How To Burn ISO Image To DVD And USB Using dd

As a Linux enthusiast and a distro hopper, I am always checking out new distros or newly released distros I already know about. There are a few handy tools available on Linux for writing ISO images to disks or USBs. Some of these tools include Unetbootin and Etcher amongst others.  

Most of these tools use a GUI that can guide users to easily write their downloaded ISO images to disks or USB storage devices. Then also, there is dd, which is a command line utility that can be used to accomplish the same task from the terminal. So how does one go about using dd to write a downloaded ISO image to a DVD or USB? Let’s take a look at the few steps it takes to accomplish the task.

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To write an ISO image file to a drive involves a few simple steps. Please know that using dd to write an ISO to a disk can be devastating if you are not careful. Even though the steps below are straightforward, I recommend that if you are in any way not comfortable with the terminal, go in for Etcher or Rufus on Windows. Now let’s go ahead and use dd to write to a USB.  

1 – Find out the storage devices already attached to your PC

The first step is to identify the storage devices (apart from your target device) that are already attached to your PC. This is to ensure that you make no error in selecting your target disk as such an error can cause you to lose all your data on your hard disk. Run the following command –

ls /dev/sd* 
burn usb
burn usb

As you can see from the output above, these are the drives that I DO NOT want to write my ISO file to.  

2 – Insert your target USB and locate its location

Now insert your target storage device and rerun the above command –

ls /dev/sd* 
burn usb
burn usb

From the output above, we can see some two new entries /dev/sdb /dev/sdb1 which represent our new device and its only partition. In this case, /dev/sdb represents the target device we wish to write our ISO to.  

3 – Navigate to the location of your source ISO

Now that we know our target device location, we will have to navigate to the folder that contains our source ISO. So we go to Downloads in our case.

burn usb
burn usb

4 – Run dd command to copy files from ISO to disk

The last thing to do is to finally use the dd command to write the ISO image to the target device. Please note that dd will delete all files from your target device. Run the command as below –

sudo dd if=archlinux-2017.iso of=/dev/sdb bs=1024k status=progress
burn usb
burn usb

Depending on the size of the ISO, it is going to take a while for the process to complete. Do not panic as dd does not show any progress feedback so just wait patiently.  


This is a simple tutorial on how to use dd to write an ISO image to a DVD or USB drive. Once again, you can use ImageWriter, Etcher or any other available tool on Linux if you are not comfortable with the Linux terminal. I hope you find it useful. Thanks for reading and kindly share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.


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10 Comments Text
  • Timestamp on your comment says ‘August 5, 2019 at 4:19 pm’, hope this message is really from future.

    • Hi Wolfcut,

      The previous host messed it all up. So yeah it is funny. There are many comments that are from far future, 2021. LOL

  • Hi,
    Can I use dd to replicate the same steps above but instead of formatting the whole disk sdb, use only a single partition sdbx (for example sudo dd if=archlinux-2017.iso of=/dev/sdb1 )
    Because all my USB sticks are fried and all that I’ve got left is an external HDD and I don’t want to format 500GB worth of data…
    Thanks in advance…

    • Yes you can,
      if your disk /dev/sda has multiple partitions they will be named /dev/sda1, /dev/sda2, etc.
      just write one patition name instead of the whole disk name

      • As many folks have probably discovered, the “status=progress” part of the dd script does in fact output the progress of the operation.

  • Thank you so much for this post, short to the point yes and very effective. Five years later and you’re still helping people

  • I know this was written in 2022, however, I am not new to Linux or UNIX OSes, but never had the experience or task to create an ISO file, nor burn/extract an ISO file to media.

    Can I safely surmise the following command:
    “sudo dd if=archlinux-2017.iso of=/dev/sdb bs=1024k status=progress” is for extracting an ISO to a blank DVD-R or CD-R; from command-line?

    This is something I have never tried in my 28 year career as a Linux/Unix admin, believe it or not.

    Thanks for any reply.

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