboys fighting over which distro is best they have to figure out which environment…Gnome, KDE, Mate, Cinnamon, Xfce. That’s enough to intimidate anyone. Windows users are not going to explore or switch sides any time soon if the Linux community keeps up the snobby ‘we love the smell of our own farts’ mentality that way too many of it’s members have.

        • “Geeez, imagine having the desire to give Linux a try only then to have to decide what distro…then when they get past that hurdle and the froum fanboys fighting over which distro is best they have to figure out which environment…Gnome, KDE, Mate, Cinnamon, Xfce. ”
          You have just proven my point that even 15 distro choices are too much for people who are used to having just one.

          Are you so used to Microsoft’s lack of choice that you develop brain-lock when faced with choosing between competing products in a store? Or do you always buy the same cereal, cut of meat, TV, clothes or razor blades? Do you have problems choosing a car to buy? After all, there SOOO MANY brands and models, then you have to figure out the appearance options, the performance options, the entertainment options. It’s enough to give one a headache. Choosing a Linux distro is like buying a car. All Linux distros have basically the same kernel so all distros will run basically the same. When you come right down to it, just like with cars, all the options (apps, utilities, desktop environments) basically work the same. They just look a little different. A convertible top or an entertainment cluster on a Ford work pretty much the same as those on a Toyota or a Range Rover. Whether you decide on Debian with KDE or Ubuntu with Unity or Fedora with Mate, you will get pretty much the same applications and utilities. Their interfaces may look a little different, they may have different names but they will perform the same tasks. Complaining about too many choices in Linux when you are faced with multiple choices on a daily basis is disingenuous.

          If some people’s unfriendly attitude dissuades you from trying Linux, then by all means stick with Windows where the environment is warm and fuzzy and everybody just loves you to death and M$ sees you only as an income source, not a user or a customer.

          • Arrogant keyboard warriors like dragonblow-hole just can’t learn, which is why they stay arrogant.

  2. Allow me to be a bit of a troll… ;) (Just don’t take it too seriously.)

    First off, I see no connection between formatting USBs, and ISO files littering my file system, but maybe my formatting methods lack substantiality. :D

    Anyway, netboot sounds like a good idea, but it will not save you from “downloading large ISO fies”. In fact it will do just that, so if “nobody likes downloading large ISO files”, nobody will like netboot, will they? :P

    (Well, maybe netboot does not download ISOs, but accesses the software sources directly, in which case we might as well like it. Not sure yet if like …)

    You are quite right, they could (and probably should) include some small distros, or smaller images of the chosen distros, to makes things quicker.

    Now o the point. What I actually wanted to comment is:

    There is another an interesting piece of software, called YUMI installer. It creates multiboot USBs, with so many Linux distros to choose form, it would be a pain to even start writing the list. It can hold all the cloning, antivirus, rescue and installer disks on a single USB. Sure, you’ll need to download them all, and it takes a while to install, but once it’s done, it is quite useful really.

    There is only one strangeness about it: it only runs on Windoze… Yea, I know, a Linux bootmaker that is Windoze exclusive, ironic, isn’t it?

  3. Hi Derrik, unfortunately both links in the “Making the Install” section are dead: “404 File Not Found”. I think the misprint might be that you have written underscores instead of hyphens?

  4. Well, nice article.
    The only thing that I don`t like is the fact that you can not try out the selected OS as if a LiveCD.

  5. Does your tool do dual-boots with Windows? Does it handle the fiendish UEFI Windows 8/8.1/10 dual-boot w/ Linux trick?

  6. Yeah great software.. sit there and wait for it to get the whole iso and installs it…

    Why not go with something like LiveUSB MultiSystem.
    http://liveusb.info/dotclear/index.php?pages/install

    I know that this website is in French but it is really easy to follow the install instuctions and then it is in English or other languages. Add as many Linux iso’s as you like + DOS tools + Windows ISO and it is always with you, where ever you go..

  7. Talk about tedious! Every time you want to or need to re-install, instead of just popping a CD/DVD into the optical drive, you must go through a Netboot download. Does Netboot offer the option of preserving your /home or does it just overwrite everything on the disk? Does Netboot have the capability to create multi-boot drives?

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