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Creation of bootable USB with ISO for RHEL7

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Red Hat provides boot media as ISO images, which you can use to boot your systems from. We will create a custom ISO image, which will allow us to boot a system in a similar way.

Let's create an ISO that you can mount as virtual media, write a CD-ROM, or even use dd to write the contents on a USB stick/disk through the following steps:

  1. Install the required packages to create ISO9660 images, as follows:
    yum install -y genisoimage
  2. Mount the RHEL 7 DVD's ISO image by executing the following command:
    mount -o loop /path/to/rhel-server-7.0-x86_64-dvd.iso /mnt
  3. Copy the required files for the custom ISO from the RHEL 7 media via the following commands:
    mkdir -p /root/iso
    cp -r /mnt/isolinux /root/iso
    umount /mnt
  4. Now, unmount the RHEL 7 DVD's ISO image by running the following:
    umount /mnt
  5. Next, remove  the isolinux.cfg file using the following command:
    rm -f /root/iso/isolinux/isolinux.cfg
  6. Create a new isolinux.cfg file, as follows:
    default vesamenu.c32
    timeout 600
    display boot.msg
    menu clear
    menu background splash.png
    menu title Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.0
    menu vshift 8
    menu rows 18
    menu margin 8
    menu helpmsgrow 15
    menu tabmsgrow 13
    menu color sel 0 #ffffffff #00000000 none
    menu color title 0 #ffcc000000 #00000000 none
    menu color tabmsg 0 #84cc0000 #00000000 none
    menu color hotsel 0 #84cc0000 #00000000 none
    menu color hotkey 0 #ffffffff #00000000 none
    menu color cmdmark 0 #84b8ffff #00000000 none
    menu color cmdline 0 #ffffffff #00000000 none
    label linux
      menu label ^Install Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.0
      kernel vmlinuz
      append initrd=initrd.img ks= text
    label local
      menu label Boot from ^local drive
      localboot 0xffff
    menu end
  7. Now, create the ISO by executing the following command:
    cd /root/iso
    # mkisofs -o ../boot.iso -b isolinux/isolinux.bin -c isolinux/ -no-emul-boot -boot-load-size 4 -boot-info-table -J -r .

    More information on the options used with the mkisofs command can be found in the man pages for mkisofs(1).

Making USB Media

  1. Connect a USB flash drive to the system and execute the dmesg command. A log detailing all recent events will be displayed. At the bottom of this log, you will see a set of messages caused by the USB flash drive you just connected. It will look like a set of lines similar to the following:
     [ 170.171135] sd 5:0:0:0: [sdb] Attached SCSI removable disk
    Note the name of the connected device - in the above example, it is sdb.
  2. Log in as root:
     $ su -
    Provide your root password when prompted.
  3. Make sure that the device is not mounted. First, use the findmnt device command and the device name you found in the earlier steps. For example, if the device name is sdb, use the following command:
     # findmnt /dev/sdb
    If the command displays no output, you can proceed with the next step. However, if the command does provide output, it means that the device was automatically mounted and you must unmount it before proceeding. A sample output will look similar to the following:
     # findmnt /dev/sdb 
    /mnt/iso /dev/sdb iso9660 ro,relatime
    Note the TARGET column. Next, use the umount target command to unmount the device:
     # umount /mnt/iso
  4. Use the dd command to write the installation ISO image directly to the USB device:
     # dd if=/path/to/image.iso of=/dev/device bs=blocksize
    Replace /path/to/image.iso with the full path to the ISO image file you downloaded, device with the device name as reported by the dmesg command earlier, and blocksize with a reasonable block size (for example, 512k) to speed up the writing process. The bs parameter is optional, but it can speed up the process considerably.


    Make sure to specify the output as the device name (for example, /dev/sda), not as a name of a partition on the device (for example, /dev/sda1).

    For example, if the ISO image is located in /home/testuser/Downloads/rhel-server-7.1x86_64-boot.iso and the detected device name is sdb, the command will look like the following:

     # dd if=/home/testuser/Downloads/rhel-server-7.1x86_64-boot.iso of=/dev/sdb bs=512k
  5. Wait for dd to finish writing the image to the device. Note that no progress bar is displayed; the data transfer is finished when the # prompt appears again. After the prompt is displayed, log out from the root account and unplug the USB drive.
The USB drive is now ready to be used as a boot device.

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