Write Multiple Linux Images Onto a Thumbdrive With Multisystem

Written by Jesse Afolabi

USB creator tools are the essential when it comes to experiencing varying distributions in a live system without the stress of burning an image onto a compact disc. Previously we covered the three best GUI-enabled tools for your Linux PC but then, none of those applications had the functionality of writing multiple images onto a single USB.

Multisystem is that tool that will enable to write more than a few Linux images onto a single USB drive and it’s especially useful for folks looking to try out multiple Linux distros without having them installed on an actual PC – the only limit to the use of the tool is the size of your thumb drive.

Installing Multisystem in Linux

There are two ways to running Multisystem on your Linux PC; first off, you can download the Multisystem script which can be run from the terminal.

$ sudo ./

Alternatively, you can add the PPA to your system sources so as to ease updates when they’re available.

$ sudo apt-add-repository 'deb all main'
$ wget -q -O - | sudo apt-key add -
$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt install multisystem
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Once installed, go to your dash and type in multisystem (if you’re on Ubuntu) or your app menu for any other distribution. Once Multisystem is up and running, insert your USB flash drive and mount it in your file manager after which you’ll go back to the app and confirm the installation of Grub2 on the pendrive.

multisystem USB drive

multisystem USB drive

grub2 confirmation

grub2 confirmation

The image below is the follow-up screen you’ll see once you’ve confirmed the installation of Grub2 on your USB drive. At this point, you can now drag and drop Linux images from your file manager to the smallest rectangle after the third demarcation.

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Alternatively, you can use the little CD icon to locate the directory at which your image file is present.

multisystem installed distros

multisystem installed distros

multisystem copying iso

multisystem copying iso

multisystem about

multisystem about

The little program is open source, intuitive, and extremely extensive in functionality. Asides being able to install multiple Linux distributions onto a USB drive, Multisystem will also enable you to customize your Grub2 menu, drag and drop iso images from your file manager to the app, and an alternative boot manager called Plop.  Multisystem utilizes Grub2 as for its boot selection screen.

In, my test, i used a 16GB Kingston USB 2.0 drive and i managed to install a whopping 10 Linux distributions on the drive and Windows 7/8 – all of which booted just fine on a Lenovo core i3 Thinkpad that i used as my test system.

I was, however, unable to try it out with a USB 3.0 drive as i recently lost the only one i had. if you ever get to use it with a USB 3.0 drive, be sure to let us know how well it fared in the comments below.

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About the author

Jesse Afolabi

Jesse is that tech enthusiast you never heard of...he's mainly into things relating to Linux and Android and has an unending passion for both platforms which is why he writes about them.

  • Paul Bucalo

    Error every time I pick an ISO, stating that there is an illegal character in the file name. It’s a false error that no amount of name changing will remove. Ideas?

    • Jesse Afolabi

      what file manager are you using? have you tried drag and drop instead? Also, did you download the script file or used the ppa we provided in the article?

      • Paul Bucalo

        Thunar 1.6.3/Linux Lite 2.8.x. Drag-n-drop doesn’t work. Tried from Thunar and from Desktop. Installed from PPA.

        • Jesse Afolabi


          • Paul Bucalo

            Dependency issues with nemo, so it won’t install–noted issue with Xubuntu 14.04.

            Removed PPA and purged app. Downloaded script and installed via script. Same problem.

            Appreciate the help, but not going any further with this. Thanks.

          • Jesse Afolabi

            i reported the issue….let’s hope it gets fixed.

  • Francois Fabre

    Just Gnome/Kde/Unity support Drag And Drop, Xfce/Lxde wont support this mode

    Use Right clic copy on your iso file, and paste on drop zone
    or use button at left or right to the drop zone

    for “an illegal character”
    paste here total link of your iso file stored
    multisysten wont support space ” ‘ on the iso file including folders
    sorry for my bad English …

    • Paul Bucalo

      Not surprised Thunar isn’t supported.

      Have to try copy/paste.

      Not being able to tolerate spaces in folders is a bummer. I tried in my home directory, so I know that’s not it.

      Thanks, @francoisfabre:disqus.

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