Install Linux Without Burning An ISO To CD/DVD - Use The ISO Downloaded To Your Hard Drive

I have written this complete article on my blog also: I am describing here a method to install Linux without using a DVD ROM or CD Drive; I have checked it myself. There are many ways to do so you can install Linux by 1) booting from the network; 2) having an ISO image on your hard disk; 3) booting from USB; 4) installing a linux system from scratch by building your own.

I am assuming that Linux is not installed on your system and neither grub or lilo is there. This method is using an OpenSuse 10.2 Image but is same for Fedora or Debian or any other distro. There is one check point in case you used Nero to copy CD or DVD image then it might have been possible that you copied the image and it is file with dot nrg extension in that case you need to get the ISO from NRG.

I have installed by all the above methods but I am describing here the simplest one since there are many new comers who would not be able to understand other methods. Before doing all this make sure:

  1. that you have enabled the option of viewing file extensions in View Options of folder view.
  2. If you use Fedora or any other distribution do not use the NTFS partition to store the image although OpenSuse 10.2 can work from NTFS partition I have done it using NTFS partition only but will not suggest you to do the same.
  3. Most important do not install Linux on the same partition on which you have the ISO from which you are installing everything since it will format that hard disk that holds the image you are using.

There is an image named openSUSE-10.2-GM-DVD-i386.iso which you would have downloaded rename it to suse.iso (not necessary to do so but will make your life simple).

Similarly for any other linux distro you might have an image of fedora or debian etc. rename it to some simple filename. The image is 3.6 GB then download the grub for dos from:

Before someone reads the following lines I want to inform you while you install winzip or winrar by default they are associated with ISO filetype so you may see your downloaded ISO as an icon that says it can be extracted via Winrar; just go and disable this in options tab from Winrar menu; if you want to burn the ISO directly to CS just go to Nero and select burn image to disk and select the ISO; you do not need to make it a bootable CD or DVD.

Extract the downloaded grub4dos using winzip or winrar, you will get a folder name grub - copy it to C drive then create a folder name boot in C drive of your windows partition (C drive is not necessary but makes life simple ). Now copy grldr from grub to C:

Add the line

C:grldr="Start Linux" 

to your boot.ini (even if I have mentioned the README there says it all). Now different distributions of Linux have different kernel names like:

Fedora: vmlinuz and initrd.img

Suse: linux and initrd

Mandriva: vmlinuz and all.rdz

Ubuntu: vmlinuz and initrd.gz

Gentoo: gentoo and gentoo.igz

Knoppix: vmlinuz and initrd.img

Slackware: bzImage and initrd.img

Debian: vmlinuz and initrd.gz

Use winrar to navigate the ISO image. You will go inside the folder named boot or whereever the kernel is in your CD or DVD ISO (I took OpenSuse 10.2; inside the installation media there was a boot folder; inside it was a loader - path is openSUSE-10.2-GM-DVD-i386.isobooti386loader - that had kernel image named linux and the initrd named initrd; both are needed). Copy the kernel images vmlinuz and initrd.gz which you see with winrar in your ISO archive from your ISO to the folder boot on the C drive. Both files vmlinuz and initrd are required for any linux system to boot.

You can use winrar or 7 zip or something similar to view files and extract only two files rather than extracting whole ISO. Then you don't need to do anything - just restart the computer and you will get a screen that says:

Microsoft Windows XP

Start Linux

Choose the option Start Linux then go to grub. You will find an entry that says command prompt. Use command prompt because even after making changes as said in README sometimes it did not work. Press enter to select the command prompt option; you will get a grub shell showing something like this:

grub >

Now type on grub prompt (grub>). Note you do not need to type grub > - it is already there on your screen; if not you made some mistake. In my case it was suse so:

grub >kernel (hd0,0)/boot/linux

grub >initrd (hd0,0)/boot/initrd

grub >boot

If you are using some other distribution then above commands will change like this:

grub >kernel (hd0,0)/boot/vmlinuz (depending upon your kernel name)

grub >initrd (hd0,0)/boot/initrd.gz (depending upon your initrd name)

grub >boot

Press enter then. Now the kernel will load and will ask you to choose the medium to boot from; choose the medium hard disk. It might give some error - just ignore it. If it asks to hit back button, do it. Then choose the medium etc and then choose the hard disk partition to boot from. Then it will ask for the file name - enter suse.iso in the partition where you have it, then press enter. If you did everything right, installation will start. If you messed up then probably you might get an error like boot.catalog not found or some other error like this. Installation starts - it might display some error messages; just ignore them and press enter or hit the back button. Then choose your language and keyboard, then choose the installation medium - it gives three options:

CD Network Hard disk

Choose the hard disk and then from the hard disk choose the correct partition where you copied the 3.6 GB suse.iso. Do not format the same partition on which the image is. By looking at the above procedure do not get confused by the network installation procedure which is quite different from the normal ones.

You can read the complete method of network booting and PXE intallation on my blog.

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By: Gal Frishman

Nice. On a total different subject but related, you can also use grub4dos' ability to load iso images to make a standard usb disk-on-key multibootable quite easily.

I wrote about it here.

By: deckoff

I second it, but some distros will not behave themselves if your method is used, so manual preparation is needed. Open SUSE fails to boot if the iso is directly mapped 

By: Anonymous

Easy2Boot is a new way to use grub4dos to boot almost any linux liveCD ISO - all you do is copy over any ISO to the USB bootable grub4dos drive and then boot it!

 You don't need to write a menu or know the special cheat codes.

By: FixItAgainTony

Another ISO image burning software program for Windows is [email protected] ISO Burner.  It's free to download from, and works with most CD/DVD burners.  I've used it for several ISO files, both CD and DVD images, and it works well.  (Not that it's a problem, but I recommend to always be sure to "verify" after a burn!)


why not use unetbootin. It's easy.


Seconded.  Easiest method by far is unetbootin.

By: deckoff

My BIOS id quite buggy and will boot only form DOS-formatted and bootable USB. Unetbooin (GRUB2) USB will fail to boot. This is why I have to use grub4dos to chainload the GRUB USB or use it to boot the disto.

The article sheds some light on the process of manually preparing your USB, which is important in such buggy cases :)

 The knowledge is used to prepare yourself a multi-bootable USB (also handy ;)

By: macias

"I am assuming that Linux is not installed on your system and neither grub or lilo is there. " But you are assuming the user has Windows installed as base system, right? It would be useful to state this clearly because I am lost with two first steps -- what folder view and what ntfs? The whole text seems like written in a great hurry.

By: Anonymous

You can also boot it up from your USB drive if your BIOS supports booting from attached devices.

By: Anonymous

Hi all,

I am not able to get grub> prompt after reboot after following options

Microsoft Windows XP

Start Linux

i have followed all the nessary steps.

Pls Hlp,



By: Anonymous

I had the same problem, the reason is this line from the guide :

C:grldr="Start Linux"

It should be :

C:\grldr="Start Linux"

In fact in his blog link :

The line is right, with the "/".

By: Anonymous

I tried it but it could not help. please try it by urself at first. U waste my time.

By: Kr0nZ


I use this method to boot multi-boot iso's from my usb, but never thought of doing it straight from my HD.


By: nitrofurano

and how can we use rEFInd instead of Grub?

By: shykot

this link should be deleted.

the winzip file is now a exe and methods have changed.

By: saddaki

You don't mention that it it does'nt work with non pae system for all distrib. I will try LMDE-2 because my CD decvice not working nor usb ports on my Dell Latitude X300 with xp OS . Moreover I have a Netgear PC card for internet connection impossible to configure after starting the option net...The only solution is harddisk... Cross fingers... Thanks a lot anyway .  Rgds