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Thread: Installing XUbuntu on a USB stick

  1. #1
    ɯʎɔɐɹsɐʌʍ mycarsavw's Avatar
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    Installing XUbuntu on a USB stick

    I realise there's an Ubuntu support forum for this already but I'm hoping I wont have to sign up to yet another forum for my answer as I can't seem to find the solution there.

    I followed this guide click me at least three times all without success.

    I repeatedly get "Error loading operating system" when trying to boot from the USB stick. Booting from the XUbuntu & Ubuntu desktop CDs, and from the HDD work fine.

    If it helps, the laptop is an HP nx9105 and the USB stick (Buffalo 4GB) is new.

    Any step by step pointers for a Linux n00b? Would trying the alternate option in step 8 make any difference?

    Thanks in advance
    |Kata: "Read title as 'fisting'. Not sure why I clicked. Relieved, really."|
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  2. #2
    Senior Member chrestomanci's Avatar
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    I have successfully got this working with Knoppix, the process for installing other flavors of linux will be very similar.

    Here is a set of instructions for Knoppix

    Some of gotchas.

    Firstly, not all BIOSes support booting from USB keys, so it is possible your laptop is incompatible.

    Secondly, the technique is different for USB keys larger than 1Gb. Basically, small USB keys are set up to look like a USB ZIP drive, that more BIOSes support booting from. Larger devices have to be setup as a USB hard drive, that is less well supported.

    Thirdly, some USB keys just don't support booting. Unfortunately I have no idea how to tell if your does, without searching the net, or reading some forums.

    Fourthly, the XUbuntu instructions talk about partitioning the drive into several parts. This is also likely to be unsupported on some systems, and will probably reduce your chance of getting things working.

    My advice would be to find a 1Gb USB key and follow the Knoppix instructions above, and try it in several newer PCs. If you get it working, you can then try other variations, to see what is causing your XUbuntu install to fail.

  3. #3
    ɯʎɔɐɹsɐʌʍ mycarsavw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chrestomanci View Post
    I have successfully got this working with Knoppix, the process for installing other flavors of linux will be very similar.

    Here is a set of instructions for Knoppix
    I'll give that a go when I have a moment, thanks. I'm a total n00b when it comes to Linux so thought Ubunutu was the one for me. If Knoppix works in a similar way then I'll try that.

    Some of gotchas.

    Firstly, not all BIOSes support booting from USB keys, so it is possible your laptop is incompatible.
    Noted, it lists the key as a bootable drive within the BIOS and it'll boot a slimline version of 98SE, so I don't think that's an issue.

    Secondly, the technique is different for USB keys larger than 1Gb. Basically, small USB keys are set up to look like a USB ZIP drive, that more BIOSes support booting from. Larger devices have to be setup as a USB hard drive, that is less well supported.
    This sounds more possible, I may follow the steps for a USB hard drive from the site I mentioned in my first post.

    Thirdly, some USB keys just don't support booting. Unfortunately I have no idea how to tell if your does, without searching the net, or reading some forums.
    Thanks, but don't go to any trouble on my behalf, I'll have a poke about later.

    Fourthly, the XUbuntu instructions talk about partitioning the drive into several parts. This is also likely to be unsupported on some systems, and will probably reduce your chance of getting things working.
    If I'm reading it correctly, the first partition contains the boot data (700meg) which would, if I've got it right, make the BIOS see a < 1GB USB key?

    My advice would be to find a 1Gb USB key and follow the Knoppix instructions above, and try it in several newer PCs. If you get it working, you can then try other variations, to see what is causing your XUbuntu install to fail.
    I'm going to pick up a cheapy drive today and see if this'll work.

    Thanks again for the pointers.
    |Kata: "Read title as 'fisting'. Not sure why I clicked. Relieved, really."|
    |TAKTAK: "It was so small that mine wouldn't fit into it"|

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    ɯʎɔɐɹsɐʌʍ mycarsavw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mycarsavw View Post
    Noted, it lists the key as a bootable drive within the BIOS and it'll boot a slimline version of 98SE, so I don't think that's an issue.
    Famous last words - it works fine with XUbuntu, Ubuntu and Knoppix on another three HP desktops.

    Any ideas how I can force it to boot from USB or is this a BIOS setting that cannot be altered?
    |Kata: "Read title as 'fisting'. Not sure why I clicked. Relieved, really."|
    |TAKTAK: "It was so small that mine wouldn't fit into it"|

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    Agent of the System ikonia's Avatar
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    if its not supported in the bios - its not going to happen
    It is Inevitable.....


  6. #6
    ɯʎɔɐɹsɐʌʍ mycarsavw's Avatar
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    Balls - oh well, I'll have to go for the wipe and reinstall.
    |Kata: "Read title as 'fisting'. Not sure why I clicked. Relieved, really."|
    |TAKTAK: "It was so small that mine wouldn't fit into it"|

  7. #7
    Senior Member chrestomanci's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mycarsavw View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by chrestomanci View Post
    Fourthly, the XUbuntu instructions talk about partitioning the drive into several parts. This is also likely to be unsupported on some systems, and will probably reduce your chance of getting things working.
    If I'm reading it correctly, the first partition contains the boot data (700meg) which would, if I've got it right, make the BIOS see a < 1GB USB key?
    Unfortunately not.

    Zip discs have a strange format. For some mysterious reason, the drive is formatted so that the data is in the forth partion, and the first three are zero size. Bootable USB drives of 1Gb or less are setup to emulate this format. Obviously it won't work if the other partions exist.

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