Bootable MEPIS USB key

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Booting to a USB flash key (a.k.a. thumb drive) can do exactly the same things as the Live CD can.
(If you want normal MEPIS install on USB key, rather than Live CD, see Portable MEPIS on USB hard drive.)

Contents

Create USB Stick

MEPIS System Assistant

A simple way to create bootable USB key is to boot MEPIS from Live CD and use MEPIS System Assistant. Then you can use it for installing without a CD or you can just run MEPIS from it.

Unetbootin

Unetbootin for Linux and Windows can create a bootable USB key from a downloaded ISO image that can boot on most systems. This eliminates the need to burn a CD or to even have a CD drive (i.e. a Netbook). Unetbootin can be installed to MEPIS from the Community Repository. If you only have Windows, download and install and run Unetbootin (Windows version) to create your bootable USB drive. Then:

  • Plug in your USB device. It must be mounted for Unetbootin to work.
  • Run unetbootin with a command or from the Menu
  • Decide whether you are going to download or use a file you already have.
    • If you are going to download, select on the top line MEPIS and SimplyMEPIS or antiX as the version
    • If you already have the file, click on Diskimage instead and use the box at the far right to navigate to your ISO file
  • Normally, you would leave the Custom entry alone unless you want to specify the use of a certain kernel or set other options
  • USB Drive is the default, and the Drive box should already contain your USB device. Be sure this is the drive you want to use.
  • Click OK, and wait a few minutes.

It is recommended that a new USB key be used for this purpose. An old USB key may show no sign of error in ordinary use, and unetbootin may appear to write to it without any problem, but the install may fail with a read error if the key is not in perfect condition (see workaround in Tips and tricks, below).

Syslinux

Starting with Squeeze, upon which MEPIS 11 is based, there is a simpler method. If you try this, make sure you install to the correct device directory for your usb device.
1. If it's not already installed, install Syslinux (Debian Squeeze version {2:4.02+dfsg-7} or newer). Syslinux is preinstalled in Mepis 11.0.
2. Download latest MEPIS iso (it should also work with MEPIS 8.5)
3. cd to where the MEPIS iso file is
4. hit F4 to open a terminal, become root, and enter:

isohybrid filename.iso

5. Copy that new iso to a usb stick. The general command takes this form:

dd if=/path-to-iso-file/nameofMepis.iso of=/dev/sdx

if=input file
of=output file

Change the generic entries to your specific ones, making sure you know how your usb stick shows up. A concrete example:

dd if=/home/antiX/MepisA5.iso of=/dev/sdc

How to make your computer to boot from the USB stick

On some machines, it may be necessary to add rootdelay=15 to the command line in the GRUB boot screen. This allows the USB drive to "settle" for 15 seconds before the system boots off it. If successful, you can experiment with less time in the command.

Booting from the USB stick once using multiboot hot key

If your system supports booting from a USB thumb drive, usually there is some key you can press at computer startup to get a selection of boot media. Often this key is not displayed on screen, so you have to guess or read the documentation that came with your hardware. You can also enter BIOS setup utility (often via F2, F10 or Del) and read through the menu options, sometimes the key will be identified. Some Bios's (e.g. Lenovo) have an option to disable the boot menu selection key, so look for that too and make sure it is enabled.

If after successfully activating the multiboot hot key, your system does not display your USB stick as one of the options, leave the stick inserted, restart the computer and try again. If it still is not in the list, remove the stick, power down the computer, reinsert it and try again. For some machines using Intel motherboards, booting from a USB connected thumb drive is possible only if the hard disk is totally blank and contains no boot code in the MBR, or not present at all.

The most commonly used Boot Device Menu keys are Esc, F8, F9, F10 and F12

The following list may assist some users and is by no means an exhaustive list When more than one option is given, try each one in order if the first fails. Please add your machine's multiboot hot key if it is not listed.

Acer         - Esc or F12 or F9
Acer Aspire One  - F2
Albatron     - F8
Asrock       - F11
Asus         - Esc or F8
Compaq       - Esc or F9
Dell         - F12
ECS          - F11
Gigabyte     - F12
Holco        - Esc
HP           - Esc or F9
Intel        - F10
Lenovo       - F12 (or blue access IBM button) 
Microstar    - F11
NEC          - F5
Packard Bell - F8
Samsung      - F12
Shuttle      - Esc
Sony Vaio    - F11
Toshiba      - F12

Booting from the USB stick multiple times

If you plan to bot from USB Stick on a regular basis, it is worth changing the boot order in this case. It is however good to know that booting from USB keys tends to be a bit more tricky then booting from a CD. Just be persistent and try again, in a different way, quite often it will work the second time. These factors make it a bit fuzzy:

  • USB stick must be there in time for your BIOS to consider it. If you insert it too late, you need to press Ctrl-Alt-Del or even hard reset button.
  • If you insert the USB stick before power up (to be sure it is there in time), in rare cases you get another problem: Some USB sticks in some computers do not wake up reliably when inserted before power up. They just look as if they were not there, until removed and re-inserted.
  • Some BIOSes let you set the USB stick as a first boot device but they forget this choice once you boot them without the stick or with a different type of stick. Or they forget the choice once you enter BIOS setup without the stick or with a different stick (even if you do not look at the related menu at all). There are some systems that will only see a USB boot device from a cold boot, not a restart.

Fortunately, these things are getting better with newer computers so it is quite possible everything will just work for you.

Tips and tricks

  • If you are having trouble with your USB key, use the KDE partition manager (or Gparted) to remove all partitions from the key, then make a single vfat (fat32) partition. Close partition manager, unplug the key and plug it back in. Then use unetbootin or syslinux.
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