Creating a multiboot USB stick with MultiBootUSB and MultiSystem


To use MultiSystem, download the latest ISO image and burn it to a CD or DVD. You can also write the image to a USB flash drive (e.g., using MultiBootUSB), but then you have to pay attention to selecting the correct USB stick later on.

Next, plug in the USB stick and launch the MultiSystem Live system. In the boot screen, press F2 as quickly as possible to set the language to English – unless you prefer to have a French desktop – then press Enter. Ubuntu now boots up and automatically launches MultiSystem (Figure 2). In the window, start by pressing Update, which tells the program to fetch its own updates.

Figure 2: The MultiSystem Live CD is based on Ubuntu 12.04; it automatically runs MultiSystem upon booting.

Now, check to see whether the USB drive appears in the list in the lower part of the window. If it doesn't, stop MultiSystem by selecting Cancel. Unplug the stick and plug it in again. Ubuntu should automatically mount it after a few seconds and present its contents in a new window. Close this window and start MultiSystem by pressing its icon in the starter on the left side of the screen.

In the MultiSystem window, select your USB stick from the list. After clicking Confirm, MultiSystem will want to install the GRUB2 boot manager on the USB stick. Let it go ahead, but before you click OK make sure the device file actually belongs to your chosen USB stick. It now takes a while for the main window of MultiSystem to appear (Figure 3).

Figure 3: The main window in MultiSystem often provides several ways to trigger an action or function.

Slice by Slice

If the USB stick contains data, you can delete it in the Menus tab. After clicking on Format your USB key MultiSystem again shows you the device file for the stick. You can start to delete by pressing Confirm.

A word of caution: This process deletes all data on the stick. MultiSystem even deletes all the partitions and creates a single new one using the FAT32 filesystem. Once the text message appears that tells you formatting was successful, close the text window. Next, unplug the USB stick and plug it in again, then close the file manager and start MultiSystem by clicking on its icon again.

To populate the stick, first make sure you are in the MS tab as shown in Figure 3. At the bottom, click on the CD icon (left in the input box) and search for the first ISO image that you want MultiSystem to write to the stick.

Immediately after you make your choice, the tool will start its work; it logs its activities in the main window as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: While MultiSystem is busy working, it switches its main window to text mode and logs all its actions there.

If MultiSystem does not support a Live system, an error message appears. Exactly the same message is served up if the ISO image is faulty. If MultiSystem rejects your ISO image, you should thus initially check for errors.

To add all your other distributions of choice, you follow the same steps. You can also drag the image files and drop them into the white box using the file manager. If there is enough space on the stick and you are looking for more ideas, go to the Menus tab and press Download LiveCDs. MultiSystem now presents a list of numerous interesting Live systems. Double-clicking on one of the distributions will open the download page in the browser.

Be sure to close the list by pressing by pressing the button that sends you back to the main window: The other button terminates MultiSystem. In principle, your stick is now ready.


All the distributions located on the stick appear in the list at the top (Figure 3).

If you click on the eyeball to the left of a distribution, MultiSystem offers you a few more interesting features (Figure 5). For example, clicking the button with the red circle and the slash deletes the currently selected distribution from the stick.

Figure 5: MultiSystem reveals the meaning of a button when you mouse over it.

The up and down arrow icons move the distribution within the list, changing the order of distributions in the boot menu. So, every click means a wait of a few seconds while MultiSystem updates the appropriate settings on the stick. If you will be using the USB stick in an older computer, you might need to set a few boot options (e.g., acpi=off to turn off power management).

To save yourself some work, you can define these parameters with MultiSystem by first selecting the appropriate distribution in the list and then clicking on the pencil icon. In the new window, select the distribution at the top. In the lower pane, MultiSystem shows you frequently used parameters that you only need to check. You can type any other parameters in the input box.

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