The computer is an MBR/legacy machine - no UEFI. I use it infrequently, mainly in order to learn more about Linux and to experiment cautiously. (A laptop with Mint 17.2 installed is what I normally use every day).
The inxi info on this elderly machine is as follows:
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brian@clans-mint ~ $ inxi -Fxxx System: Host: clans-mint Kernel: 4.8.0-53-generic i686 (32 bit gcc: 5.4.0) Desktop: Xfce 4.12.3 (Gtk 2.24.28) info: xfce4-panel dm: lightdm Distro: Linux Mint 18.2 Sonya Machine: System: DIXONSXP product: N/A Mobo: Foxconn model: P4M800P7MB Bios: Phoenix v: 6.00 PG date: 09/21/2006 CPU: Single core Intel Celeron D (-UP-) cache: 512 KB flags: (lm nx pae sse sse2 sse3) bmips: 6638 speed: 3319 MHz (max) Graphics: Card: VIA CN700/P4M800 Pro/P4M800 CE/VN800 Graphics [S3 UniChrome Pro] bus-ID: 01:00.0 chip-ID: 1106:3344 Display Server: X.Org 1.18.4 drivers: vesa (unloaded: fbdev) Resolution: firstname.lastname@example.org GLX Renderer: Gallium 0.4 on llvmpipe (LLVM 3.8, 128 bits) GLX Version: 3.0 Mesa 12.0.6 Direct Rendering: Yes Audio: Card VIA VT8233/A/8235/8237 AC97 Audio Controller driver: snd_via82xx port: cc00 bus-ID: 00:11.5 chip-ID: 1106:3059 Sound: Advanced Linux Sound Architecture v: k4.8.0-53-generic Network: Card-1: Realtek RTL-8100/8101L/8139 PCI Fast Ethernet Adapter driver: 8139too v: 0.9.28 port: fc00 bus-ID: 00:09.0 chip-ID: 10ec:8139 IF: enp0s9 state: down mac: 00:15:58:6c:bb:ec Card-2: NetGear WG111v2 54 Mbps Wireless [RealTek RTL8187L] driver: rtl8187 usb-ID: 001-002 chip-ID: 0846:6a00 IF: wlx00146cf1949f state: N/A mac: N/A Drives: HDD Total Size: 160.0GB (19.7% used) ID-1: /dev/sda model: WDC_WD1600BB size: 160.0GB serial: WD-WCANME907700 Partition: ID-1: / size: 15G used: 14G (96%) fs: ext4 dev: /dev/sda7 ID-2: swap-1 size: 2.15GB used: 0.00GB (0%) fs: swap dev: /dev/sda5 RAID: System: supported: N/A No RAID devices: /proc/mdstat, md_mod kernel module present Unused Devices: none Sensors: System Temperatures: cpu: 40.0C mobo: N/A Fan Speeds (in rpm): cpu: N/A Info: Processes: 164 Uptime: 2 min Memory: 210.7/1947.5MB Init: systemd v: 229 runlevel: 5 default: 2 Gcc sys: 5.4.0 Client: Shell (bash 4.3.481 running in xfce4-terminal) inxi: 2.2.35
I have had a problem booting into MX16 following a recent update of SolydX which I think included a Debian-provided update to its Grub. The system will still boot into SolydX itself, and into Mint. That, however, is not the issue now.
Because of the problems getting into MX16 I thought I might uninstall it and replace it with a more recent version (MX17) or maybe another distro altogether.
The problem now is that the Boot Options menu (Esc at startup) cannot "see" or show any bootable USB. It will show a LiveCD, and can boot up from it (though oddly the LiveCD I have of MX16 hangs before booting is complete, and I get a black screen). A LiveCD of Mint works fine [EDIT AND CORRECTION: I checked later and tried again, and in fact the LiveCD of Mint, and any other OS, also fails to boot completely, but hangs on a black screen].
The Boot options menu will not see or enable booting from of the various bootable USBs I have of different Linux distros. I have LiveUSBs of Mint and PCLinuxOS. I have separate USB sticks with Mint, Linux Lite, MX16, and LXLE actually installed on them. None of these shows up at all on the Boot Options menu. I also have a YUMI multiboot USB stick. Weirdly, when this is plugged in, it does show up in the Boot Options list. But I can't get to its initial splash screen or menu: the system seems to hang part way through the booting process.
I have looked at the BIOS set up (Del at startup). It shows that booting is enabled from the hard drive, from a floppy disk, from a CDRom, and from any other 'external device'. Yet whatever bootable USB I connect (other than the odd case of the YUMI one), the Boot Options menu steadfastly refuses to list it.
Is this a BIOS problem, a hardware problem, or something else? I'm no expert so don't know how to do any diagnostics or detective work. Fortunately this is not mission-critical as I don't use this older computer much and hold no important data on it. But I'm baffled, and would just like to know what the problem is, what caused it, and - if it's not too complicated - how to solve it.