Boot From USB2

Concerning Windows, is it possible to install the OS on an external USB2 hard drive and then boot from it?

What about other OS's: LINUX or OS2.
ryan3dAsked:
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revolwsCommented:
Ryan:

Sending you this link.  The details to what you want to know are too lengthy to be repeated here but available in great detail at the site....


http://www.usb.org/faq/ans3.html

Your problem is gonna be the system BIOS.  Both Award and Phoenix have new BIOS that support USB so now we are down to motherboard and supported bios's.

Good Luck..

revolws
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revolwsCommented:
Ryan:

Sending you this link.  The details to what you want to know are too lengthy to be repeated here but available in great detail at the site....


http://www.usb.org/faq/ans3.html

Your problem is gonna be the system BIOS.  Both Award and Phoenix have new BIOS that support USB so now we are down to motherboard and supported bios's.

Good Luck..

revolws
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thasslerCommented:
No that's not going to work.  The BIOS has no way of determining a Drive on the USB bus.  So, without recognizing that the drive exists (and without USB Drivers for that device) the boot sector simply won't be found or be able to be used.

You might be able to use a local drive or another BIOS recognized removable drive (floppy, LS120, ZIP) to load a minimal OS with driver Set and use the USB hard drive as the boot partition.  Linux would almost certainly be the way to go with this sort of thing.  I haven't even thought about OS2 in 5 years.  :-)

The upshot is that unless the BIOS can recognize the device and see it as a bootable partition, this won't work without a kludgy setup.
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magarityCommented:
thassler, please read that link before saying it won't work.  I have only glanced at the link, but we are currently developing this feature for the BIOS where I work.

Boot from USB will work because different types of USB devices have different types of code identifiers they respond with to the controller.  If BIOS can bring up the controller and do a basic query of the device types attached, it can find a hard drive type and request the boot sector information.  This identifier is enough to get started without traditional 'driver' type software.  This works with 'driverless' USB drives, like the keychain 'disks' (that are really CompactFlash style memory) and there are some hard drives that behave in this manner.  Some hard drives don't do this, so pay attention to what model you get.  As a general rule, the more sophisticated the drivers it needs, the less likely to be a bootable USB drive.

As revolws points out, the BIOS must have this capability.  If there is no BIOS upgrade for your model computer/motherboard then write an email to the manufacturer enquiring whether they plan to implement it.  Older models are probably not getting any new development done other than bug fixes, but current models may very well have it.

regards,
magarity
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thasslerCommented:
I didn't see anything that suggested to me that this would work without the BIOS being able to discern the device on the USB Bus.  As you point out, this MAY be possible if 1) your BIOS has the capability of booting from a USB driverless device and 2) your USB device is driverless.

I would like to know which USB Hard drives have this capability, as I haven't seen them (though I trust you have based on your comments).  If that's the case, then my comment that this won't work is incorrect.

But in my experience I haven't seen any BIOS that allow this, typically even if a device is driverless (such as the keychain memory).  And I haven't seen any USB Drives that are driverless.  Please give me a listing of MoBo's and Drives that can, as I would be very interested in this myself.  Thanks!
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whoamiCommented:
margarity,

I don't see anything on there that says that this is possible, but in the same respect I don't see that it is not.  

ryan3d,

In my opinion the answer to your question is both yes and no.  No it is not currently possible but maybe in the near future.  Both margarity and thasser are correct with there statements.

CShenberger
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revolwsCommented:
Ryan:

Please note the following link concerning booting from USB.  Guess I can safely say a Adonis drive will do it.  Of special significance is the fact that they go to great lengths to specify that the latest Phoenix or Award BIOS have the capability.  Whats unique to us and this question is that if those bios will boot their drives via usb than they will boot most usb devices since the bios is DEFINITELY hardware manufacturer generic.

http://www.addonics.com/techsupport/usb_troubleshooting_resources.htm

In linux you can create a disk to boot from USB.  See this link:

http://www.netcologne.de/~nc-reisinjo/datafab/usbboot.html

Magarity:

Thanks for the support.  I like everyone am learning constantly and tend to check it out before I repeat it or jump to a conclusion based on past knowledge.  We all know this area is constantly advancing and changing.

revol
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jwc02026Commented:
may not matter but a firewire card and drive will eliminate this issue
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magarityCommented:
The real trick, of course, is installing the operating system.  Win98, ME, and 2k boot CDs do not come with USB hard drive support...  I haven't checked WinXP.  You can't put a USB driver on a DOS boot disk and install from CD after booting the floppy...  so what the heck do you do?  How do you fdisk the USB drive and set its primary to 'active'?  Hmmm, maybe there must be some IDE emulation in the BIOS that you toggle.  Our contractor claims to have finished the implementation of boot from USB hard drive, but we haven't started integrating it into our BIOS code yet because it will create a headache to do so if their boot from IDE CDROM code was any guide.  You've asked this question about 2 or 3 weeks too early, hah hah...  I'll have to just play with it after we get it set up.

Something like Linux is a lot easier to deal with - see the link in an above comment.  Is there USB support for OS2?  I stopped using that before USB came out.  The same problems occur:  how do you do the initial installation?  Installing needs driver level software, as opposed to "simply" requesting boot record info once the installation is done.

regards,
magarity
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thasslerCommented:
magarity and revolws,

Great information, and yes to some degree I based my original post on current and past knowledge.  Both of your posts have me thinking that this will be possible in the near future as soon as the hardware (and software) vendors figure out the BIOS and device drivers, etc.

In reference to magarity's last post, I wonder if it would be possible to create a boot partition, clone it with Drive Image or Ghost and put it on the USB drive.  That would get around the install issue.

regards,
thassler
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magarityCommented:
I only have Ghost that operates from DOS floppies.  Is there some other version that works from Windows?
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thasslerCommented:
The last time I used Ghost it was from DOS Floppies.  It's been years ago, so I couldn't say.  Drive Image definitely does both.
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whoamiCommented:
If not drive image works from windows.  I think that you could run an install on a new system though with just the cd and a bootdisk from windows.  when you get your first system that this is capable on remove the HDD and then boot from the floppy because the bios will load the USB drivers for the external drive FDISK should see the usb drive and be able to partition it.  Since there is no other drive in the system you will be able to make its partition active thus enabling you to install windows.  Use the windows CD and install then you will have a good bootable image on your system.  

CShenberger
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jwc02026Commented:
I have the latest version of ghost and it still only runs from floppys.
I does have network and cdrw drivers.
you may be able to manipulate that
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dioSRLCommented:
I tried it and this is what happened:

My configuration:
MB : Abit BE7-RAID - i845PE (with usb 2.0)
HDD: IBM, USB 2.0, 10Gb 4200RPM(a notebook 2,5" HDD put in an external usb adapter)

I removed the primary master(IDE) drive and boot the system with the Win XP Professional installation CD.
The setup procedure runs OK until it gets to the screen when you have to choose the partition to install Windows to.

Here it shows:

9586 MB Disk on disk [MBR]
C: Partition1 (USB_1) [FAT32]  3079 MB  (3071 MB Free)
D: Partition2 (USB_2) [FAT32]  6512 MB  (6143 MB Free)

The message when I try to choose one partition:
"Your computer's startup program cannot gain access to the disk containing the partition or free space you choose. Setup cannot install Windows XP on this harddisk.

This lack of access does not necessarily indicate an error condition. For example, disks attached to a SCSI adapter that wasn't installed by your computer manufacturer or to a secondary harddisk controller, are typically not visible to the startup program unless special software is used. Contact your computer or hard disk controller manufacturer for more information.

On x86 computers, this message may indicate a problem with the CMOS drive type settings. See your disk controller documentation for more information".


Notes:

* when I put the IDE hdd(primary master), the setup program still assign drive letter C to the USB hard drive!
* I am sure that FDISK also can detect the HDD and to set it Active (I haven't tried but..)
* Maybe with Norton Ghost.. try to put the windows image from another harddisk and then boot with a floppy disk and set it active.. Definately I will give it a try these days.

I think they have to add a minor improvement to the system bios and we should be able to boot with no problems from USB devices. Let's hope MB producers will consider this matter as soon as possible, since the hardware support is already there and all they have to do is to write a couple of commands for the BIOS..
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vivigattCommented:
I will just add some light to this question, in the case of booting Windows 9X/NT/2K/XP systems.

At first, boot operations that deal with reading sectors on a hard drive are handled by the BIOS (int13h). Then booting from an USB device implies that the BIOS knows how to handle int13h function performed on USB storage device. For instance, booting DOS from an USB device should be OK as long as the BIOS is USB-Boot compatible (most recent Award BIOSes are), because DOS is able to only use int13h to access the HDs.

In the case of Windows 9X/NT/2K/XP systems, when the system switches to protected mode (aka 32bits mode), it needs to get rid of BIOS functions and then, a drivers stack for your storage device must be present and usable by Windows. In the case of USB device, this drivers stack would contain at least: USB Controler driver and USB HD driver. All the drivers in said drivers stack must be "start drivers" (meaning that they can be loaded and initialized at the very begining of Windows boot process, just like SCSI and IDE drivers). If all these conditions are met then there is no theoretical reasons for a boot off USB device not to be possible. I will soon get an USB drive and will let you know if I can boot Windows 2K from it.
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wjlonienCommented:
Right, vivigatt. So do we have to patch/make our own Windows 2000 CDs (maybe OEM preinstall) to get the job done?
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wjlonienCommented:
Right, vivigatt. So do we have to patch/make our own Windows 2000 CDs (maybe OEM preinstall) to get the job done?
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dioSRLCommented:
I have a motherboard (Intel, i850) which has a bios option: Boot From USB. I think any other boards with this option can boot from usb with no problem. I havent test it, i need a S423 and a pair of rambus for it, but I will soon.
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vivigattCommented:
>Right, vivigatt. So do we have to patch/make our own Windows 2000 CDs (maybe OEM preinstall) to get the job done?


In fact there is another way to do the job : That is the way my company, Qualystem Technology (www.qualystem.com) uses in its products for them to be able to boot Windows NT/2K/XP from unsupported media such as DVD-R/CD-R or a server on a LAN.

Browse our site for more details.

(Sorry for the ads, but one must live, and we spent so much resources setting up these technologies that we should try to sell them now ! Furthermore, this question has been answered and I won't get any point for my answers ;) !!)
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