4

This question is asked often in Ask Ubuntu, sometimes with few hints about the situation.

Please provide a list of possible reasons to help troubleshoot the problem.

  • 1
    This is a double post of Why Doesn't my Bootable USB Boot As this is the better post for the site, I suggest removing the other one to prevent this one being closed as a duplicate. You question has merit but double posts are not allowed. – Mark Kirby Dec 20 '19 at 13:56
7

I know from experience that if a GUI USB creator like Rufus or Startup Disk Creator doesn't work then dd won't work either for the same (usually hardware-specific) reason. Sometimes it is possible to troubleshoot why a bootable USB doesn't boot if it is hardware specific (see below screenshots). For example, safe graphics is not working is a clue to an underlying hardware-specific problem. In this case enabling the nomodeset kernel boot option might work. Otherwise it is often possible to circumvent a hardware issue by installing Ubuntu using the lightweight, text-based Ubuntu minimal CD/USB.

Four more reasons not on the original list:

  1. Bad USB flash drive. This could even be a new flash drive which I assume to be not corrupted. Ubuntu will boot after making the Ubuntu live USB on a different USB flash drive. It's worth a try if you have two or more USB flash drives.

  2. Reformat the flash drive and reload the Ubuntu ISO from an application for making a live USB.

  3. Voltage irregularities that affect the smooth amount of voltage delivered from the motherboard to the USB flash drive. Possible causes of this are motherboard, power supply and even irregular house current. A very old computer is more likely than a new computer to have issues with the motherboard or power supply that affect booting to a live USB session.

    Here are a few suggestions that worked when I tried them.

    1. Don't plug in USB devices like mouse and keyboard next to each other. Plug in one USB device at the front and one at the back.

    2. Disconnect unnecessary devices when booting the USB to reduce the power load, for example disconnect one HDD if there are two drives. If you have a 4-port USB splitter with switches on each port this is ideal, because you can turn the USB mouse off when you don't need it and you don't need to open the computer case to disconnect an internal drive in order to reduce the power load.

    3. The Ubuntu live USB will sometimes be able to boot if the same computer is moved to another location that has a more controlled source of current or connected to an uninterruptible power supply (UPS).

  4. Some applications for making Ubuntu live USBs seem to work better than others. For example, the built-in Startup Disk Creator application is better than most.

  5. In case the BIOS Boot options do not recognize the USB device at all, some older BIOSs do not even correctly label USB flash drives in the Boot options. Instead they use some non-standard nomenclature for flash drives like USB-FDD or USB-HDD.

flowchart1
(Click images to enlarge)

flowchart2

| improve this answer | |
  • For #3, a laptop is a good alternate test system; laptop switching power supplies make very good filters, turning whatever wonky voltage coming from your wall into smooth (usually) 19VDC. – Doktor J Nov 22 '19 at 16:43
  • I have also observed that current from laptop adapters is reliable. – karel Nov 22 '19 at 17:03
  • @karel Thanks for the update. – C.S.Cameron Mar 2 at 3:05
6

There are many reasons a persistent USB might not boot.

BIOS

  • USB not set as first hard drive in BIOS

  • Problems with BIOS or UEFI boot partitions or files.

  • Secure Boot is not turned off

  • Drive not compatible with computers BIOS or UEFI boot mode

  • Incorrect partition table

  • Out of date BIOS/UEFI firmware

  • Junk in volatile memory

  • Fstab entry in Full install USB referring to HDD's efi boot partition on drives created on uefi machines.

GRUB

  • Incorrect root partition in grub

  • Incorrect path to ISO in grub

  • Incorrect persistent-path, (if used), in grub

  • Grub menu entry structure not suiting OS

  • Incorrect file type for vmlinuz and initrd (.efi and .lz)

  • The word "persistent" is missing from grub.cfg, txt.cfg, syslinux.cfg or text.cfg

Persistence (casper-rw and home-rw)

  • Persistence partition is not an ext filesystem

  • Persistence file not on FAT filesystem

  • Persistence file/partition reused from different version

  • Persistence file full of data, or file update attempted

Hardware

  • Corrupted flash drive, reformat and reload

  • Bad flash drive

  • Not enough RAM to run Ubuntu

  • Bad or incorrect USB socket

  • Incompatible computer CPU

  • Incompatible computer GPU

  • Computer does not meet minimum specs, a lighter version of 'buntu is required

  • Motherboard voltage irregularities

  • Motherboard BIOS limitation with multiple USB devices

Software

  • Bad MD5SUM / corrupt ISO file

  • Modified or corrupted ISO9660 partition

  • USB was removed from computer before ISO file is completely copied

  • Out of date boot drive creation tool

  • User inexperienced with boot procedure

Thanks to karel and sudodus for help with the answer. See Why Doesn't my Bootable USB Boot

| improve this answer | |
5

Great idea to create a list and a flowchart for this subject :-)

I would like to add

Problems with the UEFI/BIOS system of the computer, that it does not recognize a USB boot drive, that works in other computers:

  • the user does not know how to get to a temporary boot menu and how to get into the UEFI/BIOS menu system to modify the settings, should be possible to help when the computer brand name and model are known

  • secure boot might prohibit USB boot in general or a boot drive made without completely signed software, should be possible to turn off secure boot

  • the boot drive is not made for the boot mode of the computer
    • a BIOS mode booter will not boot in UEFI mode
    • an UEFI mode booter will not boot in BIOS mode (alias CSM alias legacy mode)
    • should work with USB drives cloned from Ubuntu iso files that can boot in UEFI as well as in BIOS mode except the mini.iso, which boots only in BIOS mode
  • junk in some volatile memory of the computer or connecting electronics after reboot, should work after shutdown and waiting for a minute.
  • quirk in some HP computers in BIOS mode, that will not boot via USB and grub with GPT, should be possible to fix by using an MSDOS partition table
  • some computers need an update of the UEFI/BIOS system. @oldfred often solves problems in Dell computers: "Dell typically needs UEFI update, SSD firmware update & change from RAID or Intel RST to AHCI for drive". Updating may help also with other computer brands
| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.