Transterrestrial Musings

Defend Free Speech!

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay

Site designed by

Powered by
Movable Type 4.0
Biting Commentary about Infinity, and Beyond!

« Another Clueless Commentator | Main | Initial Thoughts »

Flash Boot?

There was a comment in my previous post about my laptop problems that Vista doesn't play well with others when it comes to dual boot. Could this be gotten around by booting Linux from a flash drive, or a CD?

[Update on Sunday morning]

How about a separate USB hard drive for the other OS?


0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Flash Boot?.

TrackBack URL for this entry:


CMT wrote:

You might want to look at EasyBCD to set up a Linux dual-boot...

...but if your internal wireless really isn't working, I think I'd replace the computer first. (Is something else going to break soon?)

Phil Fraering wrote:

I have a toshiba laptop with vista home edition and debian both installed; haven't had booting problems yet.

Andy Freeman wrote:

mentions SP1 as a trigger. Even if SP1 comes pre-installed, there's always SP2, SP3, ....

mike shupp wrote:

Yes, you can dual boot, but the initial stages of the boot-up procedure are the initial stages of the Win Vista boot-up.

Vista writes a couple sectors of data to the MBR on your main disk during installation, and locks up afterward if it doesn't that data. GRUB and most other bootloaders write over the MBR when they are installed, which makes your Vista installation useless. So you HAVE to use the Vista bootloader when starting up.

Install GRUB or your bootloader of choice in a second primary partition. Install EasyBCD in Vista. Then, when you boot up after a few seconds Vista will ask if you want to continue in Vista or to switch to another loader, and you can select your Linux/FreeBSD/OS2 loader and carry on.

Yes, it's a pain.

memomachine wrote:


Yeah I've pretty much resigned myself to having separate laptops for linux and windows.

Habitat Hermit wrote:

Except for "uninstalls" I haven't touched a new MS OS since W2k (which I still use on a box that's out cold at the moment) and I've heard the nasty stuff about Vista Service Pack 1 and BitLocker however booting live-cd's and thumbdrives should work (as long as your BIOS supports it) since they don't touch the MBR or anything else really.

If for example the latest Ubuntu (or Kubuntu or Xubuntu) works reasonably well for your laptop (screen resolution, sound, etc.) then I'd recommend saying "Hasta la Vista" wiping it clean* and installing whatever you like.

* The laptop probably has three partitions on it: two small ones and the main Windows one. The two small ones are for (1) factory settings including support for the default Windows install, and (2) hardware hibernation support. They're small so one might as well leave them alone since one of them could possibly be of use for any OS. Take care to leave them alone when installing (in the installers for the various Ubuntu families (I think this applies to all of them) choose the manual non-automatic option when it comes to disks and simly leave those two alone with no changes).

For easy partitioning/formatting I would recommend downloading and using the GParted live-cd (GUI based, the live-cd is available for download on their page) which is both capable and has practically no learning curve at all if one is somewhat familiar with partitioning.

If using GParted and if the disk is fairly large I would recommend making a "OS size times four" partition for the OS & applications etc. (unless you know you'll want a lot of really big applications, if so add size) and leave the rest for mounting as /home or possibly both a /home partition and a independent self-created /data one.

If you're truly desperate I think** I still have some surplus MS-issued W2k installation disks (official but custom stuff I got free way back when it was new) laying around somewhere ^_^ (however the the thing about keeping the tiny partitions remains and using GParted is still recommended).

** That's a disclaimer right there, I would have to search my apartment to find out and I'm not going to do that unless you want it. As long as the apartment leaves me alone I try to leave it alone *big grin*.

Pete Zaitcev wrote:

An external drive installation will sort of work, but it has no advantages over a disk partition, IMHO. Also, USB is not something I would trust an OS with. It commonly has issues with the data integrity. If you can monitor them with application-level checks (running sha1sum basically), then everything is fine and they are great for backups. But for OS it's a recipy for frustration. Also, having root on a USB device requires special care (Fedora polls /sys/block/sd* in its initrd until it appears).

Booting from CD or USB works well to bypass multiboot issues with Vista, but the downside is the hassle of having external media.

I don't know if I should suggest this to Rand specifically, but it may be productive to examine virtualization (most especially if the laptop in question supports hardware virtualization in its CPU).

Josh Reiter wrote:

Not all Linux distro's on USB flashboot will work on laptops. I had 512MB traveldrive USB stick with Damn Small Linux (knoppix based). Worked great in most every desktop computer I put it in. Except for my home computer, Linux and Realtek ethernet adapters seem to have a muddied history. However, I could never get it to work correctly in any of the Dell laptops I came into contact with. Also, I had a WinPE stick that I played around with using Lilo. I'd thought I have all these nifty HDD and memory boot loader test programs multibooted. Most all the laptops didn't play nice with that either, worked fine on desktops though.

However, I was able to get the Ubuntu Hardy Heron liveCD to work on any laptop. In fact, the liveCD worked so well I permenantly installed Hardy Heron, running on a Dell D620, which I am using to post with right now. I'm so used to see the WinXp desktop and then having to wait another 5 minutes to let the startup group execute. With Ubuntu I see the desktop and then I blink a few times and realize, "oh, its done!"

BTW, I think I see why you got a good deal on the laptop. It has an AMD processor. Not that there is anything wrong with that. My gaming rig at home has exceptional performance and it is still AthlonXp 3800+ single core with DDR 1.0. At the time I bought it AthlonXP's were the best value. It is just that if I were to buying something new today it would be Intel Core Duo. They are your best bang for the buck. This d620 just flat out hauls.

Now, as far as your wireless adapter, I have seen several times where the freshly imaged laptop will not detect the wireless adapter correctly off of first boot. Instead a emulated driver will get loaded instead of the device driver that really needs to be in control. The best solution is to go to the your laptop manufacturers website. Download the latest wireless driver. Then, uninstall the wireless driver either from add/remove or from device manager (check add/remove first for wlan stuff). Then, reinstall the driver. One thing that occurs during the application install of the wireless device driver is it will write to the firmware of the wireless network controller. The device driver and the firmware have to be in sync to work correctly. Don't assume the hardware is bad, Wireless is an immature technology when compared to old wired ethernet and it needs to be banged on a few times to get straightened out.

Finally, one must keep in mind that Windows has its own built in wireless management utility. This will sometimes compete for control of your wireless adapter over the wireless management utility that is provided by your laptop manufacturer. I would say that using the manufacturer's utility would be your best bet. Look for options in the Windows wireless management that say, "Let Windows manage my wireless network and turn it off" Or, you can look in the Services control panel for a Wireless Zero Configuration service and disable it. Usually enabling the original manufacturers wireless management utility will disable these other functions automatically, but assumptions are wrong half the time.

Habitat Hermit wrote:

A bit of a late comment (typed up piecemeal during an entire day) but I just wanted to add that while I don't have much experience with external hard drives and while I do take Pete Zaitcev's comment to heart it is a possibility.

The beauty of CDs or thumb drives is that they get chosen for booting all the way down at the BIOS level (depending on what preference is set for the loading/seek order of boot media but I've never seen anything but variations of "floppy -> CD -> USB -> hard drive(s)" as the default setting) so there is far less that can go wrong. An external hard drive would as far as I know get into the picture at the later boot loader stage (which is read from the boot media, usually on an internal primary/master hard drive partition flagged as active/boot) where the Vista troubles appear.

However (here's the workaround/kludge/hack) if one really wants to be able to use an USB (or Firewire if supported) external hard drive directly (i.e. independently of what Vista might do with the boot loader at a later stage) even though it can't contain a boot loader of its own (due to not being in the BIOS options) one could install the boot loader on removable media (floppy/thumb drive/CD/DVD anything as long as it is among the BIOS options).

If/when the Vista boot loader removes the "non-acceptable" entry from the boot loader or possibly tries to brick the machine/Windows Vista install (Bitlocker) one just boots from the removable media (this would of course also work for an additional install on the internal hard drive). When the system is booted one can just detach whatever the boot loader was on.

It might be as relatively easy as:
1. Backing up the existing Vista boot loader (whatever those files are called now) to removable media (Microsoft's Knowledge Base should have instructions).
2.a. Creating sufficient space by shrinking the Vista partition with GParted.
2.b. Creating and formatting a new partition in that space (still with GParted).
2.c. Installing *nix there.
2.alternative. Do equivalent steps as needed for an external drive.
3. Editing the Vista boot loader (once again MS Knowledge Base) to also give it the option (perhaps set as default) of booting the *nix installation and then taking care to save that change to its own removable media (since Vista is likely to delete it later)

(4. Wait for Vista to autodestruct)

If Vista doesn't allow that (would be yet another bad mark) then hopefully someone here knows more about GRUB than me and could help out with that (my limited knowledge is old and outdated --3 PC generations old). That's if GRUB (or more precisely GRUB 2 these days) is still the right/best choice for such tasks.

I'm sure there must be some tutorials on the various approaches somewhere on the net.

(I'm amazed I haven't accidentally hit "Submit" on this before I got done ^_^)

Leave a comment

Note: The comment system is functional, but timing out when returning a response page. If you have submitted a comment, DON'T RESUBMIT IT IF/WHEN IT HANGS UP AND GIVES YOU A "500" PAGE. Simply click your browser "Back" button to the post page, and then refresh to see your comment.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on August 2, 2008 7:50 PM.

Another Clueless Commentator was the previous entry in this blog.

Initial Thoughts is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 4.1