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 Forum index » House Training » Beginners Help ( Start Here)
Why are some flash drives not bootable?
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LNSmith


Joined: 28 Mar 2013
Posts: 67
Location: Lake Macquarie, NSW, Australia

PostPosted: Sun 10 Mar 2019, 02:23    Post subject:  Why are some flash drives not bootable?
Subject description: Understanding the result of a partition check.
 

Hello all,

I installed Stretch Puppy on a flash drive and the OS didn't boot.
Recently I installed Stretch Puppy on other flash drives and the OS DID boot. At the moment I'm working from a CD - never fails to boot.

Now I'm trying to understand the reason for the failure of the flash drive to boot.
In general terms, to install the OS, I used the desktop button "Install" and followed the same procedure every time - ie the procedure that was simplest and most obvious.

Looking at the files in partition #1, I see the expected files in partition #1 - a 4GB ext4 partition. I confirm that the boot flag is set.
The other partition is 12GB, again ext4.

The failure to boot may lie in the files, the filing system or the boot-loader. (I suspect the boot-loader). However, first I used GPartEd to check partition #1

The result is below. The check reported one non-contiguous file. What does that mean? (I understand it means that not every sector follows in sequence - that is that the content of a specific file is PHYSICALLY interrupted (on the flash drive). Could this be the reason for the failure to boot.

All help appreciated.

Leslie.

Below: The report made by GPartEd after checking partition#1 on my thumb drive. Other comment. This PC will boot Stretch Puppy from another thumb drive.

GParted 0.28.1 --enable-online-resize

Libparted 3.2
Check and repair file system (ext4) on /dev/sdc1 00:00:03 ( SUCCESS )

calibrate /dev/sdc1 00:00:02 ( SUCCESS )

path: /dev/sdc1 (partition)
start: 2048
end: 8388607
size: 8386560 (4.00 GiB)
check file system on /dev/sdc1 for errors and (if possible) fix them 00:00:01 ( SUCCESS )

e2fsck -f -y -v -C 0 /dev/sdc1 00:00:01 ( SUCCESS )

Pass 1: Checking inodes, blocks, and sizes
Pass 2: Checking directory structure
Pass 3: Checking directory connectivity
Pass 4: Checking reference counts
Pass 5: Checking group summary information

21 inodes used (0.01%, out of 262144)
1 non-contiguous file (4.8%)
0 non-contiguous directories (0.0%)
# of inodes with ind/dind/tind blocks: 0/0/0
Extent depth histogram: 13
119655 blocks used (11.41%, out of 1048320)
0 bad blocks
1 large file

10 regular files
2 directories
0 character device files
0 block device files
0 fifos
0 links
0 symbolic links (0 fast symbolic links)
0 sockets
------------
12 files
e2fsck 1.43.4 (31-Jan-2017)
grow file system to fill the partition 00:00:00 ( SUCCESS )

resize2fs -p /dev/sdc1 00:00:00 ( SUCCESS )

resize2fs 1.43.4 (31-Jan-2017)
The filesystem is already 1048320 (4k) blocks long. Nothing to do!
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Burn_IT


Joined: 12 Aug 2006
Posts: 3585
Location: Tamworth UK

PostPosted: Sun 10 Mar 2019, 08:40    Post subject:  

Not all flash drives are bootable.
There has to be a particular bit set in the firmware of the drive (that access to is under the manufacturer's control) before the drive can be booted.
If you want to create a bootable drive, make sure you buy one that says it is bootable when advertised. Otherwise you take pot luck.
Even two identical drives from the same maker can behave differently if they are not specifically bootable.

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bigpup


Joined: 11 Oct 2009
Posts: 12871
Location: S.C. USA

PostPosted: Sun 10 Mar 2019, 13:50    Post subject:  

Well, I guess what Burn_IT says is probably true, but I have never run into that problem.

Quote:
I used the desktop button "Install" and followed the same procedure every time - ie the procedure that was simplest and most obvious.

Which is what exactly?

If this is using the Puppy Universal Installer. There is a chance you did something wrong.
In fact, I am starting to wonder if the Universal Installer needs some bug fixing. A lot has changed in Puppy and that Universal Installer has not seen any code changes in some time.
I have seen it do a bad install.
Had to start all over and do it again, to get a good working install.

Quote:
The check reported one non-contiguous file.

That could be your problem. Basically that says that file is not all in one location on drive.
If that is the file that actually does the boot process, well!
May need to partition and format all over again and get a new fresh clean file system(the format) on the drive.

ext4 is not really a good format to use for a live usb install, but you say it does work with some of your USB drive installs.
fat32 format is better, just because all computers will see that format as a possible boot device with the boot flag set.
That is a industry standard.

Some Puppies have the program Bootflash Install Puppy to USB.
That is probably better to use, because it is specifically made for installing to USB.
That is all it does.

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YaPI(any iso installer) http://www.murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=107601
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Burn_IT


Joined: 12 Aug 2006
Posts: 3585
Location: Tamworth UK

PostPosted: Sun 10 Mar 2019, 15:39    Post subject:  

Quote:
Well, I guess what Burn_IT says is probably true, but I have never run into that problem.
It IS most definitely true.
I spent a lot of time some years ago testing a couple of dozen drives.

I have also recently bought a 128Gb drive for use as a quick portable back up drive only to find that it would NOT boot, so I had to buy another make that would boot.
The one that won't boot is a Data Traveler drive and the one that will is a Sandisk drive.
I tried many ways to make the Kingston bootable, including many tools designed for just that purpose.
I wrote to Kingston about the Data Traveler - which they specifically advertised as a back-up drive, but so far they have chosen not to respond.

Oh, both drives were tested in three different machines that are known to boot from USB as I use them regularly

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musher0

Joined: 04 Jan 2009
Posts: 14484
Location: Gatineau (Qc), Canada

PostPosted: Sun 10 Mar 2019, 17:47    Post subject:  

Hi Burn_IT.

Are you talking of USB thumb drives or of external drives hooked to the box with
a USB cable?

I'm not sure I want to contradict you (because of your avatar...) Laughing, BUT:

1) on this 12-years old ACER Aspire desktop computer, if I press the F12 key at
the beginning of the boot process, a secondary BIOS menu presents me with all
manners of boot drive options. (It can be a hard drive -- or not: it can as well be
a little flash card or a thumb drive.)

2) Moreover, I don't know if all BIOSes have this, but there is a place in my AMI
BIOS settings where i can define on which drive the BIOS will look first to "pass
the hand."

3) Does the partition the Puppy is on have its "boot flag" set? (Very important.)

4) Said partition must have a boot loader on it such as the "gbldr" utility installed
by Grub4DOS. I've also seen set-ups where the Grub loader is called by the
WhineDose loader.

AFAIK, conditions 2, 3 and 4 above must be met for a drive/partition to be able to
boot at startup.

Failing that, any Puppy can be booted from its CD/DVD, of course.

IHTH. BFN.

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I was born to love and not to hate. (Sophocles)
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Mike Walsh


Joined: 28 Jun 2014
Posts: 5568
Location: King's Lynn, UK.

PostPosted: Sun 10 Mar 2019, 18:02    Post subject:  

Evening, all.

I'll second what Burn_IT says about flash drives. Most will boot.....but there are some which your BIOS simply will not see, no matter how much you juggle settings, etc.

I've used SanDisks for years. I use their USB 3.0 Cruzer 'Fit' 'nano' drives, in all sizes from 16 GB, right up to 128 GB. They'll boot on my latest 'acquisition', a 15R-series N5110 Dell notebook, because it has USB 3.0 ports actually built-in to the motherboard.

I can't get these to boot on my old Compaq desktop, despite having a USB 3.0 PCI-e adapter card, because the card's ROM firmware doesn't support booting via that particular interface. On the Compaq, I use the USB 2.0 SanDisk Cruzer 'Blades', which have never yet let me down; these unfailingly continue to always boot Puppy.

I've just done what I've been meaning to do for a long time. I treated myself to a 128 GB 'Blade', set it up with 3 partitions (a small /boot one, a 40 GB ext3 partition for Puppy - currently set-up with Slacko 5.6.0 - and a larger, 70 GB FAT 32 partition, containing a copy of all my documents, downloads, music, pictures, and a good selection of movies. This will be my 'go-anywhere' Puppy from now on.

For drives that always do what you want them to, you can do a lot worse than SanDisk.

Burn_IT (in part) wrote:
The one that won't boot is a Data Traveler drive and the one that will is a Sandisk drive.
I tried many ways to make the Kingston bootable, including many tools designed for just that purpose.
I wrote to Kingston about the Data Traveler - which they specifically advertised as a back-up drive, but so far they have chosen not to respond.


Mm-hm. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but surely back-up drives aren't really meant to be bootable? Aren't they primarily intended for 'backing-up' important personal data.....like documents, music, pictures, movies, etc.? Certainly, that's the way I use back-up drives myself. (OK, that and 'backing-up' save-files/folders, but I don't try to boot from those.....well, not until they've been restored to their original partitions/sub-directories, that is....)


Mike. Wink

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Burn_IT


Joined: 12 Aug 2006
Posts: 3585
Location: Tamworth UK

PostPosted: Sun 10 Mar 2019, 21:25    Post subject:  

It is sold with executable recovery software on it so I pretty much assumed that it was intended to be bootable. It rather defeats the object of having disk recovery software on a drive that is not itself bootable.

Yes Musher we are talking about flash drives. The problem we are discussing does not occur with hard drives. Also we are assuming that the machine does have the capability of booting from USB in the ports being used.

I have a whole collection of USB drives here specifically for testing and I can say that it is very interesting how much they differ in the way they appear to to the machines I test them with.

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bigpup


Joined: 11 Oct 2009
Posts: 12871
Location: S.C. USA

PostPosted: Mon 11 Mar 2019, 00:37    Post subject:  

Burn_IT,

Sorry if I seemed to not believe you!
I do believe what you are saying.
I just never have seen it.
I guess I have been lucky, so far.

I am learning something new!
Please provide information, so I can learn!!!!

This makes me wonder if there is anything, on the packaging of the USB flash drive, that would give you any clue to it not being able to use as a bootable flash drive?

Any test you could run on it?

Any program that would provide info that it can be bootable or not a bootable device?

_________________
The things they do not tell you, are usually the clue to solving the problem.
When I was a kid I wanted to be older.... This is not what I expected Shocked
YaPI(any iso installer) http://www.murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=107601
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bigpup


Joined: 11 Oct 2009
Posts: 12871
Location: S.C. USA

PostPosted: Mon 11 Mar 2019, 00:56    Post subject:  

Burn_IT,

This is just an idea.
Take one of these USB flash drives that will not boot.

In a console type this code and hit enter.
Important
(The code of=/dev/sdb sdb is the flash drive, yours could be sdc, sdd, etc.... adjust to match yours)

Code:
dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdb bs=1M count=1


This will remove all partitions, format, and data from USB flash drive.

Use Gparted to get back to normal setup.
1. Make a partition table:
GParted > Device > Create Partition Table > MS-DOS default.
2. Partition and format as you like.
3. Flag first partition boot.

For UEFI bios computers make the first partition fat 32 format.

Install a live Puppy install to it.

Did this do anything to make it now bootable?

Another thing you can try.
Try this using the latest version of Grub4dos Config
http://www.murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=51697
Do a Puppy frugal install to the drive.
Install Grub4dos boot loader to boot it.
Let Grub4dos install to the drives MBR along with the other files to the first partition.
When running Grub4dos bootloader Config
Select the USB drive as device to install on.
Select search within only this device, so the menu is only stuff on the USB drive.

_________________
The things they do not tell you, are usually the clue to solving the problem.
When I was a kid I wanted to be older.... This is not what I expected Shocked
YaPI(any iso installer) http://www.murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=107601
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Burn_IT


Joined: 12 Aug 2006
Posts: 3585
Location: Tamworth UK

PostPosted: Mon 11 Mar 2019, 08:23    Post subject:  

I have done all those things and more.
Don't forget that I am NOT a beginner when it comes to computing, having been involved since before the PC was developed - in fact I was the first person in the UK to actually have a PC at home (though only temporarily and on trial)
I was working for Rolls Royce in their computing department and was on call for overnight problems. If something went wrong we had to drive into Derby to fix it. IBM came up with the idea of using the PC as a smart terminal and connecting via a modem. So whenever it was my turn to be on call I got the use of a PC at home - not that there was a lot of uses for one in those days.

(I got very bored with PING PONG very quickly)

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watchdog

Joined: 28 Sep 2012
Posts: 1929
Location: Italy

PostPosted: Mon 11 Mar 2019, 08:51    Post subject:  

I bought many years ago a usb stick which had an hidden not-regular partition used with an encryption software. Gparted and dd failed to solve a reformatting of the usb stick. As last chance I used a debian tool in Ultimate Boot CD to erase the hidden partition and then I had success to format as bootable device the usb stick. I wonder if Ultimate Boot CD is still developed. I do not know if it can be useful in the case of this thread.

https://www.ultimatebootcd.com/

NOTE: be careful using Ultimate boot CD: danger!
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Burn_IT


Joined: 12 Aug 2006
Posts: 3585
Location: Tamworth UK

PostPosted: Mon 11 Mar 2019, 09:02    Post subject:  

UBCD is old hat.
As is often the case, there are more Windows tools available than there are Linux ones.
But keep the suggestions coming, there may be a tool I have missed.

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jafadmin

Joined: 19 Mar 2009
Posts: 1004

PostPosted: Mon 11 Mar 2019, 12:59    Post subject:  

It is impossible for us to analyze your problem if you don't describe the boot failure.

Boot failures have error messages. We need to know that message. We can then tell you how it is failing.

A good failure test is to disconnect all drives except the one you are trying to boot, then rebooting. The BIOS will then toss an error which will be meaningful to us.
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Burn_IT


Joined: 12 Aug 2006
Posts: 3585
Location: Tamworth UK

PostPosted: Mon 11 Mar 2019, 13:33    Post subject:  

Now that comment was well thought out.
As far as I am concerned a boot failure means the machine fails to start and therefore CANNOT produce a message of any sort.
I always make sure, when testing boot devices, that the BIOS only has the one device in it's list so there is no confusion as to where any message came from.

If there is a message at all it is "No boot device detected"


I am not asking for any help. I was describing my experiences.

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jd7654

Joined: 06 Apr 2015
Posts: 297

PostPosted: Mon 11 Mar 2019, 14:55    Post subject:  

Burn_IT wrote:
Not all flash drives are bootable.


That has been my experience as well. Some just don't boot, be it a USB flash drive or an SD card in a USB reader or slot.

In my experience, the vast majority boot just fine. The only ones that have failed have been of the el-cheapo variety. Or more specifically, the underground derogatory term CCC.(Cheap Chinese Crap)

The secret is in the microcontroller in all flash devices. The little mini OS that handles things like bad block mapping and operates below the level of the computer or operating system. This is also where bad things like fake flash comes from, incorrect reported large size of a much smaller physical memory, resulting in failed writes and storage. I always test my flash drives for full write capability on the entire advertised storage capacity. And in the extreme (unlikely) case, this is also where hacking and espionage can occur to secretly harvest data from the user for later use by a hostile entity or government. All invisible to the end user.
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