Etcher: a simple app to create bootable media

etcher logo

Many know about projects like Unetbootin, Rufus, etc., but maybe they don't know as much  Etcher. However, it is one of the simplest projects that you can find to create your own bootable or bootable media with the operating system that you prefer from its image.

You can use different media, such as USB flash drives, external hard drives, and even SD cards to make bootable media for your Raspberry Pi. Its versatility together with its performance and simplicity mean that you cannot ask for much more from an app with these characteristics.

What does it mean to create a bootable or bootable media?

USB Raw Gadget

Create medium bootable or bootable It is a very common procedure for all those who want to install an operating system for the first time, if you use an SBC board like the Raspberry Pi to equip it with a system, or to create a system to boot in Live mode of your distro or GNU system / Favorite Linux.

Bootable media can be created from an image of the operating system. Usually they can be ISO images, although there are also systems that come in binary images like IMG, etc. Some projects may even come compressed or packed in ZIP, etc. This disparity causes problems in many programs to create bootable media, but it is not the case with Etcher as you will see later.

Regarding the destination environment in which it is generated the middle startable, it can also be of various kinds. In general, they can be optical media (CD, DVD, BD, ...), USB memories such as pen drives and hard drives, and also memory cards such as SD used in SBC boards. In the past, floppy disks and other media were also used.

Be that as it may, the ultimate goal is to create a medium that be able to self-execute when starting the machine where the medium is inserted and thus allow the firmware identify a bootable system, generally operating systems or installation systems thereof.

For firmware, BIOS or UEFI The computer you are using can recognize the boot media, generally it must have a partition table and a suitable format. Generally, the format that is most commonly used is FAT32 for removable media and ISO9660 for optical media.

Usually these means you will use them both to run Live modes, as well as to install an operating system for the first time (Windows, macOS, GNU / Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, OpenELEC, RISC OS, ...) on a computer, format the disk and reinstall a copy from scratch , etc.

What does Etcher do?

Etcher graphical interface

Basically does everything automatically, that is, use an ISO image, IMG, and even files with a ZIP extension and other types, to generate the bootable or bootable system in the medium of your choice. You will only have to limit yourself to having the medium in which you want to create it ready and download the system image.

The Etcher project

Balena is the developer behind this powerful and simple software. They have created this Etcher and have been improving it since it first appeared when it was still called before 2018.

Etcher is free, open source, free under Apache 2.0 license and cross-platform (compatible with Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS, and your favorite GNU / Linux distros). A complete implementation to go from image files to storage media in the blink of an eye with virtually no hassle.

Its creators are adding functionalities and improvements to the project. At the moment you can find interesting technical characteristics that make it stand out above other alternatives:

  • Auto-detection of the media on which the operating system image will be mounted, so you don't have to select it yourself.
  • Security against hard drive selection. Many programs do not have it and you may accidentally choose a hard drive from your computer and end up deleting important data.
  • Automation for burning. Once the media creation process starts, it allows you to create several copies at the end to have several bootable or bootable media. This is ideal if you are dedicated to education or for companies, where several equal media are needed for different teams.
  • They will also add new media and features in the near future, such as support for creating media with storage persistence, which is very practical for Linux distros in Live mode so that data and settings can be saved and not deleted when removing the media. This is already achieved by other alternative apps by implementing a separate partition on which writing is allowed on the bootable media.

Use Etcher step by step

For use EtcherYou just have to follow a few steps that cannot be simpler even for those who do not have computer skills. That is why it is interesting for those people who can make a mess with other programs or who do not know how to configure certain functions that they allow.

El step by step procedure is:

  1. Download balenaEtcher since official website. For your GNU / Linux distro, you have a universal AppImage-type package, so the installation is very simple regardless of the distro you have. You just have to double click on the downloaded icon to run it and start the process.
  2. Once you have installed it, you can run Etcher. You will see that its graphical interface is very simple, even compared to other simple alternatives.
  3. In its GUI you will find three steps that will guide you to get your bootable media ready:
    1. First select the ISO image, IMG, ZIP, etc., that you have downloaded from the operating system or software that you want to make bootable.
    2. Select the type of media you have chosen, be it a USB flash drive, a removable hard drive, or an SD card.
    3. Now the medium is flashed, that is, it is going to be cleaned, generate the appropriate format, copy all the files that the image contains and prepare the medium for booting.
    4. Wait for the process to finish and for Etcher to notify you. At the end it allows you to choose between finishing or making more copies identical to the one you just completed.
  4. Now it's ready the bootable media that you can use wherever you need ...

I hope this Etcher tutorial has helped you, and if you did not know it, you are encouraged to try it ...

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  1.   Rosana said

    The article has been very interesting to me, only that I have been wanting to know more and I have investigated on my own.

    I have found a very complete guide on etcher in in case someone helps :)

    - Rosana