How do I install (NOT live-persistence) an xNIX live-iso onto an sd card? I want it to be able to boot on most machines.

In depth: I've burned a pendrive with parrotsec 4.4 64 bit to install parrot onto the 64GB SD card I have, while having my system drives unplugged (as to not flash EPS onto the existing recovery partition). This failed miserably, even after trying different flashing tools - Etcher which is recommended by Parrot, YUMI, Rufus & UNetbootin - in different modes (auto, DD, ISO) provided by the tools, while also using different partition setups each time (RAW, or pre-formatted FAT32/EXT4) and mixing up MBR/GPT tables with each setup.

Well, it failed booting the sd card pretty much every time with different results: fallback to grub shell, UEFI shell or just a cursor blinking. I think this is ESP/GRUB's fault to some degree, because I'm guessing it wasn't able to find the relevant .efi and I didn't really know how to point it to where it needed (sdx/EFI/boot/.efi?)

  • Also, from my past experience trying to install live OSes on pendrives - or any flash memory that's not an SSD for that matter, its a total PITA, that's the reason I was asking for help in the first place. GRUB goes nuts trying to find the bootloader, UEFI booting is always quirky and BIOS booting works but that's after exhausting me, fiddling with CSM, USB-KEY booting and such. – psecshark Dec 9 '18 at 18:07
  • 2
    First of all, I apologize for the behavior of some of our users here. I don't care if you're new, that doesn't make your questions unwelcome here. And there's nothing in your question indicating that you're playing with things you don't understand. Some of the comments you received were way out of line. That said, your question really is too broad. Could you edit and actually ask a single, specific question? – terdon Dec 10 '18 at 9:19
  • 1
    Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems that you are confusing "install <OS> on <device>" with "burn <ISO> on <device>". In this scenario, you should have at least 2 devices: one where you burn the ISO and another where you install the OS. You can't install an OS on the same device where the ISO resides in, AFAIK. – nxnev Dec 10 '18 at 23:20
  • 2
    Thanks, that seems much better. As for the toxicity, despite what you just went through here, there are actually cases where questions about such OSs are well received here. What we don't like is people who think that pentesting distros are also good choices for watching YouTube or whatever. But yes, I do understand what you mean and it's something we need to work on. – terdon Dec 10 '18 at 23:23
  • 1
    @psecshark, I will download the 64-bit 'security' iso file and try to install it. Please notice the size - Please check that the card/pendrive for the live system is big enough for the iso file (some 4 GB drives are actually 3.7 GiB or smaller). And you will need a fairly big SD card for an installed system, I would guess at least 16 GB. -- It will take some time until I can answer ... – sudodus Dec 11 '18 at 8:04


  • Cloning works well in order to create a live Parrot Security 4.4 64-bit drive. I think that it is a good idea to run Parrot live or persistent live from an external drive (USB pendrive, SD card ...). The drive must be big enough (at least 4 GB).

  • It is difficult but possible to install Parrot into an SD card (at least 16 GB).

  • The graphical installer, that is available via the live system fails for me too as described in the question.

  • Things will be cleaner and easier, if you [can] disconnect your internal drives, and use only the drives involved in this task.

How to install to an external drive (in this case an SD card)

  • Boot into the live Parrot drive
  • In BIOS mode you get a syslinux menu. Select 'Live' at the top of the menu to get a graphical desktop environment
  • Insert the SD card (I did it via a USB adapter).
  • Open a terminal window and run a few commands to prepare the SD card.

    sudo lsblk -fm
    sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdX bs=1M count=1
    sudo -H gparted /dev/sdX
  • The lsblk command will help you identify the target drive, the SD card

  • The dd command will wipe the first mibibyte, which makes the installer more willing to install grub. It is very important to write to the SD card, which means that you must select the correct drive letter (for example a or b replacing X) for the SD card. Otherwise you may destroy important data in some other drive. Things are safer, if you have disconnected all other drives (except the live drive and the SD card).
  • In gparted you can 'see' the drive information. There should be no partition, not even a partition table.
    • create a new MSDOS partition table (via 'Device')
  • Shutdown
  • Remove the SD card

  • Boot from the Parrot live drive again
  • In BIOS mode you get a syslinux menu. Select 'Install' near the bottom of the menu. It will bring you to a text mode installer, the old 'debian installer'.
  • Insert the SD card (I did it via a USB adapter).
  • Select 'Standard Installer' in the next small menu.
  • Select language ... (I will not describe all the steps here).
  • Select 'Guided - use entire disk'
  • Select the device pointing to the SD card ...
  • Install the GRUB boot loader, answer 'Yes'
  • Select the device pointing to the SD card
  • Finish the installation
  • Remove the Parrot live drive
  • Let the computer reboot

Run the installed Parrot from the SD card

  • Reboot and you should be able to boot into your installed Parrot :-)

Fix to improve portability

Let us assume that the computer boots nicely at reboot, with the same drives connected as when you created the Parrot system in the SD card (for example no internal drive connected).

  • There may still be problems when you change which drives are connected (for example that you connect an internal drive). The same problems may occur, when you connect the SD card to another computer with one or more internal drives connected.

  • These problems may be solved by changing the linux line in the menuentries for Parrot in the file grub.cfg, that is used.

    Boot from another drive, for example a live drive.

    sudo lsblk -f             # identify the drive and check the UUID
    sudo mount /dev/sdX /mnt  # mount the drive that contains grub.cfg
    sudo nano /mnt/boot/grub/grub.cfg  # edit grub.cfg

    Look for the menuentry paragraphs for Parrot and each line that begins with linux. Replace the root=/dev/sda1 or similar with a device specification to


    where the string 042cf088-b051-4961-b206-2c223a31dee2 should be replaced with the actual UUID string (probably present in the menuentry, and identified by the lsblk command line.

I edited this in my Toshiba laptop with the SD card connected via a USB adapter as /dev/sda and no internal drive connected. I tested it in the same Toshiba with an internal drive and in my Intel NUC with two other drives connected. The following screenshot is from the Intel NUC and shows that the SD card is connected via the built-in slot as /dev/mmcblk0 and there are two other drives connected. Please notice root=UUID=... in grub.cfg

enter image description here


  • In most computers you can boot into SD cards via USB. Some USB adapters work with some computers, but there is no guarantee, several computers and adapters do not cooperate during the boot process.
  • In some computers you can boot into SD cards via PCI (typical for built in SD slots in laptops). This is not very common, so you should not expect it to work for you.
  • Please notice that the lifetime of an SD card with an installed system can be rather short due to wear because of writing many times to the same memory cells. Cloned live drives are read-only, and not affected at all. Persistent live drives live longer, because there are fewer write operations.

Some commands

Some commands in a terminal window of my installed Parrot test system,

└──╼ $lsb_release -a
No LSB modules are available.
Distributor ID: Parrot
Description:    Parrot 4.4
Release:    4.4
Codename:   stable
└──╼ $sudo lsblk -fm

We trust you have received the usual lecture from the local System
Administrator. It usually boils down to these three things:

    #1) Respect the privacy of others.
    #2) Think before you type.
    #3) With great power comes great responsibility.

[sudo] password for tester: 
sda                                                                 29.7G root  disk  brw-rw----
├─sda1 btrfs        79ad87de-08a8-4623-9afc-7c8b25daa228 /          25.9G root  disk  brw-rw----
├─sda2                                                                 1K root  disk  brw-rw----
└─sda5 swap         dcf02e42-29de-4baa-adc9-febf55e611f8 [SWAP]      3.9G root  disk  brw-rw----
sr0                                                                 1024M root  cdrom brw-rw----
└──╼ $df -h
Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
udev            1.9G     0  1.9G   0% /dev
tmpfs           384M  6.1M  378M   2% /run
/dev/sda1        26G   12G   14G  47% /
tmpfs           1.9G     0  1.9G   0% /dev/shm
tmpfs           5.0M  4.0K  5.0M   1% /run/lock
tmpfs           1.9G     0  1.9G   0% /sys/fs/cgroup
tmpfs           384M   24K  384M   1% /run/user/1000
└──╼ $free -m
              total        used        free      shared  buff/cache   available
Mem:           3831         502        2611          56         718        3048
Swap:          3977           0        3977
└──╼ $uname -a
Linux parrot 4.18.0-parrot10-amd64 #1 SMP Debian 4.18.10-2parrot10 (2018-11-17) x86_64 GNU/Linux
└──╼ $
  • I prayed this would work, unfortunately it didn't. This time all I'm getting is a black screen (no shell at all) - even tried CSM legacy and UEFI modes, but got the same results. I have a custom bootdump USB from work which pointed out no drives were found although I replugged my own drives (which are set up for dual-booting windows 10 and Ubuntu 16.04 LTS) after finishing the installation. -- removing the USB adapter enabled booting as usual -- What do you think about installing in a vm? Should I give it a go? – psecshark Dec 12 '18 at 0:56
  • 1
    Alternative A is to: 1. Create a Lubuntu 18.04.1 LTS (64-bit) boot drive and an 8 GiB partition in the SD card; 2. Install Parrot into the free space outside those 8 GiB (and let it fail with the bootloader); 3. Install Lubuntu into the 8 GiB partition. It should find Parrot and make a menuentry for it (in Lubuntu's grub menu); 4. Reboot and you should be able to boot into Parrot. – sudodus Dec 12 '18 at 6:53
  • Alternative B is to use Parrot live (or if you can make it, persistent live). I think this is how many people use it. – sudodus Dec 12 '18 at 6:55
  • 1
    Alternative C is installing Parrot in a virtual machine. I am not sure if it will be able to do everything that it can do, when booted directly into the computer hardware. Maybe. – sudodus Dec 12 '18 at 6:56
  • 1
    @psecshark, I added a paragraph to the answer with a fix to improve portability. It works for me. Please check if it will help you. – sudodus Dec 12 '18 at 14:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.