Friday, May 18, 2012

Live USB boot from floppy disk on old computer

I have access to my old Compaq Presario again, and tried booting it from my Crunchbang Live USB. To my disappointment, the BIOS was too old to allow a USB boot. However, I was delighted to find that there is a way round this- by booting from the floppy drive.

There are a couple of good guides I came across to getting round the BIOS restriction (How-to Geek and Instructables), but they focus on using a CD (my CD drive is kaput), and the guide that does mention floppies tells you how to write one in Windows, so here's a version for Linux.

1) Download Plop Boot Manager
2) Extract the files and dd the floppy image (plpbt.img) to a floppy disk using this command (change the floppy name if necessary):

dd if=plpbt.img of=/dev/fd0 bs=1024 conv=sync ; sync


Boot from the floppy with the USB inserted and you'll get an option screen which includes a USB boot.

I found that my keyboard didn't work in the Crunchbang option screen. The default option was a Live boot, and the keyboard worked once the OS had booted, but it doesn't look as if installation is going to be possible without a work-around.

Update: I tried the Live session again and realised that I'd hit the enter key, and Crunchbang was just taking a long time to load because it was running from a USB 1.0 socket: for about a minute or so, it looks like the menu is frozen.

NB: Running a Live OS from a USB 1.0 socket is s..l..o..w.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this useful details. There is info here about a related problem, with solutions:

    Many times it has happened to me that, though I can boot well a Live USB, if I reboot the computer it can’t run it. After rebooting and calling (with F12, F11, …) the BIOS boot menu I can see the USB flash drive and choose it, but instead of booting from there it does the same as selecting the LAN entry of the menu (tries to boot from the network, with the Ethernet adapter, card or interface controller). I think I’ve had this problem with different Live USB Linux distros, at least in one computer (my laptop). Sometimes I solve it powering off the computer and turning it on again. But sometimes this workaround is not enough and I have to shut down the PC, extract the USB flash drive, insert it in another USB port and switch the computer on again (or, as another alternative solution, shut down + extract drive + turn on & call boot menu + turn off + plug drive again -can be in the same port as before- + turn on).