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). You can install Linux in your USB pendrive or buy it installed.

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 it's 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:

dmesg | grep scsi -A 3

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.

Using fdisk on SuSE (probably other as well): Press P to see the list of all ["partition"]s. Use D repeated to delete all partitions. Create a new partition pressing N, P, 1 and accept all defaults concerning the size (minimum partition size necessary will be around 60 MB). Set bootable flag with A, press T, 6 to create a FAT16 partition and press W to store and exit from fdisk. Enter mkdosfs /dev/sda1 at the prompt to create a filesystem because otherwise installation described later under 'Unburned using DSL' won't work.

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-*.iso dsl_temp

  cp -a dsl_temp/* dsl_usb

  cd dsl_usb

  mv boot/isolinux/* ./

  rm -Rf boot 
  mv isolinux.bin syslinux.bin

  mv isolinux.cfg syslinux.cfg

  cd ..
  mkdir usb_pen

  mount -t vfat /dev/sda1 usb_pen
  cp -a dsl_usb/* usb_pen
  umount usb_pen

  syslinux /dev/sda1

See also BootUsb2, IsoBuster, ["Isolinux"], ["Grub"] .

USB Debian distros

  • Debian:
  • Fedora / RedHat:

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

  • Gentoo :
    • SPB-Linux , with XFCE4 environment

More information

See also:

  • ?BootingFromFloppyToUsb .

  • ["growisofs"].