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There has been a lot of posts about how to get a USB HDD to boot without bios support...obviously with linux installed on it. Recently i fixed up my old laptop (toshiba a60). It doesn't have a hard drive, it does have a cd rom. I had a portable hard drive (WD 320gb pretty new) that i decided to install ubuntu 9.04 onto it..full install. However after the install i realised that my laptop wouldn't boot USB-HDD. I completely overlooked the matter because my laptop would boot USB-FDD (i updated the bios using a usb floppy drive but no support for USB-HDD)
Havin read many forums i tried making a bootable CD, didn't work and apparently many people had the same problem. Tried using boot loaders like plop but it wouldn't load up the hard drive. The hard drive definately boots, i tried it on my new laptop which supports USB-HDD and everything is fine. Since USB-FDD definately works on my old laptop...is there anyway of using this function to boot the USB-HDD. I don't mind wiping the external hard drive again...nothing is on it but ubuntu. I read about makebootfat..seems to do what i want but i have no idea what to do with it, let alone get it to boot. Also the USB-HDD gets power as soon as the laptop switches on and i would prefer everything to work from the USB-HDD as it means i don't have to waste connections...
No you can not fool a usb-hd into looking like a usb-fd period.
I think what you are thinking about is something like what zipslack used to do. It can still work but has nothing to do with your boot issue.
A bootable cd or floppy can boot a usb device. Pretty sure plain old grub can do it too.
Should be able to boot to ubuntu cd and then edit the grub to allow booting off usb. You'd have to do that every time you boot. See also how distro's like dsl and puppy do it since they boot to older systems.