Installing Ubuntu Mate on an USB stick

I have got a lot of trouble upon trying to install Ubuntu Mate on an USB stick using a Macbook Pro 2014.
I do not want to install it on its hard disk and do not want to run a live CD on USB, but a full bootable ext4 system.
I downloaded 22-04 LTS Mate and first got a live CD on USB. :face_with_raised_eyebrow:
From there I plugged a second USB stick and ran the install procedure from the live CD on the 1st USB.
The install procedure gave only the choice to install "along Windows (sic)" or to take over the full disk.
I had to use "something else", chosing to format the USB drive dev/sdd/, installing Linux on /dev/sdd/ and installing the grub on dev/sdd/boot/.
After the installation, the USB drive dev/sdd/ was not bootable.
The installation did install grub on my harddisk "what I absolutely wanted to avoid"
and the USB drive dev/sdd/ was created without boot flag, and without the indispensable EFI partition, so being useless.
Even grub was unconfigured, unable to start anything from USB drive dev/sdd/.

So now how can I remove grub from my harddisk?
What is the correct method to get Ubuntu Mate fully installed and bootable on an USB stick?
Thank you for your advice.

  1. Boot from you USB Ubuntu live on your MacBook Pro.
  2. Run the Disks application.
  3. Mount the EFI partition on you MacBook Pro hard drive (SSD).
  4. Delete Boot and Ubuntu folders there.
  5. Done.

I think you forgot something important, device where to boot the bootloader, you should have put it on the usb stick,

I always have ubuntu Mate installed on a micro sd card,



No, I did it really.
I wrote /dev/sdb/boot in the field for the bootloader manually.
(probably the /boot folder was too much)
But the install procedure did not issue any warning and installed it on the HD nevertheless.
Could it be that it only works if the field is populated automatically?

[quote="antialias, post:3, topic:26640, full:true"]

Sorry, that is not what I wanted.
This procedure makes a stick with a CD file system, slow and inefficient.
I need a system with ext4 on a stick.

I don't know why, but my UBUNTU Mate 22.04 live system can't mount nor modify FAT32 file systems, e.g that one of the EFI partition !

That should explain why the installation always fails.

I think you should not put .......... /boot, you look at the picture that is marked in green but not in any of its partitions, then to make the installation of MATE the grub is placed in the boot, before the first partition,
to use usb on other devices put a fat 32 partition and is valid for many devices

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I have done a new installation with grub on /dev/sdc (my USB stick)
It boots, but gets stuck at

Busybox V1.30.1 (Ubuntu 1:1.30.1-7ubuntu3) built-in shell (ash)
Enter help for a list of built-in commands.

But I can't enter anything.
Has anyone got a clue?

Hi, @Laszlo

I haven't tried it myself, but I believe the following step-by-step tutorial in the "It's FOSS" web site may help you ("How to Install Ubuntu Linux on an External USB Drive to Make an Actual, Portable Linux System on USB"):

I hope that helps :slight_smile:


Thank you @ricmarques
This seems to be the solution to all my numerous failed attempts.
One must remove the boot and esp flags of the hard drive.

That explained why every installation failed and grub was written without my permission and without any warning to the Windows partition.
The developers of the installer routine should at least issue a warning message!

It is too late now to test again and I will resume my attempts in a few days, but I will report my progress.


I do not know if I have tried with Windows efi, but the best option is to boot the PC or laptop is to press F-12 at startup and wait for the menu to put you the option to boot from the usb, be careful not to have any other usb disk connected.


I am on a Macbook.
Normally I start with alt depressed and get the different boot options.
Currently (I did not yet install with the ESP flag removed) I can only chose between macOS and Windows.
When I chose Windows, I get into GRUB and can chose between Windows and Ubuntu.
It's not nice but at least I can start what I need.

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