- BalenaEtcher (alias Etcher): Burn OS image to a USB drive - Fri, May 26 2023
Many other software products on the market perform the same function, but the real novelty of BalenaEtcher is the development of low-level software, such as writing to block devices, with a framework developed for web technologies. The programming language used is TypeScript in combination with the Electron framework, which was also used to create Teams, Visual Studio Code, and other well-known products.
Download and install Etcher
Before we begin, some general advice: always make sure that the software you download and install comes from a reliable source. BalenaEtcher is available on many unofficial websites, many of which offer only fake versions that could contain malware.
The download size is 151 MB, a significant size due to the integrated Electron framework. For comparison, the alternative tool, Rufus, has a size of 1.5 MB, 100 times smaller.
Etcher's installation process is straightforward: just one click to approve the license, and the application installs and starts automatically within a few seconds.
The application does not install in the usual Programs directory, but in the user profile directory (C:\Users\<UserProfileName>\AppData\Local\Programs\balena-etcher) to avoid requesting administrative privileges during installation.
The graphical interface is clean and tidy. There are two icons in the top-right corner. A click on the question mark opens a nonexistent web page, but the program is so easy to use that it doesn't require any particular help.
The gear icon opens a setup page, which includes the buttons needed to control the shipment of anonymous usage statistics, automatic updates, and the trimming function to reduce unallocated space when copying EXT partition types.
To test the tool, I chose to write the ISO image of the latest stable distribution of the Linux Debian operating system onto a USB key. To start the writing process, insert a USB key, click the Flash from file button, and select the ISO to be written.
Then, click Select target to choose the destination (you can also select more than one). If there is only one external device connected (in our case, the USB drive), it will be preselected; otherwise, we will have to choose which one to use.
Now the software is ready. To start the writing process, just click the Flash button. You will receive a UAC popup from Windows asking you to authorize the Windows command processor to run a batch file.
If you deny permission, the writing process will fail. The request for elevated administrative privileges is quite debatable, as is the use of batch files. You will have to trust that the execution will not damage your computer.
After a few minutes of waiting and a verification step of the transferred image, the writing process is completed. Now, you can release the USB drive and test the burned OS image.
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The main advantage of Etcher is that it is an easy-to-use tool for burning OS images. The fact that you can select multiple destinations is a plus. However, the required disk space is significantly higher compared to similar tools. In forums, you will find many discussions about unresolved bugs, and the requirement for administrative privileges is problematic. Overall, BalenaEtcher does its job. However, more feature-rich OS flashing tools exist that allow you to burn less common OS image formats.