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I have an older i386 Sony Vaio desktop PC where the BIOS only allows boot from floppy, CD or very specific USB device types, none of which seem to recognize USB flash drives for some reason. Floppy is not an option because the drive no longer works and I have no media for it if it did. I've tried assorted CD and DVD drives, the CD drives all give read errors and DVD drives all say "unsupported emulation".

My next possible option that I would like to try, is to install the hard drive into another machine as a second HD and figure out a way to format it and save an Ubuntu installation to run from that HD once it is moved back into the target machine. IS this possible and if so, how would I go about doing so? The currently running machine uses Windows XP.

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4 Answers

I have never been in your predicament, and therefore have never tried this, but I quickly threw together a plan. Some elements should be verified before you consider attempting this, I've tried to point them out within.

  1. Download and install Virtual Box.
  2. Create an Ubuntu Install within a Virtual Box VM (make sure to use VHD format or you will have to start over.) [The virtual hard drive should be the same size or smaller than the partition you make in step 4][When installing Ubuntu use an ext2 filesystem, this is important!]
  3. Download and install Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 SP1, atleast I believe that's the one with VHD mount? (within the install folder there is a program called vhdmount, move it's folder to your system32 folder (or where-ever you can easily access it using terminal) and use it to mount the virtualbox vm hard drive, it's a terminal only program so you will need to read up on how to use it.
  4. You will need to install a partition manager, or use the windows built in manager. Shrink your existing windows parition and create a new parition in the empty space.
  5. Install "Ext2 Installable File System for Windows" it's a freeware that allows creating/using ext2 paritions in windows. Use it to format the newly made parition as ext2. [You will need to verify it allows creation of ext2? It's been a while since I used it, and I cannot install it on my current OS to verify for you, sorry]
  6. Copy your Ubuntu install from the mounted vhd to the new ext2 parition on your hard drive.
  7. Install EasyBCD and use it to create an entry for your Ubuntu partition. [I believe you can use it to make an entry even without grub already installed, but you will need to verify this]
  8. Uninstall all the stuff you previously needed.
  9. Reboot and enjoy
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Here you go: Ubuntu installation guide. And if your machine really that old, you might also be interested in reading: Installation/SystemRequirements .

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If you have another PC at hand, you could also use it to install Ubuntu directly to your laptop's HDD.

  1. Plug the laptop's HDD into a free slot in your PC
  2. Boot the PC using a USB stick
  3. Install Ubuntu to the laptop's HDD. Make sure to use the right drive!
  4. After you've finished the installation and the installer asks you to reboot, shut down the PC, put the HDD back into the laptop and you should be done.

If you feel uncomfortable about selecting the correct hard drive, just unplug the PC's HDD before you boot it to install Ubuntu. It is not needed in this procedure.

As mentioned by other people, make sure your laptop fulfills the minimum system requirements for Ubuntu 13.10 before installing it.

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Update:

It is not a matter of the hardware being unable to run Ubuntu 13.x, but rather because of Sony's overly proprietary BIOS limitations. The solution that I used successfully unfortunately does not qualify as "without network connection", but aside from that, may be useful to others so long as they are able to connect to the internet.

I created a tiny partition on an otherwise blank hard drive to simulate the size of CD-ROM media, and copied Ubuntu's mini.iso to that partition. The Viao Desktop hardware was able to recognize it as executable during boot and from there, install over the net as if it had been booted using a CD-ROM copy of mini.iso.

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