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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Basic test for USB boot compatibility


The following tutorial will enable a user to check if a computer system can boot from a USB device and ultimately help determine if the computer can boot a Linux version from USB. In most cases if the test is successful, you should have no problem running Linux portably. In addition to testing your PC for USB Linux boot capability, the "Memtest86" system memory diagnostics program that is included, allows the user to scan their system memory for errors by simply booting memtest from a USB device or flash drive.

Basic USB Boot Test Essentials:

  • USB flash device
  • (includes Memtest, Syslinux and a custom batch file)

Installing Memtest on USB to test for USB Boot compatibility:

The following explains how to install Memtest on a USB device and further run Memtest from USB. Enabling us to test whether a system can boot from USB.

  1. Download the and extract the contents of the zip to your flash drive. See Screenshot below:
  2. Contents of the extracted zip on drive

  3. Navigate to your flash drive and click makeboot.bat (to make the drive bootable)
  4. Reboot your computer and set your system BIOS to boot from USB-ZIP or USB-HDD. Or, set the hard disk boot priority to boot from the USB stick if your BIOS lists the device as a hard drive
  5. Save your BIOS settings.

Upon reboot, you should have a successful launch of Memtest from the USB flash drive:

Memtest86 Screenshot:

Memtest Screenshot

This test concludes that your system is capable of booting from a USB device using Syslinux and it should be possible to run Linux from USB.

Notes: After booting Memtest from USB, it is not necessary to complete the system memory test. However, if you have the time, it can't hurt to ensure that your computers memory is in good shape.

This test does not guarantee that your computers hardware is supported with a particular Linux distribution. It is possible to pass this test and still have problems booting Linux. For example: A Video Card driver may not be available by default with a particular Linux distribution which could leave you at the shell after boot.

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