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GNU xorriso-dd-target 1.5.4

Table of Contents

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xorriso-dd-target 1.5.4

xorriso-dd-target - Device evaluator and disk image copier for GNU/Linux

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1 Overview

xorriso-dd-target evaluates block devices of the Linux kernel whether they are suitable targets for a disk image file and optionally copies the image file to one of them.
It is specialized on the device names of the Linux kernel and uses the capabilities of util-linux program lsblk. Therefore it refuses to run on non-Linux kernels.

The main purpose of xorriso-dd-target is to inspect the device files of disk-like storage media and to judge whether they look like removable devices with disposable content.
If a single plausible candidate is detected, then the program is willing to copy a disk image file onto it. This will overwrite or make inaccessible the previous partition table and all previous data content of the target device.
Superuser power is often needed for filesystem type identification, for possible unmounting, and for possible image writing. Option -with_sudo offers a way to gain this power only for those tasks and to run the program elsewise with a normal user’s power.
If a particular disk image file is intended as copy source, then its path should be given by option -image_file, so that its size can be used as decision criterion.

Following are use case descriptions with examples:

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2 List plain device names

The most simple and most boring use case is a program run without device names and without options -list_all, -plug_test, -DO_WRITE, -dummy_force. It prints on standard output (stdout) only the names of advisable devices without "/dev/" prefix. One name per line and without any reasoning text.
The possible sudo password prompt, the message line about sudo, and the empty line after it do not go to stdout.
$ xorriso-dd-target -with_sudo
Testing sudo to possibly get password prompting done now:
[sudo] password for thomas:
sudo /bin/lsblk seems ok.


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3 List all devices with reasoning

For the more curious user, there is option -list_all which prints the evaluation of each disk-like device that is listed by program lsblk. Optical drives, floppy disks, RAM block devices, loop devices are excluded, though.
Each device is shown by one line of the form
name : advice : reasoning : info
name is the device name without "/dev/" prefix.
advice is either "YES" or "NO". "YES" indicates that the device appears to be pluggable disk-like, not used as system disk or sincere data storage, and - if tested - of sufficient or plausible size.
reasoning is a blank separated list of words with either suffix ’+’ for an inviting device property or ’-’ for a prohibitive property. Normally a single ’-’ reason disqualifies the device from being advisable. Only if option -look_for_iso is given, a reason "has_XYZ-" can be overridden by the presence of an ISO 9660 filesystem on the device.
info is composed from VENDOR and MODEL as told by lsblk.
Option -list_long causes with each line an additional listing of the information provided by lsblk which led to the shown reasons.
$ xorriso-dd-target -with_sudo -list_all
sda : NO : not_usb- has_vfat+ has_ext4- : ATA Samsung SSD 850
sdb : NO : not_usb- has_swap- has_ext4- : ATA WDC WD20EFRX-68A
sdc : YES : usb+ has_iso9660+ has_vfat+ : Intenso Ultra Line
sdd : NO : usb+ has_iso9660+ has_vfat+ has_ext2- : SanDisk Cruzer

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4 Evaluate particular given devices

If device names are given instead of option -list_all, then only these devices are inspected. Their result gets listed without the ": info" part, unless option -with_vendor_model is given.
Device names must not begin by ’-’ and must be single words composed of the characters [A-za-z0-9_/-]. They should not contain ’/’. E.g. ’sdc’ is valid, ’/dev/sdc’ is not valid.
If one of the given device names gets not advised, the exit value is 1.
It makes few sense to give device names which are not listed by -list_all.
$ xorriso-dd-target -with_sudo sdc
sdc : YES : usb+ has_iso9660+ has_vfat+
$ xorriso-dd-target -with_sudo -with_vendor_model sdc
sdc : YES : usb+ has_iso9660+ has_vfat+ : Intenso Ultra Line
$ xorriso-dd-target sdc
sdc : NO : usb+ no_fs_while_not_su-

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5 Detect intended device by plugging

Option -plug_test triggers an interactive method to unambiguously determine the intended target device candidate. It consists of 2 or 3 steps.
Step 1 is to have the intended storage device unplugged and to confirm this by pressing the Enter key at the program’s prompt. The program will then assess the list of not wanted devices.
Step 2 is to plug in the intended storage device and to confirm this by pressing the Enter key a second time. The program will wait up to 10 seconds for a disk-like storage device which is not in the list of not wanted devices. The user may wait with key pressing until the device blinking looks like it is ready.
Only if a single new device is found, the program will go on as if a single device name was given. Option -list_all and any device names given as arguments will be ignored.
Step 3 happens only if options -DO_WRITE or -dummy_force are given. The program asks for a final input of the word ’yes’ before real or simulated writing begins.
$ xorriso-dd-target -with_sudo -plug_test
Caused by option -plug_test: Attempt to find the desired device by watching it appear after being plugged in.
Step 1:
Please make sure that the desired target device is plugged _out_ now.
If it is currently plugged in, make sure to unmount all its fileystems
and then unplug it.
Press the Enter key when ready.

Found and noted as _not_ desired: sda sdb sdc
Step 2:
Please plug in the desired target device and then press the Enter key.

Waiting up to 10 seconds for a new device to be listed ... found: sdd
Now waiting 5 seconds to let it settle .........
Found and noted as desired device: sdd

sdd : NO : usb+ has_iso9660+ has_vfat+ has_ext2- : SanDisk Cruzer

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6 Write image to an advised device

Only if option -DO_WRITE is given and -list_all is not, and if exactly one advisable device is listed, it really gets overwritten by the file content of the given -image_file. In this case the exit value is zero if writing succeeded, non-zero else.
Option -dummy prevents this kind of real action and rather shows the planned umount and dd commands on stdout.
$ xorriso-dd-target -with_sudo -plug_test -DO_WRITE \
-image_file debian-live-10.0.0-amd64-xfce.iso
... sudo messages and above plug test steps 1 and 2 ...

sde : YES : usb+ has_iso9660+ has_vfat+
Step 3:
Last chance to abort. Enter the word ’yes’ to start REAL WRITING.
Looking for mount points of sde:
/dev/sde1 on /mnt/iso type iso9660 (ro,relatime)
/dev/sde2 on /mnt/fat type vfat (rw,...,errors=remount-ro)
Unmounted: /dev/sde1
Unmounted: /dev/sde2
sudo /bin/dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/’sde’ bs=512 seek=’245759999’
count=1 status=none
sudo /bin/dd if=’debian-live-10.0.0-amd64-xfce.iso’ of=/dev/’sde’
bs=1M status=progress oflag=dsync ; sync
... dd messages ...
The first dd run shall erase a possible GPT backup header. It is performed only if the local program "expr" can deal with the byte size of the device.

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7 Show commands for writing to a not advised device

There should be no way to convince xorriso-dd-target of writing to a target device which it does not deem advisable. Please report any set of arguments that can be misused for that.
The outmost complicity to potentially unwise actions is offered by option -dummy_force. If given together with a single device name or with option -plug_test it will act like -dummy -DO_WRITE with this device, even if it looks not advisable. I.e. it will show the shell commands which the program does not dare to perform.
$ xorriso-dd-target -with_sudo -list_long -dummy_force sdd \
-image_file debian-live-10.0.0-amd64-xfce.iso
sdd : NO : usb+ has_iso9660+ has_vfat+ has_ext2-
sdd 3.8G iso9660 usb d-live 9.5.0 xf i386
|-sdd1 1.9G iso9660 d-live 9.5.0 xf i386
|-sdd2 320K vfat
‘-sdd3 512M ext2

Overriding any advice because of -dummy_force
Looking for mount points of sdd:
/dev/sdd1 on /mnt/iso type iso9660 (ro,relatime)
/dev/sdd2 on /mnt/fat type vfat (rw,...,errors=remount-ro)
/dev/sdd3 on /mnt/ext type ext2 (rw,relatime)
AGAINST THE ADVICE BY THIS PROGRAM, a daring user could do:
sudo /bin/umount /dev/sdd1
sudo /bin/umount /dev/sdd2
sudo /bin/umount /dev/sdd3
sudo /bin/dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/’sdd’ bs=512 seek=’7864318’
count=1 status=none
sudo /bin/dd if=’debian-live-10.0.0-amd64-xfce.iso’ of=/dev/sdd
bs=1M status=progress oflag=dsync ; sync

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8 Alphabetical list of positive and negative reasons

As stated with use case "List all devices", reasons are words with either suffix ’+’ for an inviting device property or ’-’ for a prohibitive property.
Normally a single ’-’ reason disqualifies the device from being advisable.

8.1 Reasons

A filesystem of type XYZ is detected on base device or partition and is spoiling the impression of a device with disposable content.
An ISO 9660 filesystem is detected.
A FAT (MS-DOS-like) filesystem is detected.
Option -look_for_iso is given and an ISO 9660 filesystem is detected. This reason overrides any "has_XYZ-" reason.
A given device name looks like the name of an optical drive: sr[0-9]*. Use program xorrecord for this kind of devices.
A given device name looks like the name of a partition. Expected are names of base devices, like "sde", not of their partitions, like "sde1".
A given device name looks like the name of a floppy disk drive: fd[0-9]*.
A given device name looks like the name of a loop device: loop[0-9]*.
A given device name looks like the name of a RAM block device: zram[0-9]*.
A size test is given by -max_size, -min_size, or -image_file but the size of the device cannot be inquired by lsblk. This is supposed to happen only with given inappropriate device names.
The device name looks like a directly connected memory card.
A given device name contains ’/’ characters.
The device is not a memory card and lsblk reports nothing about the way how it is connected to the computer.
No filesystem is reported by lsblk and the program does not believe to have run it with superuser powers. There is the risk that lsblk silently failed to detect existing filesystems.
Option -look_for_iso is given but no ISO 9660 filesystem is detected.
The device is not a memory card and lsblk reports that it is connected by something other than USB.
Option -max_size is given with a size smaller than the size of the device.
Option -min_size or -image_file is given with size or file size larger than the size of the device.
The device is reported by lsblk to be connected via USB.

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9 Options


Find the target device by asking the user to press the Enter key when the desired target is _not_ plugged in, to then plug it in, and to press Enter again.
This overrides device names and option -list_all. The found device is then shown with advice, vendor, and model.
Option -DO_WRITE is obeyed if given. In this case, the word ’yes’ has to be entered to let unmounting and writing begin.


Print list of all found devices with advice, vendor and model. One per line. Ignore any device names. Ignore -DO_WRITE.


After each result line, which shows reasons, add an additional listing of the information provided by lsblk which led to the reasons and add an empty line.


Print vendor and model with each submitted device name.

-max_size n[M|G|T]

Set the upper byte size limit for advisable devices. Plain numbers get rounded down to full millions. As suffix are recognized: M = million, G = billion, T = trillion.
Be generous to avoid problems with GB < GiB.

-min_size n[M|G|T]

Set the lower byte size limit for advisable devices. After processing like with -max_size, one million gets added to the size limit.


Demand presence of an ISO 9660 filesystem. If so, then any further filesystem type is acceptable on that device.
If this option is missing, only ISO 9660 and VFAT filesystems are accepted.


Run ’lsblk -o FSTYPE’ by sudo. If no filesystems are detected on a device while the program has no superuser power, then the device is not advised. Option -with_sudo avoids this refusal without the need to run the whole program as superuser.
If -DO_WRITE -with_sudo is given, then the programs umount and dd will be run by sudo, too.


Suppress the reason no_fs_while_not_su- if lsblk is linked with libudev.so. In this case it is likely that lsblk can retrieve FSTYPE even if run by a non-priviledged user.
This option is intended for use by frontend programs which are certain that they do not encounter a udev-using version of lsblk which nevertheless fails to detect existing filesystems. Human users should better acquire superuser powers if reason no_fs_while_not_su- is reported.

-image_file PATH

Set the path of the image file which shall be written to a device. Its size will be set as -min_size.


Write the given -image_file to the one advisable device that is found. If more than one such device is found, then they get listed but no writing happens.
In this case, to get a real write run, consider unplugging unneeded devices, or using option -plug_test, or a re-run with one of the advised device names as additional argument.


Do not use dd options to print progress messages and to perform synchronized output. These options are used by default if program dd offers progress messages.


Report the -DO_WRITE actions but do not perform them.


If a single device name is given, do a run of -dummy -DO_WRITE even against the advice of this program. This probably shows you ways to shoot your own foot.


Print the program name, version text, and timestamp to stdout and then end the program.


Print the help text to stdout and then end the program.

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10 Examples

Examples are given in the above description of use cases.

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11 Files

For now, no files are defined for configuration.

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12 See also

lsblk(8), sudo(8), umount(8), dd(1), xorrecord(1)

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13 Reporting bugs

To report bugs, request help, or suggest enhancements for xorriso-dd-target, please send electronic mail to the public list bug-xorriso@gnu.org. If more privacy is desired, mail to scdbackup@gmx.net.

Please describe what you expect the program to do, the program arguments which you used, the messages of xorriso-dd-target, and the undesirable outcome of your program run.

Expect to get asked more questions before solutions can be proposed.

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14 Author, Copyright, Credits

14.1 Author

Thomas Schmitt <scdbackup@gmx.net>
for libburnia-project.org

14.2 Copyright

Copyright (c) 2019 - 2021 Thomas Schmitt
Permission is granted to distribute this text freely. It shall only be modified in sync with the technical properties of xorriso-dd-target. If you make use of the license to derive modified versions of xorriso-dd-target then you are entitled to modify this text under that same license.

14.3 Credits

xorriso-dd-target is developed in cooperation with Nio Wiklund alias sudodus.

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15 Alphabetic Options List

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Index Entry  Section

-DO_WRITE write image file to device: Options
-dummy report but do not perform: Options
-dummy_force show raw copy commands: Options
-help print help text to stdout: Options
-image_file set path of disk image file: Options
-list_all print list of disk devices: Options
-list_long print extra device info: Options
-look_for_iso demand presence of ISO 9660: Options
-max_size set size limit for device: Options
-min_size set size limit for device: Options
-no_pacifier do not show dd progress: Options
-plug_test detect target device plugging: Options
-trust_lsblk_udev suppress no_fs_while_not_su-: Options
-version print version text to stdout: Options
-with_sudo run lsblk, umount, dd by sudo: Options
-with_vendor_model add drive info to advice: Options

Jump to:   -

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16 Alphabetic List of Concepts and Objects

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Index Entry  Section

Bugs, reporting: Bugreport

dd progress, do not show, -no_pacifier: Options
Device info, print extra, -list_long: Options
Device size, set limit, -max_size: Options
Device size, set limit, -min_size: Options
Disk devices, print list, -list_all: Options
disk image file, set path, -image_file: Options
disk image file, write to device, -DO_WRITE: Options
Drive info, add to advice, -with_vendor_model: Options

help text, print to stdout, -help: Options

ISO 9660, demand presence on target, -look_for_iso: Options

lsblk, umount, dd, run by sudo, -with_sudo: Options

only report, do not perform, -dummy: Options

Problems, reporting: Bugreport

raw copy commands, show, -dummy_force: Options
Reasons, list of: Reasons

suppress no_fs_while_not_su-, -trust_lsblk_udev: Options

Target device, detect by plugging, -plug_test: Options

Use case, detect intended device by plugging: Plugtest
Use case, evaluate particular given devices: Givendevices
Use case, list advisable device names: Simplenames
Use case, list all devices with reasoning: Listall
Use case, show commands for writing to a not advised device: Unwise
Use case, write image to an advised device: Dowrite

version text, print to stdout, -version: Options

xorriso-dd-target, options: Options

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