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Boot to USB Drive on MAC

I have a USB drive with linux installed that is bootable on PC's.
I want to boot from it from MAC.

My dream solution would be be a VM solution to create an custom icon to place in the dock that launches a VMware Fusion boot environment configured to boot to USB.

Problem #1 - This drive does not mount in the mac environment.  According to disk utility the mac can not read the file system.

I am also interested in my options to use boot camp.

Is there a hot key to press on the mac while booting to prompt a boot menu like F10 on PC?

Thanks for your advice!!!
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5 Solutions
There are tons of articles online as to how to configure/install OS X on a USB drive. It just depends on your particular flavor of OS X.


Boot camp comes with 10.5 and 10.6. It will install any OS that has drivers for an intel chip based system. Apple has a great area on its site for Boot Camp questions and installing various OSs.
Booting while holding down the option (alt) key should bring up the boot picker application.
You can try Yellow Dog Linux http://www.yellowdoglinux.com/support/hardware/

Really, though, the system has to be blessed to be bootable.  
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The USB key needs to have a GUID partion table
Your trying to read the disk in a mac environment, this doesn't mean that it doesn't boot. After all on a dual boot xp/linux install, xp doesn't read the linux partitions, and yet the still work n your computer.

As for booting USB devices, a GUID partition table improves your chancs, hold down the ALT key, the one to the left of the apple key, and it'll give you all the boot devices that it can read, from cd, to hard disk partitions, to multiple partitions on all attached hard drives, usb and firewire
What is the file system? ext3? (or ext2 or ext4?)

If so you can mount rw it with these steps:

1) download and install fuse_ext2 and macfuse.


2) create a mountpoint

sudo mkdir /Volumes/Whatever

3) find out where your device is

diskutil list

you are looking for /dev/diskxxx

where x is a number like /dev/disk1 or /dev/disk1s1 if it has multiple partitions.

4) navigate to where you've installed fuse_ext2

cd /usr/local/bin (typically)
sudo ./fuse_ext2 /dev/diskx /Volumes/Whatever -o force

it should show up in finder now.

If you don't want to do it manually all the time you can run a little shell script like this at startup to do it automatically:

umount /dev/diskxxx
mkdir /Volumes/UBUNTU
sudo /usr/local/bin//fuse-ext2 /dev/diskxxx /Volumes/UBUNTU -o volname=UBUNTU,force
MikeXnaAuthor Commented:

Mini: Thanks for the links I am looking into them.

Strung and Angel:  Thanks for letting me know about the Alt (Option) key.  It was exciting to see this for the first time.   Unfortunnatly I only see my Mac Hard Disk.  I have read elsewhere that only Firewire drives were bootable on MAC.  I am not sure how current that is,  I hope Apple adds a USB boot option.
I am not sure how to check if my USB drive has a GUID or how to check that.  I can assure that it is bootable on any computer that supports USB boot.

Caity:  Thank you for the links to Fuse.  Installed it on my MAC with the extentions and my USB drive now mounts.  YAY!  I did not need to perform your steps 2-4.

SO...My Current problem:  I was hoping that my VMWare Fusion would give me the option to boot to my drive now that is mounted, however VMWares BIOS does not seem to see it.  I can't seem to press F2 fast enough in the VMWare environment to explore the settings. Is there a trick to that?

FYI Currently I am testing this in Leopard with Fusion 2.0

My goal is to boot to this drive in either a VM or booting using Option Key.

Thanks Again everyone for helping with this.
I really appreciate it!

Macs with Intel chips can boot from USB drives. Older Macs with PPC chips can boot only from Firewire drives. You can tell which you have by pulling down the Apple Menu to About This Mac.

Assuming your Mac is an Intel Mac, it should boot from the USB drive provided that the USB drive has an OS X system on it (not Unix or Windows) and is formatted as Mac Extended Format (Journalled) with the partition map set to GUID.

You can format the drive and set the partition map using Disk Utility found in the /Applications/Utilities folder.

I don't know if a Mac can boot from an external drive which has only Windows or Linux on it.
Have you taken a look at Yellow Dog Linux?  It can boot from Apple hardware.
For the record - PPC macs *can* boot from usb, it needs usb 2.0, AND for the usb drive to be compatible, ie, correct partition table


And what you are trying to do, which is boot a virtual machine from USB, is very hard to do, and I think impossible with Fusion at the moment. I would take an image of the USB key, or make an ISO, and boot from that, or just burn the CD.

Booting from USB in a virtual environment, while cool, is quite slow.
MikeXnaAuthor Commented:
Nappy:  Thanks for pointing me to Yellow Dog.  I am going to look into to it.  A lot of work went into my current linux setup, however, MAC support in a new requirement for me so i am sure this will come in handy.

Angel: Thanks for sharing.  Converting my USB drive to an image file is a great idea which I would like to explore.

New Problem:   I was able to create a .cdr (which I burned to DVD)  and a .dmg using MACs Disk Utility.
The files are in the image however the image is not bootable for some reason in the VM or my PC.
I tried configuring Fusion to use the image file instead of the CD. No Luck. =(  I also tried Parallels.

Is there a better cloning method?

I have read about Clonezilla LiveCD, e.g. Clonezilla (http://clonezilla.org/), or gparted can migrate the USB drive volume over to a new virtual VMDK container,

however I was hoping for a MAC solution for cloning.

Thanks All!
Okay, lets take a few moments here --

Do you have a standard linux distro on your USB key, or is it a custom built one? There are a few solutions, but I want to recommend one that will get you up and running as quickly as possible.
Something to consider here... what are you attempting to gain by having windows/linux on a usb drive for a Mac?  There may be better options for you.

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