Installing Ubuntu from USB flash drive....

So, after countless failed attempts, here's another go.

Turns out there are several people in the same rut as me, not to mention the countless on Ubuntu forums begging to know what to do once thrown to the BusyBox console (what's up with that name anyway?).

However, I did find a couple of new URLs:

  1. http://learn.clemsonlinux.org/wiki/Ubuntu:Install_from_USB_drive
  2. http://kmandla.wordpress.com/2006/12/11/install-ubuntu-from-usb/

So time now to experiment all over again.

This time I will format my USB drive in FAT16, instead of FAT32. I have downloaded another fresh image of Ubuntu 7.10 iso, and verified md5 checksum. So far, so good.


  1. Create a virtual floppy drive using vfd
  2. Format and make bootable the virtual floppy using Windows
  3. Create bootable USB flash, with FAT16, using HP's utility, and supplying boot files from the virtual floppy.
  4. Install bootloader on USB using syslinux. Verified ldlinux.sys appeared in the root folder
  5. Copied over all 712,508 KB of Ubuntu distrib on to the freshly formatted USB drive. Boy, is FAT16 slow or what?
  6. The clemsonlinux.org page above insists that initrd.gz and vmlinuz must be downloaded from Ubuntu archives. Well, what the hey... and yes, that falls flat on its face.
  7. So back to the drawing board. This time, I followed instructions to the letter from here, and everything seems ok, until it just... "hung"... no messages on the screen...
  8. At this point I have no clue what to do..


Booting from USB drive

I know its been a while since I came back to my blog. Things have been quite bad, but more on that later...

So then, I got a new Thinkpad t61p, with 2 GB RAM and 100 GB HDD pre-installed. Another 2 GB RAM was provided later, as well as a 200 GB HDD (wahey!). However, now that I have 300 GB HDD (I got rid of the DVD/RW drive), I wanted to install Ubuntu. So, off I went and downloaded all ~700 MB of Ubuntu distro.The problem of course is that, although the Ubuntu distro (*.iso) can be opened via WinRaR, the "start.exe" supplied with the distro, only fires up the Ubuntu browser, and wubi-cdboot.exe complains "Could not find any appropriate CD"... well fair enough.

But I do have USB pen drives available - so I should be able to boot from them right? Bad idea....

Quick googling gave me quite a few promising results, and I'm going to explore them all here one at a time.

  1. http://www.bootdisk.com/pendrive.htm - if you get past the tacky colour scheme, you find that it presents a number of options. Let's try and run through them all here
    • Option 1 - Using mkbt
      • You can pretty much disregard option 1, since it expects you to have a floppy drive in this day and age. Right (!). And it expects you to have created one using Windows....
    • Option 2 - using HP's utilities, a USB Disk format tool and another to probably copy the boot files off to USB key, but a 45 MB utility for that? No way am I using it.
    • Option 3 - Third party links 1 and 2 - While the first one wants you to have a bootable CD already, the second is merely a list of recommendations from MS when booting from USB Storage Devices...
    • Option 4 - Provides a way of copying over windows bootable files on Win98 (!). Another option was to use the Windows Enabler utility, which seemed promising, but it doesn't work for me either, since it won't startup on my PC. Further examination revealed that it won't start up since it cannot find a CD/DVD drive.
    • Option 5 - The last option provided was to create a virtual floppy drive, which is a neat idea (reminds me of my favourite utility deamontools). After a couple of attempts (and a reboot), it finally managed to create a virtual floppy drive, and assign it a drive letter.
  2. The rest of the websites have variations on these options.

I finally managed to work with two different options:

1. Use vfd to create a virtual floppy drive
2. Format and make this floppy drive DOS-bootable ,using Windows Explorer
3. Used rawrite to write binary image of this floppy on to the USB drive.
4. Boot from USB (after of course, suitable changes to BIOS startup config).

However, the drawback of this is the USB drive effectively becomes the size of the floppy disk (so, if vfd was used to create a 1.44 MB floppy disk, then writing that image on the USB disk renders it to 1.44 MB drive).

Lastly, I did resort to using HP's utility to create a bootable USB disk - and yes, that worked.

Next step, trying to get Ubuntu to intall, without sticking me at Busybox console!

By and by, I decided it would be a neat idea to be able to boot from my USB drive