This page is about boot Linux via ["USB"] pendrives in any computer with or without USB-BIOS capability (in this last case, using a ?BootFloppy).

BIOS and USB standard mass storage interface

There are two common BIOS methods for direct USB booting:

Most computers (just about all Dells, for example) made today have a BIOS that supports the USBHDD method so I expect that this will eventually become the standard way to boot a USB device. However, many motherboards will support BOTH methods, and many older motherboards have USBZIP support.

You need a USB device with standard mass storage interface and with, at least, 128 MBytes (the distros uses generally 50 -64 MB) to work with Linux.

See StandardPendrive.

USB pendrive location and mount

Most USB pendrives are located at device name "?sda" after they are plugged into the USB port.

However, you can verify this location by typing this command inside a terminal window:

and it should tell you the device name for your USB (SCSI emulated) devices and vendor name.

See : ["dmesg"].

If you cannot find it, you have to load the ?UsbStorage ["module"] (type in a ["terminal"] modprobe usb-storage) and ["mount"] the usb FileSystem s (mount -t usb-devfs none /proc/bus/usb ).

Format the USB key

Store your USB pendrive data and the ["root"] used must format it with ["fdisk"] (the USB key must not be mounted).

Press P to see the list of all ["partition"]s and D to exclude the first partition. Unmark all partitions and clean them. Create a new partitin pressing N , P and L . Make it a boot partition selecting the A option (t > 6 create a FAT16 partition, that detects upto 4 GB volumens) and finally press W to store and exit from fdisk.

Installation methods

There is two installation methods:

  • Burned: from a LiveCD using the utility Install to USB.
  • Unburned: downloading the files and installing them in the USB pendrive. There is two file types : ISO and other types.

Unburned using DSL

To install DamnSmallLinux download the ISO image and as ["root"] user go the directory with the dsl-0.9.2.iso file and :

  • mkdir dsl_temp mkdir dsl_usb mount -o loop dsl-0.8.3.iso dsl_temp cp -a dsl_temp/* dsl_usb cd dsl_usb mv boot/isolinux/* ./ rm -Rf boot mv isolunux.bin syslinux.bin mv isolunux.cfg syslinux.cfg cd..

See also IsoBuster, ["Isolinux"], ["Grub"] .

USB Debian distros

  • Debian:
  • DamnSmallLinux, that uses FluxBox , where the majority of Debian USB distros are based .

  • Flonix : based on DamnSmallLinux, but uses IceWM instead of FluxBox .

  • Fedora / RedHat:

  • ?PuppyLinux , that uses FVWM-95 graphical environment.

  • Gentoo :
  • SPB-Linux , with XFCE4 environment

More information

See also:

  • ?BootingFromFloppyToUsb .

  • ["growisofs"].