Installing SystemRescue on a USB memory stick


This page explains how to install SystemRescue on a USB stick. All data on the memory stick will be deleted so make sure it does not contain any important data.

You need a recent SystemRescue, and a USB stick with enough capacity. You should use a 2GB memory stick or anything larger. You will have to get your firmware (BIOS/UEFI) to boot from the USB device before it attempts to boot from the local disk. This can be configured either in the firmware settings or by pressing a key at boot time.

This page describes multiple approaches available for installing such a USB stick. You just need to follow the method you prefer. In any case you need to start by download SystemRescueCd-6.1.8 (or more recent) from the download page.

If you are running Windows on your computer the recommended installation program is rufus as it is easy to use and supports both UEFI and Legacy-BIOS booting methods.

  • Download rufus and install it on Windows
  • Plug in your USB-stick and wait a few seconds to allow enough time for the system to detect it
  • Execute Rufus and select the USB stick in the drop-down list
  • Select the SystemRescue ISO image that you have downloaded
  • Select ‘MBR’ partition scheme as it will be compatible with both BIOS and UEFI
  • Select ‘BIOS or UEFI’ in target to get the best compatibility
  • Check the ‘volume label’ is correct as it must be set to SYSRCDXYZ (cf below)
  • Select FAT32 filesystem as the UEFI boot process only works from FAT filesystems
  • Click on the start button and wait until the operation is complete

In the previous steps SYSRCDXYZ refers to the version number, eg: SYSRCD618 for SystemRescueCd-6.1.8. Rufus should automatically use the label which was set on the ISO filesystem and hence it should set this label automatically on the USB device. You should not have to change it but you should make sure the label is correct as this is required for the device to start properly. What matters is that the label matches the value passed to the archisolabel boot option in the boot loader configuration files on the device (grubsrcd.cfg and sysresccd_sys.cfg) so files can be found at the time the system starts from the USB device.

The recommended tool for installing SystemRescue to a memory stick on Linux is usbimager as it does the job well, it is very compact, and it comes with minimal dependencies. This program can be downloaded and executed without installation. The archive can be extracted using unzip and the program must be run via sudo so it can write to the memory stick device. This program is very simple to use as you just need to select the ISO image and the destination removable device using the graphical interface.

Alternative USB installation method on Linux using Fedora Media Writer

An alternative approach is to use Fedora Media Writer if you want to install SystemRescue to a memory stick using Linux. It will produce a USB stick which is bootable for both a Legacy BIOS and in UEFI node.

  • Install flatpak using the official package from your Linux distribution (dnf, apt, pacman, etc)
  • Install Fedora Media Writer using flatpak as documented on flathub
  • Plug in your USB stick and wait a few seconds to allow enough time for the system to detect it
  • Execute Fedora Media Writer and select custom image from the first menu
  • Select the ISO image that you have previously downloaded
  • Select the USB stick where you want to install SystemRescue
  • Click on the button to start the installation and wait for it to complete.

Alternative USB installation method on Linux using DD

This approach only requires the dd command to copy the ISO image file to the USB device. Make sure you use the right device with dd as the operation is destructive if you write to the wrong device.

  • Plug in your USB stick and wait a few seconds to allow enough time for the system to detect it
  • Unmount the USB stick if auto-mount is enabled or if it was already mounted
  • Run lsblk in a terminal to identify the device name for your USB device
  • Run sudo dd if=/path/to/systemrescuecd-x.y.z.iso of=/dev/sdx status=progress where /dev/sdx is the USB stick

Manual USB installation method on Linux for booting in UEFI mode

Follow this method is you want to boot the USB device in UEFI mode. The idea is to create a FAT32 partition on the device where the firmware will find Grub. For the UEFI firmware to use this partition as the EFI filesystem is must have the right flags in the partition table. The USB device can have additional partitions.

  • Create a msdos disklabel on the USB device using a tool such as parted or gparted
  • Create a FAT32 partition with at least 2GB on the USB device and set SYSRCDXYZ as the filesystem label
  • Set the boot and lba flags on the FAT32 partition using a tool such as parted or GParted
  • Copy all files from the ISO image to the FAT32 partition from a terminal with both devices mounted

In the previous steps SYSRCDXYZ refers to the version number, eg: SYSRCD618 for SystemRescueCd-6.1.8.

After you have followed these steps you should check the contents of both /boot/grub/grubsrcd.cfg and /sysresccd/boot/syslinux/sysresccd_sys.cfg on the USB device has the right value for the archisolabel boot option. The label passed to this option needs to match the label of the FAT32 filesystem on the USB device so it can find the SystemRescue files during the boot time. A mismatch will cause a boot failure.


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