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 Forum index » House Training » HOWTO ( Solutions )
Boot Precise Puppy from USB on 2009 iMac
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Les Kerf

Joined: 24 Jun 2012
Posts: 243

PostPosted: Mon 09 Sep 2013, 14:52    Post subject:  Boot Precise Puppy from USB on 2009 iMac
Subject description: Also Slacko 5.7

I have had at least partial success booting a USB thumb drive with Puppy Linux on my Wife's 2009 iMac (Snow Leopard) computer. In the past I was able to boot this machine using a live CD of Slacko 5.3.1, but I never did much with it except get on line just to see if it worked.

Since then, the optical drive on the iMac has ceased to function, and we have also discontinued our home internet service. We had used the iMac's optical drive to watch videos but are now limited to using my Acer laptop which has a much smaller screen and lower quality audio.

Since I knew how to boot my Acer laptop with a thumb drive, I decided to try booting the iMac in that manner, and then be able to play .vob file videos. While at the public library I researched booting an iMac with a thumb drive and thus tried many different methods that did not work. I finally stumbled onto what appears to be the answer, at least for our iMac.

Note: I performed all of the USB thumb drive prep work on my Acer laptop using Lucid Puppy 5.2.8-005

#1. Download refind-flashdrive-0.7.3.zip. Extract its files to /root. Read the text file README-flashdrive.txt. One of the files will be the disk image


#2. Copy the above disk image to a USB thumb drive using dd


dd if=refind-flashdrive-0.7.3.img of=/dev/sdx

Note: The thumb drive will now contain a directory named EFI and also two files called shellia32.efi and shelliax64.efi, respectively. The EFI directory contains a boot directory which has six more files, etc. A large portion of the thumb drive will now show as “unallocated” on gparted.

#3. Using a different USB thumb drive, create a thumb drive that will be bootable on a typical PC based computer. There are many ways to do this; I performed a manual frugal install by copying the initrd.gz, vmlinuz, and puppy_precise_5.6.sfs files to the root of the thumb drive, then ran the Grub4Dos bootloader, placing Grub4Dos on the MBR of the thumb drive.

Note: I used an ext2 format with the boot flag set.

#4. Thus far, Precise Puppy is the only Puppy that I have been able to boot on the iMac. I tried Slacko 5.3.1 and Lucid 5.2.8. I was also able to boot Mint 14.1, but this article is about Puppy.

#5. With the two thumb drives in hand and the iMac shut down, plug them both into the USB ports on the iMac. Press the start button, and as soon as the iMac “chime” sounds, press and hold the alt/option key. After about 30 seconds at least two icons should appear, one denoting the iMac hard drive, and another gold-colored icon indicating a USB drive. (If you have multiple bootable partitions you may have more icons). Click on the USB icon, then click again on the arrow.

The rEFInd boot splash screen should appear presently. If you do nothing it will boot the iMac hard drive after a short countdown. Arrow over to the icon labeled “Boot legacy OS from hard drive”. The Grub4Dos boot screen will appear; if you do nothing the top entry will boot after a short countdown. Precise Puppy boots up pretty quickly from the thumb drive on our machine.

#6. The iMac wireless keyboard does not work with Precise Puppy. I do not have a functional USB keyboard at this time so I cannot do a complete test now. The USB mouse works fine.

#7. I had originally configured Precise Puppy to not auto-save, and when I made adjustments to the retroval sound settings they would not persist even when I pressed the manual Save button. I re-set it back to the standard auto-save method and now the adjustments persist.

#8. As mentioned above, we do not have internet access at home, so no tests were done in that regard. Vob file videos play perfectly (this was my original objective).

#9. I did try partitioning one thumb drive into two partitions, the first one to boot the rEFInd program, Precise Puppy on the second partition, and then attempted to place Grub4Dos on the partition boot sector of the second partition. The rEFInd partition booted perfectly, but when I selected the Legacy OS boot it failed. I am certain that there should be a way to do this with only one thumb drive, but I am not knowledgeable enough to make it work.

#10. My thanks to the developers of rEFInd, Puppy Linux, etc. I take no credit for their efforts, and I hope that this tutorial will help someone.

Final note:
As mentioned above, I only get on the internet when I get to town, and sometimes that can be several weeks apart, so please be patient if I do not respond on this thread for a while.

Les Kerf

Last edited by Les Kerf on Tue 11 Mar 2014, 06:42; edited 1 time in total
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Joined: 05 Jun 2013
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Fri 20 Sep 2013, 17:27    Post subject:  

Two brief random and separate thoughts:

1) An external single cord USB powered DVD drive connected to an iMac can boot from a live-CD.

2) I run puppy on a '08 Macbook. My steps are different.
- Install rEFInd onto Macbook
- rEFInd automatically loads and detects Live-USB puppy. Just select with arrow key, and press enter.
- Most standard bootable Live-USB will work. Only issue is hardware compatibility. My Live-USB stick (precise) runs and boots on either a PC or a Mac w/ rEFInd.
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Les Kerf

Joined: 24 Jun 2012
Posts: 243

PostPosted: Thu 03 Oct 2013, 14:41    Post subject:  


After thrashing around trying various things I have stumbled upon a way to accomplish booting Puppy Linux on our 2009 iMac (Snow Leopard) using a single USB thumb drive rather than the previously mentioned dual-thumb drive method. I successfully performed this experiment using two different thumb drives, an 8 GB Sandisk Cruzer and a 4 GB Sony. I did this operation at least twice on each thumb drive just to verify my results.

I performed all of this using Lucid Puppy PlusLibre on my Acer Aspire laptop; I had already obtained the Precise Puppy ISO and refind-flashdrive-0.7.3.img.

1. Use gparted (Menu>System>Gparted) to delete any (all) partitions on the thumb drive. CAUTION! All data on the thumb drive will be lost!

2. Create a new primary partition, FAT 16 format, and only 16 MB (yes, MegaBytes). I tried specifying 5 MB but Gparted informs me that 16 MB is the smallest partition that can be made.

3. Make absolutely certain that the space preceding the new partition is 0 (zero) MB. For some reason, gparted wants to place 1 (one) MB ahead of this partition. You MUST set this value to zero just prior to clicking “Add”. I tried this both ways several times and it will not work unless there is zero MB ahead of the first partition. I do not know why, but that is what works for me.

4. Create a second primary partition: use all of the remaining space on the thumb drive. I used an Ext2 format.

5. Apply all operations.

6. Set boot flag on the Ext2 partition.

7. Mount the Precise Puppy ISO (you need to have already obtained this). I had the ISO stored in /root.

8. Copy the three core Puppy files, initrd.gz, vmlinuz, and 5.6.sfs files to the Ext2 partition.

9. Run Grub4Dos (Menu>System>Grub4Dos) and install Grub4Dos on the Partition Boot Sector (PBS) of the Ext2 partition.

10. Run Grub4Dos again, this time install Grub4Dos on the Master Boot Record (MBR) of the thumb drive.

11. Open a command line console; copy the image file “refind-flashdrive-0.7.3.img” to the first (FAT16) partition using the dd command. I had the .img file stored in /root for this operation.

Code: dd if=refind -flashdrive-0.7.3.img of=/dev/sdx1
(with “x” replaced by the partition letter, in my case it was “b”) Press “enter”, of course.

12. If all went well, your thumb drive should now boot on the iMac. When the iMac chime sounds, hold down the alt/option key and the rEFInd boot screen should appear. Arrow over to the “Boot Legacy OS on HDD” option and press “Enter”. Puppy should boot up, showing the Grub4Dos screen first.

This thumb drive also boots Precise Puppy normally on my Acer Aspire laptop.
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Les Kerf

Joined: 24 Jun 2012
Posts: 243

PostPosted: Sat 18 Jan 2014, 23:06    Post subject:  

I recently acquired a usb keyboard, and today we purchased a mobile hotspot with which we can now access the internet from home.

I am pleased to report that I am typing this on our iMac booted to the USB thumb drive with Precise Puppy. The usb keyboard seems to function well and this is the very first forum I have visited since booting up just a few minutes ago.

So, it seems that Puppy Linux can indeed be booted on an iMac and access the internet.
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Les Kerf

Joined: 24 Jun 2012
Posts: 243

PostPosted: Mon 10 Mar 2014, 21:52    Post subject:
Subject description: Slacko 5.7

I just today acquired the iso for Slacko 5.7 and installed it to a thumb drive as posted above. It boots perfectly on the iMac, and I am posting this from the iMac on Slacko 5.7
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Les Kerf

Joined: 24 Jun 2012
Posts: 243

PostPosted: Sun 04 Jan 2015, 21:43    Post subject:  

Super Lucid Puppy with the newer kernel also works on the iMac. Posting from it right now using Dillo web browser.
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