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 Forum index » House Training » HOWTO ( Solutions )
How to determine if your computer can boot a USB stick
Moderators: Flash, Ian, JohnMurga
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Crash


Joined: 09 Dec 2005
Posts: 430
Location: Garland, TX

PostPosted: Sat 13 Oct 2007, 00:11    Post subject:  How to determine if your computer can boot a USB stick  

Bruce B found an easy way to determine if your computer can boot a USB stick, but I don't know if anyone took notice:

http://www.murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?p=140270#140270

I tried this out on various computers and conclude that the following works well:

Power off the computer and plug in the USB stick. Then boot up using a DOS floppy or floppy image on a bootable CD/DVD. Any DOS will do - FreeDOS, MS-DOS, Win98 startup, etc. Wakepup2 with the config.sys and autoexec.bat files deleted or renamed also works. Just boot up - no USB drivers or anything.

Look around at the C: or D: or E: drive or maybe even higher, depending on how many partitions your hard disk has. If one of them is the contents of your USB stick, you are in luck. The computer and BIOS natively are set up to recognize USB sticks on boot-up. Chances are the computer will boot to USB.

I've tried this on several computers and have 100% correlation between successful results and the ability to boot up from power-up to a USB flash drive. I wonder if it is true for all computers?

This may be a good test to do if you are in the market for a new computer and want it bootable to a USB stick. Just take the floppy and USB stick with you when you shop.
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d00b

Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 23

PostPosted: Sun 28 Oct 2007, 00:39    Post subject: Follow Up  

An addendum on USB stick booting: Many computers with USB-boot BIOS support will see the USB key as a normal hard drive, and are able to boot from one just as with any partition. The problem is that the key "drive" is typically placed last in the hard drive option, since you've just plugged it in, so the internal drive normally boots first.

For my Thinkpad X31, I have to go into BIOS setup and change the drive order to boot from a key. Removing the key will erase the key from the boot chain, and to boot from it again, I have to repeat the drive-change order in BIOS. It's a pain, but at least it does work. Many people (including yours truly) will select the "Removable Drive" option to boot before "Hard Drive" but for some computers, a USB key is a hard drive and not a removable drive.

HTH
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Bruce B


Joined: 18 May 2005
Posts: 11080
Location: The Peoples Republic of California

PostPosted: Sun 28 Oct 2007, 02:12    Post subject:  

Just thought I'd add somethings:

The use of the words to and from are very important.

In order to purely boot from, the motherboard must support it AND the flash stick must actually be bootable.

Booting to can be simpler. I attempt to explain here. Suppose you have Linux installed on a flash stick, the boot program such as GRUB can be on a hard drive with instructions to boot the Linux on the flash stick even though the flash stick may not be setup as a bootable device. The main requisite is that the flash stick is recognized at the BIOS level.
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Bruce B


Joined: 18 May 2005
Posts: 11080
Location: The Peoples Republic of California

PostPosted: Sun 28 Oct 2007, 02:14    Post subject:  

PS welcome to the forum d00b
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d00b

Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 23

PostPosted: Sun 28 Oct 2007, 14:47    Post subject:  

Bruce, thanks for the welcome. I've just tried PupLin today, and will detail my travails in another more appropriate forum. I'll just add to the "USB boot" notes in this thread by reminding that USB hard drives, at least those that are bus-powered (i.e. no external power), may take a while to spin up and be seen by the system. Therefore, it may not come up at the initial power-up. For my Thinkpad X31, I have to do a C-A-D after the first power-up for the USB drive to be seen. Yes, it has the same issue as the USB key wrt having the lowest drive order.
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