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This is NOT a duplicate of How to install Ubuntu to a USB stick or similar questions.

Though there might be bits of helpful information in other questions/answers, my question is not a duplicate, because my problem is not installing ubuntu to the USB key. I've done that and I'm past this step. Instead, my problem is that the USB key doesn't boot (probably only on my machine). These two are distinct problems.

Question:

I seem to be unable to produce a working USB stick installation (not live USB stick) for my PC. Here are the details:

To create the USB stick, I go this path:

  • booted from Ubuntu 12.04.4 DVD
  • used usb-stick-creator to create live USB stick from the same DVD image as used for burning the boot DVD
  • booted from the live USB stick
  • installed from live USB stick to another USB stick

Now the problem starts:

My computer does not detect the USB stick with the normal installation as a boot device. When I try to boot with the stick plugged in, it doesn't boot from it although USB devices are put first in the boot order in the BIOS. If I hit F10 at startup (boot menu), then I get the boot menu, but the stick is not listed.

I've switched between "classic" and "UEFI" boot options in the BIOS, but neither of them work.

I've done the above procedure at least 3 times and the results were always the same. During the installation procedure, I've always carefully selected the device to which to install the boot loader. Here, I've always selected the USB stick to which I installed.

My PC is a Medion Erazer X7827.

What else can I do about this?

Telling from the installation procedure, Ubuntu isn't really intended to be booted from USB stick. It is clumsy to install to USB, because you need to manually configure the partitions and you may not miss to select the correct boot device. There is no option "install to that USB stick" ready made. This gives me the feeling that I'm trying to solve something with the wrong approach. Is a better way to go?!

Something very similar happens with Ubuntu 13.10. So far, I only found out that the beginning of the resulting usb stick contains different data depending on if UEFI was enabled at installation time or not. I guess that when installing while UEFI is enabled, I also have to enable UEFI when booting. And the other way around, when it's disabled at install time, it probably needs to be disabled at boot time, too. This alone doesn't help though.

UPDATE / 2014-10-20:

Additionally to my BIOS problems, Ubuntu (also 14.04) doesn't write the boot code (whatever that is) to the right partition. I've done this same game again with 14.04 and now the Ubuntu installation which I previously had on the HDD doesn't boot anymore. I figure that the boot code on the HDD was overwritten by the installer, although I had carefully selected the USB stick to be the target for the bootloader. I suspect that this is a bug in the ubuntu installer.

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The biggest problem with installing Ubuntu as a full install to a USB stick is that the default ext4 filesystem is a journaling filesystem, so it read/writes to the USB stick constantly which soon wears out the USB stick and makes it unusable. There are workarounds for this such as using a different filesystem, don't update packages and don't install many new packages, but even so it is still not as good as if you installed Ubuntu to a hard drive. –  karel Apr 8 at 11:49
    
Thanks for the hint. I'll keep that in mind and backup regularly to a normad HDD. However I think this can't be reason for the problem that I'm facing, because it's a stick fresh from the shop. Moreover, I can switch the two sticks that I'm using and then I face the very same problem, so both sticks are bootable with ubuntu, but both sticks fail when I install ubuntu with the standard installer instead of using the usb-stick-creator. –  Daniel S. Apr 8 at 11:52
    
Maybe a silly question, but did you flag the second USB-stick (the one you want to boot from) as 'bootable' ? –  user266693 Apr 8 at 14:11
    
@Braam, I didn't explicitly flag an usb stick (or a partition on it) as bootable. I believe that this is done by the installer when I select the partition for the boot loader installation. –  Daniel S. Apr 9 at 2:53
    
What really nags me is that the live USB stick creator creates bootable USB sticks, so this is possible in general, while the ubuntu installer doesn't produce working results. –  Daniel S. Apr 9 at 2:56

1 Answer 1

UPDATE / 2014-10-20: My below answer doesn't solve all the problems and it can't be the last word spoken in this regard. I'm keeping this answer here, because the problem described here interfers with the symptoms described in the question. For details about another problem which can't be caused by the BIOS problem, see update on question.

ANSWER:

The problem is a bug in the BIOS which, instead of listing the USB key in the boot menu, doubles the entry for the internal drive:

enter image description here

When selecting the second (doubled) entry for the internal drive, the machine boots from the USB key. Similar bugs (wrong labels, missing entries) exist in the BIOS' options when configuring the boot order.

Machine: Medion Erazer X7827
BIOS Version: (I will add this later.)

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