DesignSpark Electrical Logo

Innovation for Every Engineer

  • Brought to you by
  • RS Components
  • Allied Electronics
Pete Wood

April 25, 2016 20:00

Why Etcher makes burning images simpler and safer

If you’re anything like me, you probably have a folder on your computer to keep your collection of various different images for things like Raspberry Pi based projects. When you want to make a new SD card with one of your images, dragging and copying the files onto the card won’t work, you need to “DD” them so that the image will write correctly into the file system and you can boot it up.

I can’t seem to find a conclusive answer to what “DD” actually stands for, but its origins appear to come from a Unix command.  Depending on who you talk to, it’s generally referred to as either “Disk Dump”, “Data Definition” or “Duplicate Data” however for some it’s also referred to as “Disk Destroyer” as the “DD” command incorrectly executed can easily wipe out all your data! Answers on a postcard please, or a comment below if you have the answer.

My laptop runs Windows, but I can also dual boot it to run Ubuntu, a Linux based operating system.  Here I can create/burn my Raspberry Pi images at command line level.  However, Linux is not the most user friendly experience for newer users and if you’re not careful, you can wipe your hard drive, so command line DD’ing is not for the faint hearted!

The easiest way to copy and burn images is to use a tool.  There are quite are few free tools out there to choose from for both Windows and Mac platforms. I’ve used a few of them, but I still break out in a cold sweat whilst I triple check that my hard drive is not about to get obliterated!

Then I discovered a new tool, one that means I don’t feel like I’m about to wipeout my universe.


The guys behind Resin.Io, a company involved in Internet of Things based applications that supports a number of single board computers, have developed a simple but safe tool that means I can go easier on the deodorant when I want to burn a new image.

Made with JS, HTML, node.js and Electron, Etcher is a free Open Source application with versions for Windows, Mac and Linux. It has a simple interface, will detect corrupted cards and is hard drive friendly.  The application makes target drive selection obvious, by only looking for external storage devices such as USB sticks and SD Cards, if nothing is plugged in, it prompts you to connect a drive.

titleEtcher is free to download and use, it’s a brilliant little tool that you can use to burn images for your Raspberry Pi or other Single Board Computers.  I’ll be using it for all my image burning tasks in the future.  Nice job guys!

Pete Wood

Geek, Blogger, Gadget Junkie, DesignSpark Team


Roger McMinn

May 10, 2016 13:06

I run OpenSUSE and Kubuntu and the program k3b does a good job of burning images for the Raspberry.


April 26, 2016 00:27

Per Wikipedia (

"The name dd is an allusion to the DD statement found in IBM's Job Control Language (JCL),[3][4] in which the initials stand for "Data Description".[5] The command's syntax resembles the JCL statement more than it does other Unix commands, so the syntax may have been a joke.[3]"

And my own thoughts re: dd

The command fits in a category reminiscent of an earlier time, when computer resources were limited. Symbolic addresses took more resources (code and memory) to interpret and manage, vs physical addresses that took nothing more than conversion from ASCII or EBCDIC to binary to process. Early job control languages and command line utilities could handle a wide range of tasks despite their limited resources, as long as the humans were their to specify and manage the physical addresses. (I can remember being "assigned" space on the school district's shared disk, with my space defined as a given volume, starting track, and number of tracks.) The debug utility with the original PC-DOS / MS-DOS also allowed writing from ram directly to physical disk sectors. It gives you great power when trying to bootstrap the creation of a system (hardware and OS), but also gives you unbridled power to shoot yourself in the foot - or the heart, or brain, so to speak. So it is nice to know of a freely available utility (Etcher) that lets one create images for the Pi, etc, without so much exposure to accidental hazards.