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Old 06-22-2004, 11:27 PM   #1
Registered: Dec 2000
Posts: 112

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Linux will not install on external hard drive

Hi everyone.

I have an ASUS L4 laptop:
256 Memory
30 Gigabyte HD
Win 2000
PCMCIA Asus 103b wireless card
2 Firewire
2.4 Celeron CPU

I have an USB 20 Gigabyte external hard drive and a Pioneer A07 DVD -+ r/rw drive (external).

I want to have Linux on the laptop, I tried Mandrake 9, it finds the USB hard drive, it lets me partion the drive and then installs a few packages, then it stops installing and everything locks up. I have tried my USB HD connected to a PC and it installed without a fuss.

I have tried Mandrake 10, everything installs then gives me an error 'cannot install GRUB', with that Mandrake 10 refuses to do anything.

I have tried Redhat 8 but it cannot find my external hard drive only my internal.

My internal has Windows 2000.

I don't want Linux and Win on the same hard drive.

I have had SuSE live CD working wonderfully on the laptop, but is too slow having to read the CD all the time.

So what I would like to know is this:
1. Can I transfer Windows 2000 to my external and get it to boot from the USB or does it have to stay internally, I have looked on the Windows installation screen and it does not find the USB external hard drive. I understand that OS are meant to be on a fixed HD and not moved around.

2. If Win 2000 has to stay, which Linix OS will work on the USB?

My Bios does allow me to boot from USB and I have upgraded the Bios and every other piece of hardware with the latest drivers from Asus.

I was told that Asus laptops are relatively Linux friendly.
Is there a solution to getting Linux onto the external HD or will I be forced to have both OS's on the internal.
Old 06-26-2004, 09:32 AM   #2
LQ Guru
Registered: Aug 2001
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Distribution: Slackware
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Its a matter of the USB driver for Mandy 9 being old enough to be buggy and Mandrake 10 being too do-it-for you to figure out its installing on a USB hard drive emulated through scsi. There are ways to cheat, the install of mandy 10 on the usb drive is done, it just needs a bootloader and there's a bunch of ways to boot to that drive and then just hand mangle the bootloader to boot to it...

Here's my one concern though, this doesn't strike me as a USB 2.0 card in the laptop, if it is, hey I can probably help you get it on there, but if the card in the laptop is USB 1.1, you'll be looking at 1.1Megs a second read/write asychrnous off of the drive... for an operating system. The drive in the laptop can handle about 30-40 Megs a second, this would be so slow as to make a 486sx look blazing fast.


Old 06-26-2004, 09:59 AM   #3
Registered: Dec 2000
Posts: 112

Original Poster
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Thanks for the reply. I have checked my settings and Win2000 tells me I have USB 2.0 and looking at my installation disks they have USB 2.0 drivers, also ASUS documentation claims that the laptop has USB 2.0. I guess I have USB 2.0

If you can help me it would be a great help.

If Mandrake 9 is buggy what distro is recommended. I understand that this is a big question and usually has a question 'what are your personal preferences'

My experience is mostly with Suse v7 but I have yet opted to buy v9 or 9.1, I have enjoyed Suse but using Mandrake on a PC was easy and user friendly.

I was checking out what I have and saw that I have redhat 8 and Slackware 9.

It's difficult to change an OS when one has been using the same one for so long.

When installing one of the Linux distributions, technical problems will not put me off.

Again, thanks for the reply.
Old 06-26-2004, 11:33 AM   #4
LQ Guru
Registered: Aug 2001
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Distribution: Slackware
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Is the drive enclosure itself USB2.0?

I haven't installed Mandrake since 8.1, so we're looking at 3 years, but if its anything like I remember it and every other distro, it installs its bootloader last. So you have a working distro, ready to go, that just has a mild confusion. What we need is a distro that you can boot off of, then mount the usb drive with mandy 10 on it, then chroot to that partition, then hand hackup up the bootloader configuration file. Knoppix is perfect for this, although that SuSe live-run will probably do. Can you use the USB cdrom and the USB 2.0 HD at the same time?

I'm pretty certain Mandy 9 barfed because the ehci driver for USB 2.0 was a little flaky during that kernel era.

Basically the steps would be like this (and tell me what to elaborate on).

Boot the SuSe Live-run CD with the USB2 drive also attached with that 99.8% Mandy 10 install done.

Now, if you can get a bootloader prompt off of the SuSe liverun CD, try:

Linux root=/dev/sda1 noinitrd ro

If that horks... you might want to try the slackware 9 cd and:

bare.i root=/dev/sda1 noinitrd ro

This is assuming that you put your root partition, / on /dev/sda1... what I'm hoping is that SuSe or Slackware's bare.i has ehci support built into the kernel and not as a module. I doubt it. If either of the above work you're booted into Mandrake 10.

If not... and you just have to boot the SuSe live-run on its own:

dmesg | grep sd

Hopefully it'll see a scsi hard drive there. If it doesn't, let's try to hand load the module... be root for all of the rest of this:

modprobe ehci_hcd

All USB storage is emulated to SCSI, same with firewire, same with a bunch of stuff actually, except parralell port hard drives, those are IDE... weird eh?

Mount the / partition somewhere, with:

mount /dev/sda1 /mnt

Now, let's move there:

chroot /mnt
exec bash

Now, we've got that one shell living in the mandrake install so let's mount the rest of the partitions:

mount -a

Most important is to make certain proc is there,

ls -l /proc

If its empty:

cd /
mount -t proc proc proc

Now, you can take a look at the bootloader file, I recommend nano or pico, its intuitive and simple, but hey, if you know VI or Emacs, fire 'em up.

nano /etc/grub.conf

And take a look at it, you'll probably need to do this twice, maybe three times to get the right grub parameters, you're looking to aim it at the 1st scsi disk, probably the first partition... If Grub becomes a hastle, see if lilo is there, its a lot more patient with weird boot devices. After getting the file straight... you'll have to read the man page for installing grub, probably have to read it in the middle of this I imagine. I don't know that bootloader as well as I should.

After all is said and done make certain to put USB ahead of the laptop's hard drive in the boot order so it wins, see what happens.

Anyway, I know this is a skimming, what do you need more elaboration on?



Last edited by finegan; 06-26-2004 at 11:37 AM.
Old 07-14-2004, 11:28 PM   #5
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Registered: Jul 2004
Location: Earth
Distribution: freebsd (but searching)
Posts: 6

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get it working?


I am also trying to accomplish the same thing with an IBM T41 and a Crossfire 120GB USB2 HD.

So far i have tried:
FreeBSD 5.2.1 - didn't even get to sysinstall
Red Hat 9 - didn't recognize the drive was attached.
MandrakeLinux 10 - installed just fine -- Kernel panic when i boot.
SuSXLinux 9? (whatever the latest version is) -- Kernel panic when i boot - and destroyed the MBL on the built in drive (which i think that was my fault).

Sadly - the thinkpad ships with a less than satisfactory "pre desktop area" that is a hidden "locked" partition. i believe this is what causes the kernel panic as with some attempts the installation says something about not being able to find the HDa drive (if i recall correctly). however now the laptop won't boot into windows XP without the USB drive being installed with MandrakeLinux LILO used to select the windows OS -- Just gives me a black screen filled with L 07 07 07 07 07 07 07 07 07 etc... filling half the screen - and hanging... i then have to power off the computer to reboot (with the USB drive attached so i can get into windows). I'd really like to have a Windows XP CD to fix Windows XP problems, but IBM doesn't seem to think that is necessary.

I've found a tonn of info on the Kernel panic, but nothing that i really understand. I hope to figure out how to edit theses config files from your message -- looks promising.

If anyone has similar experience (or a distro that will install a bootable linux OS onto a removable USB drive.) i would be very interested to know what you did to get it to work. I'm most familiar with FreeBSD no gui, but am very interested to learn and work with a linux GUI distro.

I was most intrigued by your mention of using the SuSe live run CD, as i can get to a linux shell using my SuSe cd. Did i get it strait that i can edit my Mandy conf files using this SuSe shell?

if anyone is interested, with the LILO bootloader, Mandrake panics with this message: (it's different with GRUB, but the Kernel still panic's)
[i have to type this out as i can't get a screen grab or anything else from the panicked computer ]
BIOS EDD facility v0.13 2004-Mar-09, 2 devices found
Please report your BIOS at
md: Autodetecting RAID arrays.
md: autorun ...
md: ... autorun DONE.
RAMDISK: Compressed image found at block 0
VFS: Mounted root (ext2 filesystem).
Mounted devfs on /dev
Red Hat nash version 3.5.18-mdk starting
Loading jbd.ko module
Loading ext3.ko module
Mounting /proc filesystem
Creating device files
Mounting sysfs
Creating root device
Mounting root filesystem with flags noatime
mount: error 6 mounting ext3
well, retrying without the option flags
mount: error 6 mounting ext3
well, retrying read-only without any flags
mount: error 6 mounting ext3
pivotroot: pivot_root(/sysroot, /sysroot/initrd) failed: 2
Remounting devfs at correct place if necessary
Mounted devfs on /dev
Freeing unused kernel memory: 272k freed
Kernel panic: No init found.   Try passing init= option to kernel.
Anyway - please forgive me if i am hijacking this thread... i'm hoping it's similar enough to help both of us.

Thanks for any pointers
ken at justken dot net


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