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Booting old computers from USB


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#1 lti

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 01:08 PM

I want to try to figure out why I had so much trouble getting two computers to boot from a USB storage device in this topic:

http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/forums/t/499115/lubuntu-installation-fails/

I don't know what forum would be the best one to place this topic in, so ti can be moved if this forum is not the appropriate place.

 

I was trying to use Plop Boot Manager on a floppy disk to boot each of those computers. One would occasionally boot from USB (the one I finally managed to install Puppy Linux on), and the other one (which is much older and has an internal floppy drive) won't boot from anything. I used three different Linux images (Lubuntu 12.04 Live CD, Lubuntu 14.04 alternate installer, and Puppy Linux) on two drives, and they all got to the initial boot menu and started to load before freezing. The newer computer should be able to boot any of those Linux images. If it had a working optical drive and I had some blank CDs, I'm sure it would have worked. The older computer should be able to load Puppy Linux. Even a computer that doesn't have enough RAM to boot a live CD should be able to make more progress than these computers do. They freeze a few seconds after selecting one of the options in the boot menu.

 

I have found some people having freezing issues with Plop Boot Manager, but they all freeze while Plop is attempting to detect and access the drive. These computers always get to the menu for whatever is installed on the drive, so none of those solutions apply. Forcing a certain USB driver in Plop doesn't help.

 

I posted the hardware of the newer computer in the topic I linked to above. The older computer is a Gateway Solo 2500 with a 333MHz Pentium II and 224MB of RAM.


Edited by lti, 08 August 2014 - 01:12 PM.


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#2 JohnC_21

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 02:31 PM

If the computer is old enough it may have USB v1.1 ports. On the plop settings, you can force it to boot USB v1.1 or use the configuration file to do it.

 

To do it manually, use the arrow keys to go to setup at the main screen. Then select the Mode of USB to 1.1. I tried plop on an old Pentium and it was sometimes hit or miss using the USB 1.1 ports.



#3 lti

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 05:30 PM

I tried both USB 1.1 modes, and neither worked.



#4 JohnC_21

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 06:28 PM

How did you create the bootable USB? Try Rufus. Set the partition scheme to MBR and Iso image in the dropdown box. Click the folder icon and browse to the iso file.

 

Edit: Because of a possible issue, do not accept the option to check for updates.


Edited by JohnC_21, 08 August 2014 - 06:41 PM.


#5 lti

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 06:46 PM

I used Linux Live USB Creator, UNetbootin, and Universal USB Installer. I also tried making a USB Windows XP installation drive, and it froze while detecting hardware (even before the blue installer screen appeared). That should have worked since these computers are capable of running Windows XP. I have also tried Tiny Core using core2usb, and it didn't work either.

 

I also tried booting Tiny Core and Puppy Linux using Plop on a third computer, and they both made more progress than they did on any other computer. Tiny Core failed to load a lot of files, but it did drop to the command line. Puppy Linux crashed with a kernel panic. I have never been able to get Linux to boot on that computer.

 

Update: I can't get Tiny Core to boot on a computer that supports USB booting, so the image didn't copy properly using the recommended installation tool.

 

Universal USB Installer created a drive that worked perfectly on a computer that supports USB booting, but it just displays a blinking cursor on the computer that managed to boot from the broken installation. I don't think the software used to copy the image onto the drive is the problem. All of these attempts have worked on a newer computer.


Edited by lti, 08 August 2014 - 07:37 PM.


#6 JohnC_21

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 09:02 PM

Which version of Puppy did you use? If you are using Puppy 5.7 use the Non-PAE version.

 

slacko-5.7-NO-pae.iso



#7 lti

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 09:34 PM

It was Precise Puppy 5.7.1 Retro (non-PAE). Any of these computers should support PAE, but they might not support enough RAM. That third computer only has 128MB of RAM and couldn't run Linux when the popular distros could run on such little RAM. It can really only run Windows 98, and it doesn't run well because of the lack of RAM.

 

I'm not trying to install Linux on these computers. I'm just using Linux because that is what is on all of the bootable USB drives I have. I just want to figure out how to reliably boot from USB before I need to run some diagnostic or recovery tools without a CD.



#8 NickAu

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 09:35 PM

Deleted  The Op posted a reply to my question at the same time as I asked.


Edited by NickAu1, 09 August 2014 - 01:35 AM.


#9 JohnC_21

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 10:26 PM

Rufus will let you boot using FreeDos. You need to select that in the dropdown box instead of iso image. Then use Plop to see if it boots. Have you tried Easy2boot? It uses Grub4Dos so it may have a better chance with Plop.



#10 SleepyDude

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 11:25 AM

Universal USB Installer created a drive that worked perfectly on a computer that supports USB booting, but it just displays a blinking cursor on the computer that managed to boot from the broken installation. I don't think the software used to copy the image onto the drive is the problem. All of these attempts have worked on a newer computer.

 

The blinking cursor could be a symptom of failing to detect the device type check this.


• Please do not PM me asking for support. Post on the forums instead it will increases the chances of getting help for your problem by one of us.
• Posts in the Malware section that are not replied to within 4 days will be closed. PM me or a moderator to reactivate.
• Please post your final results, good or bad. We like to know! Thank you!

 
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#11 lti

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 07:42 PM

It seems to be completely random. I restarted the computer and got it to boot just as far as it did with core2usb, but there were fewer errors (the only error was an input/output error while trying to start X) and the drive could be fully booted on a newer computer with a BIOS that supports USB booting. It also appears that trying to boot Tiny Core on that particular computer (a 500MHz AMD K6-2, 128MB of RAM, and an SiS 5598 chipset) makes the drive unable to boot completely in any computer. It will skip loading extensions, boot to the command line, and give a "file not found" error when any command is entered. I have to format the drive and reload the image after that.

 

Software that uses less space seems to be more likely to boot. It will either boot successfully, freeze very early in the boot process (usually while loading vmlinuz, which seems to be the first thing Linux tries to load), or crash while booting. Even Memtest86+ on the Lubuntu live CD didn't load most of the time.



#12 SteveSi

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 03:44 AM

It sounds to me like this computer has a fault. Computers generally are predictable and results are reproducible.

For instance, a computer should not have to be switched on and left for a while and then switched off and on again to get it to work.

You also seem to be talking about two different computers which is very confusing.

 

I suggest that you try running diagnostic software on them - e.g. full memory test, mainboard function test, hdd test, etc.



#13 lti

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 09:52 AM

That computer does have some serious issues, but it seems to be normal for that model to have something wrong with it. That whole HP ze1000/xf300 series was junk. There are two other fully functional computers that also fail to boot properly from a USB drive.



#14 SteveSi

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 11:10 AM

Well, lets forget about the computer with serious issues. You can't fix a dead horse!

 

Let's pick ONE of the two fully functional ones. Describe symptoms.

Describe the spec (CPU, RAM, CD, FDD, HDD type). How are you booting it. What is your boot media and how did you prepare it.

Does the same boot media work on other PCs? Does the same boot media boot OK under QEMU or VBox+VMUB?

etc.

 

If you are using a Floppy disk to boot to Plop and then boot to USB - what is on the USB drive?

 

Try booting via Plop! to a USB drive that has Easy2Boot on it. When the Easy2Boot menu loads, try the Load grub4dos 0.4.6a menu option and then the Load USB drivers option before you try running an ISO.



#15 lti

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 02:02 PM

I think I'll start with that Gateway laptop since it has more RAM.

 

CPU: 333MHz Intel Pentium II

RAM: 224MB

CD: Toshiba SD-C2102

FDD: Internal, unknown model

 

I have been booting from Plop on a floppy disk. The content of the USB drive doesn't matter, but I'll use the version of Puppy Linux I mentioned above. The image was extracted and copied to the drive using Universal USB Installer. It will load the initial boot screen, but it will freeze as soon as it starts to load the OS. It freezes while loading vmlinuz with either two or three dots after that line. The drive will boot on other computers.

 

I'll try Easy2Boot later.






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