Boot from USB device on old computer

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Boot from USB device on old computer

Postby bitbanger on Mon May 07, 2007 6:26 pm

I have an old computer which does not allow me to boot from a usb device. I wonder if grub will make the connection if I can just make the appropriate entry in the /boot/grub/menu.lst file.

Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!
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Re: Boot from USB device on old computer

Postby scorp123 on Mon May 07, 2007 7:07 pm

bitbanger wrote:I have an old computer which does not allow me to boot from a usb device. I wonder if grub will make the connection if I can just make the appropriate entry in the /boot/grub/menu.lst file.
Grub can't defeat your computer's BIOS :wink: ... But maybe there is a BIOS update? Did you check that?
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usb boot clarification

Postby bitbanger on Mon May 07, 2007 8:13 pm

Thanks for the reply scorp123.

What I am thinking is that the bios won't boot from different partitions on a hard disk, grub takes the definition of the partition location and makes the connection.

Are you saying that grub is actually making changes to the drive to make the switch and then has the bios make the final load?
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Postby Boo on Mon May 07, 2007 9:16 pm

I see what you are saying. hopefully.

you want grub on the mbr of a hard disk and have one of the boot options to point to the usb device to boot off.
does that sound right?

that sounds possible.
other people have installed mint to usb HD and flash drives.

so do you have mint on the computer already?
or are you just using the live CD?

I'm thinking that you could boot off the CD, install to the usb flash device and put grub in the mbr of hd0.

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Further clarification

Postby bitbanger on Mon May 07, 2007 9:51 pm

Thanks for your reply boo.

I have Bianca and XP-SP2/Home installed on a dual boot system. I have installed Bianca to several USB drives. Two USB Flashdrives and a USB-HDD.

The problem is that the bios on this computer will not allow boot from USB.

I am trying to make a portable Bianca installation. I have been able to run a Bianca install made on this old system that runs successfully on two differing laptop computers by copying the /etc/X11/xorg.conf from the LiveCD session onto the same location on the USB device. (There may be a subtle gotcha in there somewhere but so far so good.) But I cannot get this install to boot on the original machine that I did the install from.

I have tried to fool grub with an entry for /dev/sda but have not had any luck to date. (Modifying menu.lst and device.map in a very brutal fashion.) Perhaps I just have not gotten the correct combination yet.

I did have one other gotcha in the usb generation - I trashed the mbr of a laptop and have since taken the precaution of disconnecting the hard disk before doing the usb installs.

Any thoughts out there?
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Postby Boo on Tue May 08, 2007 12:23 am

I think you are stuffed.

The bios update would be the best bet.

unless you could fit a tiny kernel with usb support in the mbr to initialise the usb controller and mount the usb device.

if you have some usb keyboard setting in the bios to use at the bios level instead of ps2.
I have had this on an old system, and if usb keyboard is selected you cant use ps2 one (i think), normally you cant use a usb keyboard to change bios settings or get into it.
turning usb keyboard on for bios may enable you to access a usb disk????

go on give it a go! :D

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Postby telic on Tue May 08, 2007 12:41 am

The problem is that the bios on this computer will not allow boot from USB.


Without BIOS support, a power-up can't boot an OS directly off of a USB device. So, your GRUB must be located on a device that your BIOS can bootstrap, such as a floppy or CD (i.e. a removable medium that can accompany your portable USB drive). The BIOS then boots GRUB from the disc, and GRUB in turn loads the OS from your USB device.

For an example of this procedure, see HOWTO Small Footprint Gentoo on USB without catalyst.

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Postby Boo on Tue May 08, 2007 12:51 am

I just remembered something.

you could put grub on a floppy disk.
but what you have to do is recompile the stage 2 kernel to include usb devices.
I have done this in the past but for adding an extra network driver.

I will have to find some old notes....

stay tuned.

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Postby bitbanger on Tue May 08, 2007 12:58 am

Thanks for the information Telic. I think this may be the answer I need. Many systems are either modern enough to boot from usb drives or old enough to have a floppy drive. And I still have quite a stack of the little darlings.

I'm also looking at Supergrub from http://supergrub.forjamari.linex.org/ which also may solve the problem. It is a grub-alike from a floppy and solves some other worst case scenario issues as well.

I am really loving this Linux community!
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Postby telic on Tue May 08, 2007 1:38 am

Do keep us apprised of your USB swimming (or sinking) adventures.

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Postby Boo on Tue May 08, 2007 10:10 pm

I found the site i used to add network drivers to a boot disk.

http://www.puschitz.com/Kickstart.shtml

as you can see i did this with redhat 7.3 and so kernel 2.4.

I'm sure it can be modified for 2.6 and USB.
then again 2.6 is big so 2.4 may be the go.

I'll keep looking.

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BIOS Update Update

Postby bitbanger on Fri May 11, 2007 7:57 pm

To all re the discussion about the bios.

Turns out that there was an option in the bios to boot from USB. (Old format that confused me.) But! It did not work.

But! there was an update to the bios. But! it would not install because of a checksum error.

But! There was mention of two different utilities from the manufacturer that would take care of this lack. But! they did not work either. There was a note about a hardware requirement the process was based upon.

{There is a God and She hates me.}

So, the bios support issue is dead in the water. But thanks for the suggestion, you never know when an idea will bear fruit.
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USB Boot without bios support IS possible

Postby bitbanger on Sat May 26, 2007 5:47 pm

I have located a comment from someone who claims to have solved the problem of booting from a usb device without bios support for the operation.

The link is: http://www.neowin.net/forum/index.php?showtopic=269145

I tried to follow the information but still do not have the technical background as yet. Perhaps someone else can make this information usable to mortals.

Thanks
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