How to Turn an MP3 Player into a Linux Bootable Drive

I have a couple old MP3 players kicking around and have always wanted to try this. A lot of MP3 players are just USB flash drives with the brains to play music from the files stored on them.

You can open the MP3 player up in Windows Explorer and music files are usually stored in the root of the device or in a folder called “Music”. Simply adding songs or removing them manually is usually easier than trying to do it in Media Player or iTunes.

So, what I did is take one of these:

Copied all the information that was on the MP3 player to a backup folder on my PC (in case things went bad). Downloaded Ubuntu 11, and it’s USB installer and loaded Ubuntu onto it:

I then rebooted my PC, selected “boot from USB drive” from the Boot menu and got this:

Finally I copied the music files back to the MP3 player, ejected it from the PC, plugged my headphones in and it played music like a champ. Now, I have an MP3 player and a bootable USB drive.

I was thinking of installing Backtrack 5 on it and making it into a inconspicuous looking penetration testing platform, but the MP3 player just did not have enough free space.

Pretty cool, just a note of caution though, this may not work on every mp3 player. Only try it on one that you can risk ruining.

4 thoughts on “How to Turn an MP3 Player into a Linux Bootable Drive”

  1. Pingback: Twitted by _m0th3r
  2. Hi, excellent article.

    I have done everything mentioned but there seems to be a bit of the puzzle missing (I think).

    Once Linux is on the MP3 player and you can boot up with it … where then do you put your music so it can be heard ‘off-line’ through your headphones.

    Do you need a separate partition, and if so what format? And what happens when you put the MP3 player into a windows machine? Ideally you want to just see the folder where your music will go.

    Any ideas.


    1. Thanks Brian,

      It depends on the player. On some, it is in the root of the device, on others I have seen it in a folder called “music”.

      Mine worked with a single Fat32 partition. On this particular one, when I plugged it into my windows machine before I installed Linux, all the music showed up in the main folder of the device. I could copy mp3’s back and forth directly without using a program like iTunes or Windows Media Player.

      Hope this helps some.


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