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Booting from USB Media: A Comprehensive Overview

Booting from USB Media: A Comprehensive Overview

While fans of different operating systems might debate which one is the most stable, reliable, flexible or user-friendly, there’s one inarguable point: Every machine – regardless of the OS – can run into issues.

And while users historically would pop a boot media disk into their DVD or CD drive, many computers no longer come with optical disk drives. As a result, booting from USB media is becoming the standard.

How you start that rescue media can vary depending on the operating system you are using, but there are a few general guidelines that can help get your machine started, regardless of the OS you prefer.

So if your system is unstable, you need to run a diagnostic tool on the hard drive, or you just want to load a Linux desktop just to see what it’s all about, let’s look at how you start your machine using rescue USB boot media.

How do I make my USB device bootable?

A PC or laptop won’t be able to start from a USB drive unless it is formatted correctly and has the appropriate files and software on it which enable it to boot.

A common mistake is to copy an ISO file (containing an operating system) to a USB drive and assume this is all that’s needed for it to boot and install Windows, Ubuntu or another operating system. You need to use software which can write the files to the drive and also make it bootable.

Several utilities can do this, including Rufus (which supports many operating systems) and Microsoft’s own Media Creation Tool which you can use to legally download Windows and put it on a USB stick.

With Rufus, you need to be a little careful about the settings you use, but for the most part, you just click the CD drive icon, choose an ISO file and make sure that ‘Create a bootable disk using’ box is checked.

These tools will warn you that they’ll delete everything off your USB drive, so make sure you’ve copied off any files you don’t want to lose before starting. You’ll also need to have downloaded whatever software it is you’re planning to boot from, be it Windows, Linux or something else.

Ошибка Boot Failed: проблема неправильного форматирования носителя

Итак, основной проблемой возникновения сбоев при старте со съемных накопителей считается неправильно выполненное предварительное форматирование, когда пользователь создавал носитель самостоятельно (например, с использованием инструментария командной строки), а не в какой-то автоматизированной программе. Если у вас появляется ошибка Boot Failed при загрузке с флешки, необходимо обратить внимание на ее формат.

Важно понимать, что в случае наличия на компьютере или ноутбуке первичной системы UEFI носитель в обязательном порядке должен быть отформатирован в FAT32, и использовать файловую структуру NTFS нельзя ни под каким предлогом. Точно так же и наоборот. Если у вас есть дистрибутив с 64-битной Windows 7, загрузку с флешки для первичной системы BIOS желательно производить с файловой системой NTFS.

Загрузка в UEFI BIOS

А это наглядный пример БИОСа EFI (UEFI) с графическим интерфейсом и даже работающей мышкой! Если у вас компьютер с UEFI, то при попадании в БИОС вы увидите такую картину:

В нижней части экрана есть раздел Boot Priority , где можно с помощью мышки (перетаскиванием) выставить нужный порядок загрузки. Также можно:

  • нажать в правом верхнем углу кнопку «Exit/Advanced mode»
  • выбрать в появившемся окне Advanced mode (расширенный режим)
  • перейти на вкладку «Boot»
  • в разделе Boot Option Priorities в поле «Boot Option #1» установить загрузочным устройством по умолчанию флешку, DVD-ROM, жёсткий диск или другое доступное устройство.

Владельцы компьютеров Hewlett-Packard вероятно обнаружат такую картину в БИОСе:

В меню «Storage –> Boot order» выберите нужное устройство, нажмите «Enter», затем передвиньте его на самый верх и ещё раз нажмите «Enter». Сохраните настройки в меню «File -> Save and Exit» .

How to Boot From a USB Device

Follow these easy steps to boot from a flash drive, an external hard drive, or some other bootable USB device:

If the USB boot option is not first in the boot order, your PC will start «normally» (i.e., boot from your hard drive) without even looking at any boot information that might be on your USB device.

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The BIOS on most computers list the USB boot option as USB or Removable Devices but some confusingly list it as a Hard Drive option, so be sure to dig around if you’re having trouble finding the right one to choose.

After setting your USB device as the first boot device, your computer will check it for boot information each time your computer starts. Leaving your computer configured this way shouldn’t cause problems unless you plan on leaving the bootable USB device attached all the time.

Attach the USB device to your computer via any available USB port.

Creating a bootable flash drive or configuring an external hard drive as bootable, is a task in itself. Chances are you made it to these instructions here because you know whatever USB device you have should be bootable after properly configuring BIOS.

See our How to Burn an ISO File to a USB Drive tutorial for general instructions on doing exactly that, which tends to be the reason most people need to figure out how to boot from one.

Since you’re not actually inside of the operating system at this point, restarting isn’t the same as using normal restart buttons. Instead, BIOS should explain which key to press—such as F10—to save the boot order changes and restart the computer.

Watch for a Press any key to boot from external device. message.

On some bootable devices, you may be prompted with a message to press a key before the computer will boot from the flash drive or another USB device.

If this happens, and you do nothing, your computer will check for boot information on the next boot device in the list in BIOS (see Step 1), which will probably be your hard drive.

Most of the time when trying to boot from a USB device, there is no key-press prompt. The USB boot process usually starts immediately.

Your computer should now boot from the flash drive or USB based external hard drive.

What happens now depends on what the bootable USB device was intended for. If you’re booting from Windows 10, Windows 8, or Windows 7 installation files on a flash drive, the operating system setup will begin. If you’re booting from a DBAN flash drive you created, it will start. You get the idea.

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Please check in BIOS

Please check in BIOS (pressing F1/F2?), if booting from an USB drive is enabled. Often to have to active the USB stick in the boot order sequence AND to enable as well booting from external / USB devices. Each laptop works different. As you describe it the laptops tries to boot from LAN / server / PXE.

Please activate F12(?) in BIOS to show the boot order and devices. Sometimes F12 activates booting via PXE. HP needs often F9 to be pressed, Toshiba often needs to press Esc first to see the boot messages or to press arrow left / right etc. Watch the boot message shown on screen. If no message shown active in BIOS a 5 or 10 seconds period to show boot messages etc.

There are so many options. I cannot tell from the distance which is the best setting in your case 🙂 Hope you will find out.
🙂 http://www.commitstrip.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Strip-Enfance-du-c.

Ralf (Hub Rhein-Ruhr, Germany)

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Brandon did this help?

Brandon did this help?

From your message, it seems that you are able to get into the bios and change the order to boot first from the USB. But then when you insert the USB, the laptop still does not detect it. One possibility here is that the USB image itself is for some reason damaged. One way to verify the USB drive works, is to try to boot it from another laptop (for instance, from your own laptop). If it also fails, then it’s possible that you may need to reinstall Lubuntu on the USB or try with a different USB.

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Thanks for the comments. Jordi is right — I was able to reach the boot menu and change the order so that the USB drive was first, but when I try to boot, I get a black screen with a lot of text:
«Intel UNDI, PXE-2.1 (build 083)

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This product is covered by one or more of the following patents.

Realtek PCIe FE Family Controller Series v1.21 (03/05/10)
PXE-E61: Media test failure, check cable

PXE-M0F: Exiting PXE ROM.»

You’re also right — I tried the USB on a different computer and got the same message, so it seems my file has been corrupted somehow?

Any ideas on what to do next? Should I clear the USB stick and try again?

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Hi Brandon,

you get this PXE message (which means laptop starts booting using LAN/server after he tried first with no result to boot from USB) as your USB disc is either not a bootable USB-drive or in BIOS legacy support / booting from external devices is disabled. Some older laptops are not able to boot from USB devices anyway. I am not sure what wents wrong in your configuration. How did you prepare the USB boot drive? Did you use a tool http://www.toptrix.net/2012/03/bootable-usb-making-tools-windows-linux.html to burn the .iso-file to an USB drive?

If you are still not able to boot from USB there are 2 other solutions, but both need additional hardware.

Either you can use an external USB-based CD/DVD drive.

Or you can use an external USB adapter for IDE/SATA drives https://www.amazon.de/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=ide%2Fsata+adapter+usb&tag=hyd. . Then you have to remove the internal disc, connect it via the above mentioned adapter to another computer, which is able to boot from any media. After you installed or cloned everything to the external drive you can put the disc back into the previous computer. This works with any computer, e.g. installing using HP and put it back into an IBM. You only to keep the 32 Bit / 64 Bit CPU in mind, not being able to install 64 Bit and put it back to a 32 Bit laptop.

Hope you will find a solution.
Ralf (Hub Rhein-Ruhr, Germany)

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I have a similar problem on a

I have a similar problem on a Dell Latitude 2100 Netbook; I got the BIOS to use USB, and I put the USB first into my desktop and used the provided link and «save as» to save the image file; but when I try booting with that USB in the netbook, I keep getting «Error loading operating system». . ? Is there something more complex I’m missing about how to put the image file onto my USB?

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Hi Gail,

I am not sure, if I understood correctly.You want to clone a laptop using Parted Magic and an image for cloning?. And you booted Parted Magic first from USB. Then you removed the Parted Magic-USB (not using the Live-mode of PM, as this needs the USB-drive to stay connected to laptop)? Ok, then you are able to continue, connect the drive with the image, when PM asks you to do so etc.

In very seldom cases laptops refuse to install an image that way. Then I remove the internal disc and connect it to another laptops, using the external disc-connector (see my last post above). Sorry, from the distance it is difficult to find out what’s going wrong in your situation.

The image itself is not bootable, first boot parted magic. And the image should be stored in the top-level directory. And there is a 5 second break after connecting the USB-drive with the image. That should work.

Labdoo Hub Rhein-Ruhr (Germany)

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Thank you for your response..

Thank you for your response. that is not quite what happened, I was not able to boot Parted Magic from USB. Here is what I did:
1. went to http://ftp.labdoo.org/download/images/parted_magic_clonezilla_2012_10.iso and the file downloaded to my desktop
2. Copied that file from my desktop downloads folder to my USB
3. Set netbook BIOS to boot from USB
4. Turned off netbook
5. Inserted USB
6. Turned on netbook, which tried too boot from USB but gave me error message very quickly. (like it didn’t see anything at all)
It seems this is that case when USB won’t work. Unfortunately, the netbook has no CD drive and I have no external drive, so it seems I must wait until I meet up with someone who has an external drive.

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Did you just copy the iso

Did you just copy the iso-file? That is wrong and will never work. You must use the iso-file with special tools to get a bootable CD or USB drive. Did you do that? In case not — Please google «burn iso usb» and learn which step you seem to have missed (at least, I guess). Producing an iso-based media needs special tools. Check out e,g,
It seems your USB media is just a copied iso-file?

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PS: Plan B might be an external USB-CD/DVD drive? Maybe you can lend one?

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🙂 yes, I did not know about

🙂 yes, I did not know about «bootable» . thank you for the link I will try that! (When I come back from my trip, so I’ll let you know in a couple months if it works)

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No problem, you are welcome.

No problem, you are welcome. There might be other «stones» in your way to a proper boot. If there are further problems please check:

In the BIOS (it is often different depending on the manufacturer) there are switches e.g.

  • to en-/disable external boot devices (often under «security»)
  • to define priority and certain boot devices (often «boot sequence / devices» or similar)
  • switching the laptop on you are able to reach the boot device list by pressing F12 (Dell, IBM/Lenovo et.al.), F9 (HP), sometimes F11 or press ESC first; there are many settings. But this boot-«button» can be switched on/off as well. Often similar to «Enable F12» or how many seconds the selection menu is shown.

This is only a very short extract of what can happen. Refer to web, if you are facing other situations 🙂 Good luck.

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Linux USB Boot Process

To boot Ubuntu from USB media, the process is very similar to the Windows instructions above.

  1. Confirm the BIOS boot sequence lists the USB drive first, or make that change as needed.
  2. After the USB flash drive is inserted into the USB port, press the Power button for your machine (or Restart if the computer is running).
  3. The installer boot menu will load, where you will select Run Ubuntu from this USB.
  4. Ubuntu will launch and you can begin to working in the system – setting preferences, reconfiguring the system as needed, or running any diagnostic tools.

Для устранения дисфункции рекомендую выполнить следующее:

  • Проверьте, загрузочное ли ваше ЮСБ-устройство. Для этого рекомендую использовать программный инструмент «MobaLiveCD», который проверит загрузочный статус вашей флешки. Данная программа не требует установки, работает сразу после запуска, довольно легка и удобна в использовании.

Способ 1.Для работы с «MobaLiveCD» скачайте и запустите данную программу с правами администратора. На главном экране кликните на кнопку «Run the Live USB», укажите программе путь к вашей флешке. Если программа спросит вас «Do you want to create a hard disk image for your virtual machine?» — выберите «No». Программа произведёт эмуляцию запуска системы с вашей флешки, и вы воочию увидите результат.

Для выхода с программы нажмите клавиши Ctrl+Alt.

  • Проверьте, поддерживает ли ваш компьютер загрузку с USB. Далеко не все ПК поддерживают данную функцию (особенно это касается устаревших версий материнских плат), потому вам необходимо или просмотреть характеристики вашей материнской платы относительно поддержки ею загрузки с ЮСБ, или непосредственно перейти в БИОС и просмотреть, имеется ли в нём соответствующая опция;
  • Настройте ваш ПК для загрузки с флеш-накопителя. Перейдите в БИОС и установите там соответствующие опции, в частности, в последовательности загрузочных дисков установите флеш-накопитель первым для загрузки;

Выберите флеш-накопитель

  • Проверьте файловую систему вашей флешки. Если ваш ПК поддерживает UEFI (улучшенная версия БИОС), и вы пытаетесь установить Windows в режиме UEFI, тогда вы должны быть уверены, что ваша загрузочная флешка отформатирована в файловой системе FAT32 (напомню, что технология UEFI работает только с FAT32). Следовательно, вы не можете использовать флешку, отформатированную в NTFS, для загрузки и инсталляции ОС Виндовс в режиме UEFI.
  • Чтобы проверить файловую систему вашей флешки подключите её к компьютеру, в проводнике кликните на флеш-накопителе правой клавишей мыши, в появившемся меню выберите «Свойства».

    • Попробуйте изменить значение некоторых параметров БИОСа. Перейдите в ваш БИОС, и поменяйте значение опции «Legacy» с «Enabled» на «Disabled» (или наоборот). Сохраните настройки, перезагрузите компьютер, и попробуйте вновь установить систему с флеш-накопителя;

    Способ 2. Если предыдущий способ не помог исправить Start booting from USB device, попробуйте выполнить следующее. Перейдите в БИОС, во вкладке «Boot» установите значение параметра «Secure Boot» на «Disabled» (если появится предупреждение, смело жмите на «Ок»). Появится дополнительная опция «ОS Mode Selection», выберите здесь «UEFI and Legacy OS» (если появится предупреждение, тогда вновь нажимаем на «ОК»). Вновь жмём на F10, затем на «Yes», дожидаемся перезагрузки ноутбука.

    Затем вновь переходим в БИОС, во вкладке «Boot» выбираем опцию «Boot device priority», в первом пункте выбираем нашу флешку как загрузочное устройство. Вновь жмём на F10 и «Yes». Перезагружаем наш ПК и пробуем загрузиться с нашего флеш-накопителя.

    • Для создания загрузочной флешки используйте зарекомендовавший себя софт (например, Rufus).
    Ссылка на основную публикацию
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