USB Flash

Live forum: /viewtopic.php?t=225


31-12-2007 17:43:02

Here's something of a mystery that's been annoying me. I have some USB flash drives I want to use to boot Linux but the results are kind of inconsistent. I'm working with a Vista laptop (Gateway) and have managed to get most stuff working ok. Cygwin and Linux under VMWare is working (though slow) so I really don't need Linux on a USB stick but it seems pretty cool so I want to at least get it working.

Vista show one of the devices (PNY 512Mb) as a USB flash device and the other (Memorex Traveldrive 4Gb - no U3) as a USB HDD. The PNY will boot while the Memorex will not. I have been assuming that the Vista designation of USB flash and USB HDD is valid and that the BIOS is seeing the devices differently. I've used the CMOS setup to enable booting from first a USB flash and then a USB HDD. The flash device will boot (this is the PNY) regardless of the CMOS boot order and the Memorex never will.

Pretty strange stuff. The Memorex device is new and claims compatibility with at least Linux 2.4 so it should work. My USB ports are all 2.0. So, any ideas? The Memorex web site is useless, BTW and web seaches aren't too helpful either. Ideally someone has already made this work and can share the magic incantation I need.

Gateway AMD 64bit 1Gb Memory
USB 2.0 ports
Vista Home Premium
Memorex Traveldrive 2007 4Gb
PNY 512Mb
Phoenix Award Bios w/USB boot option
HP USB formating tool
Knoppix 5.1 (using recipe from website)


02-01-2008 13:25:49

A couple of stupid things to ask.

On the memorex device is the partition bootable? Also how far is it getting? (ie bios sees the drive and starts the boot loader, etc).


09-01-2008 18:08:36

Turns out the Memorex wasn't working for my purposes. It's ok for storing stuff but I had no luck booting from it. Took it back to Staples (it's a 4Gb for $35) and swapped it even for a Sandisk Cruzer 4Gb stick. This one had the U3 stuff and Powerboost but I left it that way even though I don't need either one.

Since I have a laptop there's no floppy to create a boot image so I found a "virtual" floppy ( and "formatted" it as a boot disk (under Vista). Used a util to copy the boot image to the Cruzer (I think it was BootDisk2BootStick v0.10.exe but I'm not sure now).

Once the stick had a MBR and boot files I set up the BIOS to boot from the USB-HDD, stuck a Fedora 8 DVD in the drive and booted from the DVD. Everything worked just like an install to disk. Fedora saw the stick as sdb so that's where I put everything. I also re-sized a Vista NTFS partition to gain some extra ext3 space and put /home, /var and /usr/local on disk to save some space on the Cruzer stick.

I did a fairly skinny install to make sure I could get everything in the 4Gb stick with about 40% left over. I can always tweak it later with yum.

Networking was a pain since I've got a Broadcom wireless but I finally got it going. The wifi-radar tool was helpful but it was mostly massaging the wpa_supplicant config that made it all finally work. I used wext instead of the ndiswrapper driver. Since Fedora 8 comes with fuse, all my VFAT and NTFS partitions show up and are read/write so all is well for now.

Just shows what can be done when you have nothing useful to do. At least I now have a bootable Linux on the USB stick so that I can carry my configuration to any PC supporting USB booting. Surely a worthwhile thing to have.



10-01-2008 12:38:06

Awsome. I still wonder what is up with the memorex device though.