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Author Topic: bootable linux drive help?  (Read 956 times)
Mme. Ratchet
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« on: April 22, 2016, 10:19:18 am »

Could somebody please help me set up a bootable linux drive that actually boots (planning to use Ubuntu, at least for now)?
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« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2016, 10:57:39 am »

Could somebody please help me set up a bootable linux drive that actually boots (planning to use Ubuntu, at least for now)?


From your tone,  it sounds like you've already tried making a bootable linux drive. What seems to be the problem? What steps did you follow?

http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop/create-a-usb-stick-on-ubuntu

Let me make a guess first:

One of the things that many people miss, is that the motherboard on an Intel/Pc compatible machine needs to be setup to boot from a flash disk. This is a hardware issue. Don't assume that the computer will just recognize a flash drive as having an operating system.

The first step is to check that the "BIOS" of the motherboard (main circuit board) is actually set up to look for an operating system outside of the hard drive. BIOS stands for Basic Input and Output and it's role is to scan the hardware,  and locate bootable drives when you first turn the computer on. Think of the BIOS as turning the crank on an old Ford Model T car. here will be a setup you can enter in the first few seconds after you turn t he  computer on,  by pressing two or three buttons simultaneously like for example "alt"  and "delete.

The exact look of the setup will vary from computer to computer so you may need to browse documentation on the Internet or your computer manuals if you have any. The idea is to setup the  BIOS to boot first from the Flash disk and then of not found,  then go ahead and boot from the computer hard drive.

After that the second thing that can go wrong is something called a "bootloader" which is part of the operating system in the flash disk. Basically the boot loader is a tiny piece of hidden software that activates to actually pull together all the computer scripts and programs that need to be run in your computer's boot process.

Think of it this way; If the engine of the Model T car is the operating system,  the BIOS is the crank handle,  and the bootloader is the crankshaft in the engine.  

There are several types of bootloaders in Linux,  like "GRUB"  "GRUB2"  (used by late Ubuntu distributions) and the now defunct "loadlin" which was used back in the 90s for booting Linux from a hard drive... If this is corrupted then the operating system will not boot.  There are ways to fix that.

Once the BIOS and bootloader are working correctly,  the rest of the operating system will come into action. The flash disk either way will typically have a "compressed" operating system that mascarades as a very large file in your flash disk,  and the operating system is "decompressed on the fly" once you are running Linux.  The Hidden OS actually will be not organized in a Windows readable format like "NTFS" or "FAT32",  but rather use a Linux compatible format such as "ext3."  So your Windows machine will only see the flash disk containing a few strange folders  and files and one or two very large files which are unreadable to Windows. The actual maximum size of your "compressed"  operating system will be set by you (there  is a maximum size because that very large compressed file needs to be limited in size for it to exist in the hard drive.



« Last Edit: April 22, 2016, 11:44:25 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged

Mme. Ratchet
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« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2016, 12:45:02 pm »

Well, using both unetbootin and rufus (separate drives and times), I have attempted to make the drive. Rufus will show a success, but unetbootin never will. The BIOS is set to boot from the flash disk, it starts the boot process, then freezes part way tgrough and locks the whole thing up.
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Peter Brassbeard
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« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2016, 05:56:50 pm »

I've had good success with http://www.pendrivelinux.com/multiboot-create-a-multiboot-usb-from-linux/ , running from an existing linux install.
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Mme. Ratchet
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« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2016, 08:38:24 pm »

Okay, so I tried it again and I managed to successfully build the drive with Unetbootin. The problem is that it still won't boot from the drive.
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J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2016, 06:46:04 am »

Okay, so I tried it again and I managed to successfully build the drive with Unetbootin. The problem is that it still won't boot from the drive.


I guess I've never used Unetbootin  Undecided  For Ubuntu I always use the native Startup Disk Creator (see link I gave above).  I believe the installation still uses Syslinux, so I don't see the advantage of using Unetbootin....

One thought: Something may be missing. Is the format of the drive FAT or FAT 32?  One problem with the "big" files on a bootable disk, is that they may be bigger than the 2GB per volume, supported by the FAT (FAT16) format (there is a limit on how big a file can be in FAT since that is a very old format way back when 5 GB was a lot of memory for a hard drive (think The era between DOS and Windows 95).

The solution is to erase everything and reformat the flash drive in FAT 32 or NTFS (not typical for flash disk), then try making the bootable drive again.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2016, 06:56:03 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged
Mme. Ratchet
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« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2016, 08:19:13 am »

Its FAT32. The issue isnt the drive. Its that none of my computers will boot from it.
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J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2016, 09:02:27 am »

It's kind of hard to tell what's going on without more data. I'd strongly suggest using the bootable disk creator from live Ubuntu CD/DVD after you boot from the live CD/DVD (hopefully one of your computers still has an optical drive).

If the drive you made with Unetbootin can't be booted in any machine, then it's likely the fault lies withing the live OS in the flash disk, and something is not set right or plain missing (I bet my money on the latter).
If you make another drive not using Unetbootin, and you still can't boot with the bootable drive created from an Ubuntu Live CD/DVD, then you'd know that it's not the Unetbootin installation that was at fault, and you have to suspect the hardware settings.

Otherwise, if it the Ubu DVD-created Ubu flash drive manages to boot, you know that Unetbootin is not doing something right.  Undecided
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Mme. Ratchet
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« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2016, 09:16:43 am »

As I said, Ive tried with both Unetbootin and Rufus. Both state tge drive was successfully created, but neither of my PCs will boot the drive. I do not have functional use of optical drives on either computer. My options are: usb drive.

The system is not detecting a bootable usb drive when doing startup, because I know the drives themselves are successfully being created.
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« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2016, 10:01:44 am »

Well, using both unetbootin and rufus (separate drives and times), I have attempted to make the drive. Rufus will show a success, but unetbootin never will. The BIOS is set to boot from the flash disk, it starts the boot process, then freezes part way tgrough and locks the whole thing up.

As I said, Ive tried with both Unetbootin and Rufus. Both state tge drive was successfully created, but neither of my PCs will boot the drive. I do not have functional use of optical drives on either computer. My options are: usb drive.

The system is not detecting a bootable usb drive when doing startup, because I know the drives themselves are successfully being created.

I find it interesting you get the same fault with both drives and both computers. So whatever is happening is common to both, but we can neglect PC hardware problems, because the hardware systems are sufficiently different, and the BIOS is set to booting the USB drives, I gather from what you wrote.

The thing is, that both drive creators may be doing the same thing: creating a syslinux bootloader. So that implies that the same fault occurs for both syslinux bootloaders in the pen drives. 

If both unetbootin and rufus are in fact doing the same thing (syslinux) then theres a fault that is common in both drives.  I still think something is missing - which would explain why the boot process actually hangs. What do you see last on the screen?

The booting process is not supposed to hang if the computer can't find the bootable USB drive; after failure to detect a bootable disk, it should go straight to the C hard drive, see? Regardless of the booting preferences, the BIOS will default to the hard drive, when all other options are exhausted. Hanging is a symptom that the BIOS successfully found a bootable drive, and the boot process successfully started but did not successfully end. Broken files are implied. And it has to be the same on both drives (unetbootin and rufus).

The only thing left untested and a common denominator is the Linux image file itself. I think something is up with the Linux image file.

What Linux image are you using?  An ISO (.iso) image file? Could that be corrupted somehow?  Can you get another Linux distribution online and try again?

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Mme. Ratchet
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« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2016, 10:09:26 am »

It doesnt hang up. The system is not detecting the drive. It just goes right to the C drive and boits Winblows.

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Mme. Ratchet
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« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2016, 10:11:25 am »

A friend of mine believes there may be an issue with some UEFI thing? I dont quite understand what shes saying about it. Just that theres some sort of issue involving "UEFI""
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« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2016, 11:34:31 am »

A friend of mine believes there may be an issue with some UEFI thing? I dont quite understand what shes saying about it. Just that theres some sort of issue involving "UEFI""

Alright. You're talking some newfangled substitute for BIOS designed by Intel starting in the mid 1990's and used only for servers until the mid 2000s, and intended to be generalised to all PC's by now. To be honest I built computers all throughout the 2000's (not Intel, though), and up until a few years ago, without actually ever running across a motherboard with UEFI. But basically UEFI / EFI is just a souped up BIOS.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unified_Extensible_Firmware_Interface

The whole point of the UEFI or Unified EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) is that you can communicate at more than 16 bits of data,that is in 32-bit and 64-bits as well. The EFI does a lot more than the BIOS ever did, even running diagnostics and remote operation of the computer without an operating system (scary, eh?).

The other side of this booting scheme in the booting of a hard drive is that in older systems, the Master Boot Record (MBR, a hidden file inside a bootable hard drive  listing the operating systems in the hard drive) that worked together with BIOS has been replaced by the "GUID Partition Table" or GPT, such that GPT enabled disks drives work with EFI enabled motherboards.  All well and good but I'm too old school for that...

Anyhow, according to this piece of text below, the new (U)EFI/GPT system is backward compatible to (BIOS/MBR) hardware, allowing new EFI compatible disks to be used in older BIOS enabled motherboards and viceversa. So there should be no issue here. If your computers have (U)EFI, they should recognize any bootloader, even the old GRUB types, let alone syslinux.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unified_Extensible_Firmware_Interface

Quote
Linux
See also: EFI System partition § Linux
Support for GPT in Linux is enabled by turning on the option CONFIG_EFI_PARTITION (EFI GUID Partition Support) during kernel configuration.[30] This option allows Linux to recognize and use GPT disks after the system firmware passes control over the system to Linux.
For reverse compatibility, Linux can use GPT disks in BIOS-based systems for both data storage and booting, as both GRUB 2 and Linux are GPT-aware. Such a setup is usually referred to as BIOS-GPT.[31] As GPT incorporates the protective MBR, a BIOS-based computer can boot from a GPT disk using GPT-aware boot loader stored in the protective MBR's bootstrap code area.[29] In case of GRUB, such a configuration requires a BIOS Boot partition for GRUB to embed its second-stage code due to absence of the post-MBR gap in GPT partitioned disks (which is taken over by the GPT's Primary Header and Primary Partition Table).


I'm going to risk it and say this - aware that I'm far too old school, and probably need to read a manual on PCs by now:

The thing that pulls my eyes, is that one requirement for the EFI, that the data size (bits) of the kernel of the operating system (the core or kernel of Linux used in Ubuntu) needs to match the size in the EFI system. I'm assuming (perhaps wrongly) that a 64 bit computer will have a 64 bit EFI, and thus the Linux Kernel should be 64 bits too, although it reads that a 64 bit Linux kernel can support a 32 bit EFI, version 3.15 or better.  But what if it doesn't in the opposite direction? That is what if a 32 bit Linux kernel is not compaticle with a 64 bit EFI?

I say this because one common bug in Ubuntu Linux is that the software bells and whistles that supports a 32-bit software to be run by a 64 bit computer tends to fail every now and then (it's a set of kernels and associated peripherals known by the name of "arch."  This "arch" feature is newfangled and working intermittently, shall we say?

Quote
UEFI requires the firmware and operating system loader (or kernel) to be size-matched; for example, a 64-bit UEFI firmware implementation can load only a 64-bit operating system boot loader or kernel. After the system transitions from "Boot Services" to "Runtime Services", the operating system kernel takes over. At this point, the kernel can change processor modes if it desires, but this bars usage of the runtime services (unless the kernel switches back again).[24]:sections 2.3.2 and 2.3.4 As of version 3.15, Linux kernel supports 64-bit kernels to be booted on 32-bit UEFI firmware implementations running on x86-64 CPUs, with UEFI handover support from a UEFI boot loader as the requirement

Bottom line, is that a safe thing to do is to get a Linux Image that matches your computer hardware. A 64 bit Linux for a 64 bit computer. Nowadays most processors are 64 bit (say the Intel Core 2 i3 and i5, and you may assume all the AMD processors have been 64 bit for more than a decade now). Make sure you have a 64-bit Linux ISO image and that your unetbootin can handle 64 bit images of Linux.


Is the ISO image of your current Linux ISO 32 bit or 64 bit? What Ubuntu are you trying to run?  I only use 64 bit Linux (and have for many years now since I'm addicted to AMD processors). Are your machines' CPU 64 bit? If you don't know, are they newer than say 2006? If so, it's more than likely they run on 64 bits. I think they need a 64 bit Linux kernel.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2016, 11:43:37 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged
Mme. Ratchet
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« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2016, 11:55:29 am »

My processors are both 64-bit, as is my linux distro, which is the most recent version of Ubuntu.
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« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2016, 12:21:01 pm »

Then, assuming you get no error messages and the machine goes straight to the hard drive, you only have two possibilities. Either you think you have set up the EFI/BIOS to boot from the drive, but somehow you haven't, or the Linux ISO image is corrupted and the system actually starts the boot sequence, but aborts upon finding an error, without letting you know.

You have a "flash drive" poltergeist. I can give you the name of a trusty shaman.  Grin

We'll figure it out somehow.  I'd still want to see a flash drive made from a "fresh"  ISO, because, what else can we do?
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Peter Brassbeard
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« Reply #15 on: April 25, 2016, 01:49:09 am »

Is the BIOS on the computers configured to look for a bootable USB device before trying to boot the hard drive?
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J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #16 on: April 25, 2016, 02:18:55 am »

Is the BIOS on the computers configured to look for a bootable USB device before trying to boot the hard drive?

Mme. Rachet wrote above that she did configure the BIOS (or UEFI) to boot from the flash drive. But that is a nagging question because it's the simplest expanation (read posts above). The second easiest explanation is a corrupted ISO image of Ubuntu. After that either the MBR (or GPT) is not working due to missing files or incompatibility with the bootloader used (syslinux I imagine).

On the surface, it does look that the BIOS/UEFI is not set properly... Occam's Razor and all that jazz
« Last Edit: April 25, 2016, 02:26:02 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged
Mme. Ratchet
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« Reply #17 on: April 25, 2016, 02:35:41 am »

The drive successfully booted on someone else's machine. But it wont on either of mine.
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J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #18 on: April 25, 2016, 06:17:41 am »

The drive successfully booted on someone else's machine. But it wont on either of mine.

Well, at least you've reduced the problem to two possibilities:  ) The BIOS/UEFI startup boot issue, or 2) compatibility of BIOS/UEFI with the flash drive's boot loader - which still implies messing with the BIOS settings. 

Just out of curiosity - exactly (down to the exact phrase) which are the setting options menu of the BIOS/UEFI you have?

What was you processor type again? You have 64-bit processor but are they Intel based motherboards? or AMD? It seems that AMD is more likely to have BIOS and Intel will have the UEFI instead (although my computer has an AMD-based motherbiard capable of booting without HDD with an "advanced BIOS" (which I've disabled), and which sounds awfully close to the UEFI capabilities - just under a different name).
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Mme. Ratchet
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« Reply #19 on: April 25, 2016, 06:29:21 am »

Both computers are Intel 64-bit processors. I will answer the other question tomorrow morning.
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