Latest LQ Deal: Latest LQ Deals
Go Back > Forums > Linux Forums > Linux - Laptop and Netbook
User Name
Linux - Laptop and Netbook Having a problem installing or configuring Linux on your laptop? Need help running Linux on your netbook? This forum is for you. This forum is for any topics relating to Linux and either traditional laptops or netbooks (such as the Asus EEE PC, Everex CloudBook or MSI Wind).


  Search this Thread
Old 08-29-2006, 09:51 PM   #1
LQ Newbie
Registered: Jun 2005
Posts: 9

Rep: Reputation: 0
Ubuntu 6.06 install on USB drive won't boot

Hi all,

I just installed ubuntu on my Acomdata Photon 80Gb USB HD following this post : .

The install went flawlessly but when I try to boot, it gets to a black screen with a blinking cursor. It waits there for 5-10 seconds and then continues to boot from the hard drive. If I don't plug in the external hard drive there is no black screen with blinking cursor. So it seems to find the hard drive and think about booting from it. But for whatever reason it never does.

So I added some stuff (the lines below) to the /etc/mkinitramfs/modules file

and recompiled using:
mkinitramfs -o /boot/initrd.img-2.6.15-26-386 /lib/modules/2.6.15-26-386/
but it didn't fix the problem. I also checked that my menu.lst grub file had the correct line (as mentionned at the above link):

root (hd0,0)

I tried to change it to (hd0,1) but it didn't work either. However, I am able to get in graphical mode by following
mount -tproc proc /target/proc
chroot /target
Any ideas how I could fix this issue? I don't want to have to go through the rescue process every single time I wan't to but in ubuntu.

Thanks in advance
Old 09-26-2006, 08:57 PM   #2
LQ Newbie
Registered: Sep 2006
Posts: 1

Rep: Reputation: 0

This will also work for Ubuntu 6.06

I didn't write this. I can't refer to web pages at the moment

SUCCESS - Breezy loaded on external USB drive !


Newsflash ... UPGRADING from a BREEZY USB install to DAPPER is possible !!!
( Kudos to "Killeroid" for sharing his success in this post. )

Hi Folks,

Since my first post on this topic, I have learned quite a bunch about the UBUNTU install process ... and managed to successfully load UBUNTU a number of times on my external USB drive. (Call me crazy, but I wanted to run the install a few times to make sure that what I was doing would work every time.)

I would like to share my updated outline with others who may also be struggling with this process.

BACKGROUND: I have an internal hard drive (western digital) already in my system with Windows XP Pro installed (which shows up initially as drive HDA in the UBUNTU partitioning phase of the install). My external USB drive is a Seagate 40GB Portable External Hard Drive that was purchased at Walmart for around $120

REQUIREMENTS: Make sure you have your bios set to boot the CDROM first and then the USB device, or you will have problems down in step 4. (Kudos to "joess" for pointing out my omission!)

pre-install tip: If you feel comfortable performing one of the suggestions in post #141 then it should make the installation to the external drive (especially tip 2) run smoother. (Kudos to "Sephatine" for suggesting this.)

IMPORTANT: Don't forget that Linux is case sensitive on everything, including file and directory names. (There is a difference between an uppercase and a lowercase letter.) Example: According to Linux, a file named "DaBruGo" and a file named "dabrugo" are considered two completely different files.

Here is what I do to successfully load UBUNTU v5.10 on my EXTERNAL USB DRIVE ...

( STEP 1 ) Instead of using "expert" mode to install, I just hit enter to start the install process (using the install CD ... NOT the live CD).

INSTALL NOTE: The installation process will ask you for some information when it starts up ...

first it will ask for your language,
then your (language) location,
then your keyboard type,
then it will detect your cdrom(s),
then it will attempt to detect your network configuration,
then it will ask you to give your PC a name (hostname),
then it detects hardware and starts up the partition phase of the install.

INSTALL NOTE: When you get to STEP 2 (the partition phase), there is a simple way to determine how the install program assigns device names to your hard drive(s). Before starting any partitioning activity in STEP 2, choose the GO BACK option in the lower left corner of this screen and then choose EXECUTE A SHELL farther down in the Ubuntu installer menu that appears. Choose CONTINUE at the next prompt. In the shell window that appears, type in fdisk -l (that is FDISK -L in all lowercase). This will give you a list of all the storage devices the installer program sees. Make a note of the device names (/dev/hd? or /dev/sd?) and then type in exit to return to the partition phase (STEP 2) of the install. (Kudos to "RyanGT" for suggesting this in post #257.)

( STEP 2 ) During the partitioning phase, I let the install program format my external USB drive. (I believe UBUNTU calls this a guided partitioning ... which sets up an ext2 or ext3 partition and a swap partition for you.)

INSTALL NOTE: Look for the line during the partitioning phase that might say ... erase entire disk SCSI (0,0,0) (sda). Be careful here as some people have had problems when choosing any partitioning options that include the text "and use LVM" (Kudos to "brucetan" for sharing this in post #268.)

Feel like learning about LVM anyway? Check this link out. (Kudos to "SD-Plissken" for sharing this info.)

BE VERY CAREFUL on these screens to choose the correct SDA drive and NOT an HDA drive or you may unintentionally format another drive in your system. There is no undo button for this!


( STEP 3 ) When the install gets to loading the GRUB bootloader ... DO NOT LET IT LOAD TO ANY OTHER DRIVE BUT THE EXTERNAL USB drive we are working with here.

The install program will ask to load GRUB to the master boot record (MBR) of your internal hard drive (HDA). Say NO to this, and on the next screen, type in the correct path to the SDA (external USB) drive where we want to install the GRUB bootloader.
(Mine was /dev/sda [NOT sda1] ... but yours may be different depending on the number and/or types of drives in your system)

COMMENT: I loaded GRUB to sda (the bootsector of the external drive) and NOT to sda1 (which would be the first partition on the external drive).

INSTALL NOTE: at this point, the install program loads some stuff and ejects the CD ... wanting you to do a reboot.

( STEP 4 ) BE 100% SURE to leave the CD in the drive (and close the drive door) before rebooting. When the PC reboots, type in rescue (to load UBUNTU in rescue mode) ( Review REQUIREMENTS at the beginning of this guide! )

Why do we startup in rescue mode you might ask? It's because we have to edit a few files to get USB support loaded before UBUNTU actually gets going. And, we also need to change a setting in the GRUB menu file to make it work correctly.

( STEP 5 ) When the system comes back up it will ask for a partition to mount. Pick the correct mount point for your external drive from the list.
(Mine was mount /dev/discs/disc1/part1 ... but yours may be different depending on the number and/or types of drives in your system)

COMMENT: /dev/discs mount points start with disc0 (with 0 meaning the first drive in a system). So, my mount point of /dev/discs/disc1/part1 was really the second disk [disc1] (the sda drive we are working with) and the first partition [part1] on that disk.

( STEP 6 ) When it comes up to a terminal window (with RESCUE MODE in the upper left corner) and just sits there, hold down Ctrl-Alt-F2 to open another terminal window for us to do our edits in.

( STEP 7 ) Type in these lines before we start editing out files ...

mount -tproc proc /target/proc <enter>
chroot /target <enter>
su <enter>

INSTALL NOTE: I used vim to edit the files. (There is a great vim cheatsheet in pdf format available from "TimL".) It is weird to use at first until you learn what a few keys do in it. The INSERT key allows you to actually enter text where you place the cursor ... The ESC key takes you out of INSERT mode ... And hitting : x <enter> saves the file and exits out of vim. (IMPORTANT TIP ... that's a colon and a lowercase x with NO SPACE between the colon and the x)

( STEP 8 ) Run vim to edit the modules file to make sure USB support is added/loaded during UBUNTU startup ...

vim /etc/mkinitramfs/modules <enter>

Right below the last line of text, enter these lines ...


Be sure to save the file changes (using : x)

COMMENT: Some PCs may need a more comprehensive list added here. Please take a look at post #181 or post #406 if you are having startup issues after these edits. (Kudos to "brotorious" for his efforts on this, and to "Jonathan.Martin" for posting his successful resolution to the problem as well.)

( STEP 9 ) Run vim to edit the initramfs.conf file to make sure enough time elapses for USB support to load before UBUNTU gets running ...

vim /etc/mkinitramfs/initramfs.conf

At the very top of this file, add this line which tells UBUNTU to pause for 12 seconds before starting up ...

WAIT=12 (in all caps here, not sure if necessary though)

Be sure to save the file changes (using : x)

INSTALL NOTE: Editing these two files loads the necessary commands to get USB support going so UBUNTU will recognize the external USB drive. But we still need to recompile (or recreate) the initrd.img that UBUNTU uses at startup ... so that these edits actually work.

( STEP 10 ) Recompile (recreate) the initrd.img file to include USB support from these edited files ...

mkinitramfs -o /boot/initrd.img-2.6.12-9-386 /lib/modules/2.6.12-9-386

INSTALL NOTE: When you are done with the previous step #9 (and before performing this step), you can run the "ls /lib/modules" command (without the quote marks) from a terminal window to see what kernel version number you should use for this install step. They may be using a kernel version higher than 2.6.12-9-386 that was available when I originally created this help guide. (Kudos to "Saxegaard" for bringing this to my attention in post #235.)

( STEP 11 ) Edit the GRUB bootloader menu file to correct a small error that looks at the wrong drive to boot from ...

vim /boot/grub/menu.lst

Navigate down this file until you get to a section where there is a menu list (not commented out ... no #s) that has Ubuntu mentioned three times (and possibly an area mentioning Windows XP down below it, if you have XP installed on an internal drive of yours).

There is a line in these three Ubuntu menu choices that has root listed on it and probably has (hd1,0) to the right of it. We need to change this to (hd0,0) on all three of these menu choices. Why? Because according to GRUB, the external USB drive will be our first drive (hd0,0) and not our second drive (hd1,0) because we loaded GRUB on it's bootsector.

INSTALL NOTE: You will also want to change a "# groot" line in a section of your menu.lst file that may look something like this ...
## default grub root device
## e.g. groot=(hd0,0)
# groot=(hd0,3) <<< CHANGE THIS LINE TO READ # groot=(hd0,0)
(Kudos to "archis" for his excellent documentation of this farther down in post #227.)

INSTALL NOTE: You may want to change the root line for the Windows XP section in this file to (hd1,0) just in case you have XP loaded on an internal drive and want the option to boot into XP from the GRUB menu. (See post #2 for more info.) You may have to edit this section whenever you update your kernel version. If you have problems pulling up XP after a kernel update, check this section of your menu.lst file to see if you need to edit it again.

Be sure to save the file changes (using : x)

COMMENT: Feel more comfortable editing this file in Windows? See post #171 for a program that will let you edit files on linux partitions from within Windows. (Kudos to "mickola" for the suggestion.)

( STEP 12 ) Exit out of this terminal window (keep typing exit <enter> until the screen actually says to press enter). Hold down Ctrl-Alt-F1 to get back to the RESCUE MODE terminal window and type exit<enter> to reboot the system.


( STEP 13 ) After rebooting, UBUNTU continues to run it's install process and comes to the desktop. Use the username and password you setup earlier in the install process to get into UBUNTU

That's the process I've successfully used to install UBUNTU v5.10 on an external USB drive. I hope this helps anyone whose been wrestling with this process. Let me know if it works out for you.

Old 10-08-2006, 01:23 AM   #3
Registered: Nov 2003
Location: Solihull, England
Distribution: Ubuntu
Posts: 38

Rep: Reputation: 15
I have the same issue and have tried both the methods above. When Iplug the external HD in all I get is a blank screen and a flashing cursor. Any ideas?


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
ubuntu partitioning tool does not see external usb hard drive when installing ubuntu fakie_flip Linux - Software 2 07-30-2006 12:44 AM
install using boot floppy & usb drive? bob5000 Linux - Newbie 1 11-24-2005 11:10 AM
Ubuntu on USB drive? Ubuntu 2 08-17-2005 06:58 PM
New Ubuntu install hasn't mounted windows hd or usb drive trempel Ubuntu 7 05-26-2005 04:58 PM
boot problem after Slack 10 install to usb Hard drive... Elohist Slackware 2 08-04-2004 12:42 PM > Forums > Linux Forums > Linux - Laptop and Netbook

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 01:51 PM.

Main Menu
Write for LQ is looking for people interested in writing Editorials, Articles, Reviews, and more. If you'd like to contribute content, let us know.
Main Menu
RSS1  Latest Threads
RSS1  LQ News
Twitter: @linuxquestions
Facebook: linuxquestions Google+: linuxquestions
Open Source Consulting | Domain Registration