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You may have to boot to bios and move the hard drive order up from internal to usb. The normal logic may be to think of the usb as a usb device. I find it to be unusual this way, much more common that the computer thinks it is a real hard drive choice.
Some systems you have to boot to bios twice with the usb in to get it to work correctly.
tks jefro; I think I figured out the problem: for this particular ancient laptop (laptopyrus?), b/c the screen is dead I have it under the desk and use a mouse, keyboard, and external monitor on the desktop. I haven't been able to boot from the USB drive (tks TroN for the UNetBootIN pointer) b/c I can't see anything on the external monitor while the laptop is booting; not on the laptop's screen either naturellement - it's broken.
I googled and found out to hit F12 while the dell logo would be onscreen (tho I can't see it b/c it's on the dead screen, not the external monitor). So I used a timer for a bunch of trial and error:
Mouse light comes on: 28 seconds
monitor light: 50 seconds
windows load: 52 seconds
choose profile: 53 seconds
hit f12 remote at 20 seconds: no joy (just loads windows at 53 seconds)
hit f12 onboard at 30 seconds: no joy (just loads windows at 53 seconds)
hit f12 onboard at 20 seconds: no joy (just loads windows at 53 seconds)
hit f12 onboard at 10 seconds: no joy (just loads windows at 53 seconds)
hit f12 onboard at 5 seconds: no joy (just loads windows at 53 seconds)
[I've been a vGame producer for 17 years, all about the bug testing]
finally got some manner of changed reaction by continuously hitting F12 while booting; but the BIOS options (which, presumatarily, would include 'boot from usb drive') are on the dead screen so I don't have a way of selecting boot from usb drive ;-)
I googled: "is it possible to install linux from a usb drive when the computer has already booted to windows?", am reading thru responses now. Lots of learning ;-)
sorry for the James Joyce-novel bug report. JIRA would shoot me...
If the laptop is very old you may not be able to boot from a USB device at all. My 2006 Sony Vaio does not have the option to boot from USB even with tinkering in the BIOS, I have to re/install OSes from a CD/DVD.
lol Jenni - I have no earthly idea ;-) At some point, the old (I *thought* broken) laptop screen came on allowing me to boot Xubuntu from a usb drive that I had created using UNetBoot (TroN's suggestion maybe) - b/c I could see the BIOS screen ;-)
Oh well, the vagaries of tech. On FIFA Road to the World Cup '98 for SNES and Genesis (which I was an assistant producer on in 1997 at EA Sports in Vancouver), we couldn't get the darker skin tone palette to work until the day we were shipping for approval. No reason we could tell, just started working... Tks for the suggestions and reading through my Neal Stephenson-long posts.