I am trying to install Xubuntu on an old PC with:

  • A USB port that can't boot, but otherwise works fine.
  • A CDROM drive that can boot, but is extremely slow and fails often.

I created a USB stick with usb-creator, burned the Xubuntu 12.10 ISO to a CDRW, inserted them, then switched on, selected "Try Xubuntu".
It took 2 hours, but now I am trying Xubuntu and writing this question from it.

QUESTION: How can I now install from the USB stick, rather than using the extremely slow/faulty CDROM drive?

Actually, installing from CDROM is not even an option, so I must find a way to use the USB stick, despite my motherboard not being able to boot from USB. Here is why:
Because of a bug with Athlon CPUs, I must remove a particular package, and I get a read error from the CDROM drive:

sudo apt-get remove ubiquity-slideshow-xubuntu 
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree       
Reading state information... Done
The following packages will be REMOVED:
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 1 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
After this operation, 1263 kB disk space will be freed.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]? 
(Reading database ... 132314 files and directories currently installed.)
Removing ubiquity-slideshow-xubuntu ...
dpkg: error processing ubiquity-slideshow-xubuntu (--remove):
 unable to securely remove '/usr/share/doc/ubiquity-slideshow-xubuntu/TODO.dpkg-tmp': Input/output error
E: Sub-process /usr/bin/dpkg returned an error code (1)
  • If your BIOS doesn't support booting from a USB device, there's simply no workaround for that (this is from you saying the port works but you can't boot from it), your option would be get an external optical drive or remove the hard drive put it in another computer install Ubuntu and then put it back on the original computer. – Uri Herrera Jan 2 '13 at 22:40
  • @UriHerrera: Now that I am booted into the Live CD, is there no trick to copy the OS from the USB stick to the hard drive? – Nicolas Raoul Jan 2 '13 at 22:42
  • I'm assuming you can but I wouldn't know how to, wait for someone more experienced to answer. – Uri Herrera Jan 2 '13 at 23:10

I don't think you can use the usb. Since the computer you're trying to install xubuntu on is old, it might not be able to succesfully boot the live cd. I recommend using the ubuntu 12.10 minimal cd. You won't get the ubiquity-slideshow because the installation is from commandline, there is no gui but the installation is easy. Installing this way works well on older computers. When you use the minimal cd there will be only 28 mb on the cd, the rest of the os will be downloaded during the installation. During the installation you will be able to choose your preferred desktop. LXDE/Lubuntu is best for older computers, but Xfce/Xubuntu is available. Its also possible to install only a commandline system and add a desktop environment and other programs later. You can get the minimal iso from here:



You could burn a plop boot manager cd and boot your usb from the boot manager

See: http://www.plop.at/en/bootmanagers.html

  • +1 Great idea! Somehow I was presuming that plop was only for floppies. – Nicolas Raoul Jan 3 '13 at 13:49

If you put the .iso on a USB stick (in a subdirectory called ubuntu, for example), you can boot from an optical disc, but pass isoscan/filename=/ubuntu/desktop-ubuntu-14.10-desktop-i386.iso on the kernel command line. (Which you type in manually from the boot screen, unless you edit the .iso before burning it.)

So the computer boots syslinux from your optical disc, which then loads vmlinuz and the initrd from the optical disc, but with a kernel commandline which tells the scripts in the initrd to scan all the mountable partitions it finds for an iso image, and loopback-mount that.

I've been trying to figure out how to make this work with a USB stick that has the unpacked contents of the ISO on it, so you could boot it normally on computers that can boot from USB mass-storage devices.

edit: like this old page describes making a boot-CD for Ubuntu on a flash drive. cdrom-detect/try-usb=true on the kernel commandline might still work.

edit2: yup, confirmed that the Ubuntu live-CD initramfs still supports cdrom-detect/try-usb=true. I hex-editted txt.cfg in the Xubuntu iso image (instead of unpacking / repacking the iso) before burning to a DVD+RW, so now I have a boot disc that looks for a USB stick (without having to type that every boot). It finds the stick made with usb-creator-gtk from that .iso. (Not a great program: It ignores an iso filename passed on the commandline, and it seems to insist on blowing away the previous contents of your USB stick, instead of just adding files and then using syslinux to set up the boot sector.)

Or even better, if there's a way to set up a USB stick to boot Linux regardless of whether the BIOS sees it as a USB-HDD (normal modern computers), or as a USB-ZIP (10-year-old A7V600 for example can boot USB-ZIP or USB-FDD, but not usb mass storage. It will load something off a USB flash drive when it sees it as USB-FDD, but then the loaded code just hangs.)

  • testing confirms that cdrom-detect/try-usb=true and isoscan/filename=/ubuntu/desktop-ubuntu-14.10-desktop-i386.iso both still work with Ubuntu 14.10. – Peter Cordes Feb 16 '15 at 9:45

I ended up copying the content of the USB stick to a local hard drive using dd:

dd if=/dev/sdd of=/dev/sdb oflag=direct

Where sdd is the USB stick and sdb the local hard drive. Then I removed the CD, rebooted, and installation went fine.

This works only if you have two local hard drives (one as the install media, one as the target system). I guess you could do the same with fdisk and partitions, but somehow when I tried it did not work.

Even though this solution worked, I accept jeroen's solution as it works even when you don't have two local hard drives.

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