Etcher.io

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There are hundreds if not thousands of tools for writing images to storage devices. The list keeps growing by the day. Some of these tools have been around for quite a long time, while others have gone into total extinction simply because they didn’t do the job well.
Etcher is yet another powerful image flashing tool developed by resin.io, a huge facilitator of IoT using Linux containers.

Why the need for another image flashing tool?

The simple task of flashing an iso to a storage device may take several minutes with some image writers. Even worse, there is little or no guarantee that the process will be successful. With some tools, the writing process may stop—painfully—halfway through or even at 98%. Other tools will successfully flash the image, but you will soon realize it didn’t really work due to disk corruption during the flashing process.

Moreover, some image writers are not cross-platform; therefore, you have to resort to using different tools on different platforms. This is especially not fun for those who work with IoT devices. A truly cross-platform tool is the only remedy.

In addition, some existing tools have complex interfaces. This makes the process of flashing dangerous as a little mistake may lead to destroying a storage device. Unfortunately for newbies, this almost renders tools like this useless.

Etcher to the rescue

The challenges of using existing image writers led the resin.io team to develop Etcher. The tool was developed with Electron, HTML, Node.js, and JavaScript. It is, unsurprisingly, open-source, completely free, and cross-platform, working on every platform Electron supports (Windows, Linux, and macOS). A big advantage it has over other tools is its quality support for SD cards.

Etcher makes flashing images far easier and safer. This is all it takes: Select the image file (iso, img, zip, bin, sdcard, etc.), select the appropriate destination disk, and click Flash. Etcher does the rest!

When selecting the flash destination, the tool lists the available drives appropriately to prevent you from accidentally wiping important data. The flashing is also validated to ensure you don’t waste time writing to corrupt storage drives. Etcher allows you to flash to the internal disk, but this is disabled by default as it is potentially dangerous, so be cautious when you enable this feature.

The team behind Etcher is not stopping there. Several useful features are scheduled for release. They include simultaneous writing for multiple devices, and a significant increase in flashing rate. You should check out the roadmap on GitHub for planned upcoming features.

There are several installation methods. The installer and portable versions are available for both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows. Mac users have a .dmg file available. And Linux users can download the AppImage for both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. If you are looking for a DEB file, a .rpm file, or any other installation method, check out this GitHub page.

If you’d like to use Etcher via the command line, you’ll need to install the Etcher CLI. The download site has the installer for the various platforms. The CLI version has only a few command options to run with the etcher command:

For instance, to flash to a /dev/sdb2, run:

is the path to the image you want to flash.

Disclaimer: The Etcher CLI is experimental. You need to be extra careful when using it.

Final thoughts

Etcher has proven itself as the go-to tool for image writing. Simple and easy to use, the tool ensures you have a working disk after flashing. And (importantly) it is fast. Happy “Etching!”

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Bruno is a junior at Ashesi University College studying Computer Science. He is interested in leveraging the power of technology to increase productivity. As a big fan of open source technology, he is currently exploring the possibility of using the Bitcoin Blockchain to fight corruption in government.


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