install to usb, when bios does not see usb?

Bill Davidsen davidsen at
Mon Apr 13 14:37:07 UTC 2009

jackson byers wrote:
> Please bear with me on this newbie question,
> my install experience is quite limited.
> Is it possible to install to usb external disk when bios does not see usb?
Should be possible to install to it, you have three options:
- install DVD
- Live CD using the menu install option
- Live CD using the desktop "install" icon after boot
One or more of these should work, Linux doesn't depend on BIOS to see USB.

However, the problem will be booting from USB, and that I think you will will 
have to address by booting from Live CD and selecting the "boot from internal 
drive" (or similar) option. Haven't tried in too long to know if you get options 
on which drive, you may have to do an odd two stage boot.

The real problem may be that a machine so old it doesn't see USB in the BIOS may 
also have USB-1.1 hardware, and that's likely to be unusably slow (been there). 
So be aware before you start.

You could just create a bootable DVD image on USB on some other machine and just 
address the booting problem, less learning experience but more direct. That *is* 
advice. ;-)

> In an older thread Feb 21, 2009 Re: kubuntu vs fedora initrd init files,
> Mikkel responded:
>  > I have done it both ways - as a fresh install, and by taking a hard
>  > drive with an installed OS, and putting it in an external USB case,
>  > and the drive has always ended up as /dev/sda. This  is much less of
>  > a problem if you are using LVM and/of partition labels then if you
>  > are mounting partitions directly. (As long as your LVM names do not
>  > collide! ie more then one VolGroup00.)
>  > By far, the easiest is to do a fresh, expert install to a USB drive
>  > - it will even do the proper Grub install so that you can boot off
>  > the USB drive directly on any system that supports booting from a
>  > USB drive. You can do this when moving an install to an external
>  > case, but it is much easier doing it at install time.
>  > Mikkel
> --is this advice  re "fresh, expert install"   relevant in my case
> where it appears that bios does not recognize my usb external disk?
> --if so, is that because the install cd/dvd
> will see the usb? ie despite the bios problem?
> --are you saying that it will do a "proper Grub install" to the usb MBR?
>    your point being that then the usb disk could be booted off of another
>    system whose bios does both recognize and support booting from USB drive?
> --with my current box where the bios doesnt see the USB,
>     the "proper Grub install" to the usb MBR won't be seen?,
>     ie wont interfere with
>     booting my older installs (fc5,...) from the MBR on my sda scsi disk?
> I do have that sda mbr backed up:
>  [root at bootp ~]# ls -l mbrbackup
> -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 512 Mar 14 14:13 mbrbackup
> [root at bootp ~]#
> thanks for any help
> Jack

Bill Davidsen <davidsen at>
   "We have more to fear from the bungling of the incompetent than from
the machinations of the wicked."  - from Slashdot

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