I'm stuck on a really old computer with ~500MB RAM and a 6GB HDD. It has Windows 2000. Being not from this side of the century (it originally ran Windows 98), the BIOS does not have an option to boot from USB. It also does not have a CD burner, and I don't have any money to order a liveCD off the internet.

So I only have a USB port and a floppy drive to work with. When I tried DSL, I had a floppy that contained the kernel and syslinux. I realize that the Ubuntu kernel is too large to fit on one 1.44MB floppy, but is there some sort of program/boot loader that could load from USB from a floppy?

  • Yes, I tried Plop. It didn't work because of my old BIOS.

Is there a program that I can use to boot Ubuntu from a floppy and a USB?

also: I only have a power user account. So a lot of things go straight out the window there.

  • Does the BIOS have an option to network boot? – Jorge Castro Dec 14 '11 at 0:29
  • You guys are incredible! Sorry for not being involved, I've been having kernel errors with my old buggy 2000. I never thought I'd see so many comments in so little time! Thank you all! I am indescribably grateful. While I haven't been able to try any of these yet, I plan on printing them all out and doing so ASAP. (Who needs food when you can have Ubuntu?) My internet connection is really, really slow (I got my .iso off of Bittorrent in ~2h) so net booting is not an option) My BIOS has from CD (no burner), floppy, and HDD. I use some proprietary netcard, so it wouldnt be recognized anyways. – WindowsEscapist Dec 17 '11 at 1:41

First, as you can imagine, Ubuntu is going to run slowly on that hardware, and I normally think of a 5 Gb partition as the minimal space for an Ubuntu install.

You may have better success with Lubuntu, it will use less resources.

You can probably boot an iso from your hard drive with grub4dos

I can not give you a detailed walk through on this as I do not have windows 98 to confirm this on, but the following should work.

Download ubuntu or lubuntu iso, put it in C:\

Download grub4dos from http://sourceforge.net/projects/grub4dos/

It is a zip file, unzip it.

copy grldr from the extracted archive to C:\grldr

Save a backup copy of c:\boot.ini , open c:\boot.ini with notepad and add the following line to the end of the file

c:\grldr="Boot Ubuntu ISO"

Save the file and close it.

Again using notepad, create a file C:\menu.lst save it as a txet file to C:\menu.lst (that is a small "l" and not the number "1").

title Ubuntu 10.04 Desktop
find --set-root /ubuntu-10.04-desktop-i386.iso
map /ubuntu-10.04-desktop-i386.iso (hd32)
map --hook
root (hd32)
kernel /casper/vmlinuz file=/cdrom/preseed/ubuntu.seed boot=casper iso-scan/filename=/ubuntu-10.04-desktop-i386.iso quiet splash --
initrd /casper/initrd.lz

That menu entry is for the ubuntu-10.04-desktop-i386.iso , adjust your menu accordingly.

Reboot and give it a try. If it goes well you should boot the ubuntu iso, it will be slow.

To un-do those changes, delete C:\grldr , undo your edit to c:\boot.ini, delete C:\menu.lst, delete the ubuntu desktop iso.

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  • This is probably pretty obvious and I just don't see it, but where should I place my iso? And also, I seem to ave lost the ability to edit my boot.ini (I know I could earlier, my admin must have done something). Is there any way that I could get around this? – WindowsEscapist Dec 17 '11 at 1:29
  • Put the Ubuntu desktop.iso in C:\ , not in a sub directory. Perhaps your admin can help you with the edit ;) – Panther Dec 17 '11 at 1:31
  • thank you! (I might have to go get BartPE or some other password ...ummm... "helper" (that's it, helper!)) – WindowsEscapist Dec 17 '11 at 2:09
  • Oh! I just realized something. I don't have enough HDD space for the .iso in C:\, so could i set it to in a subdirectory in my flash drive? I know that DSL sees my flash drive as sda1, but is that what grldr will see it as? And if its not too much trouble, could I have an example? See, my dream is to have a flash drive not only USB-bootable but by a sort of "rescue floppy" if you will with a LiveCD persistent Ubuntu. – WindowsEscapist Dec 17 '11 at 2:25
  • Well, the question is if the BIOS or grub will recognize the flash drive at that time in the boot process. My guess would be not. Can you move user data off the C drive ? – Panther Dec 17 '11 at 4:24

I think this can be done with Super Grub disk to (possibly) bootstrap the USB to boot. Download the lastest iso^ from the download page.

If you need a program to extract the files from the iso, Peazip (or 7zip) is a free and open source tool you can use. (If you have trouble installing because you are not an administrator, try the portable version of Peazip (or 7zip portable)).

The img file is in the Super Grub disk iso, under [BOOT]/Bootable_NoEmulation.iso

You can install Super Grub disk. onto a floppy drive using RawWrite for Windows. Download the Rawwrite Binary (the .zip file - 0.7 is the lastest at time of writing). You can use Peazip to extract the zip file.

With RawWrite, select the image file as and click write (after inserting a floppy disk) and it should write to the floppy drive.

(I assume you have downloaded a ubuntu iso). Use the lastest unetbootin exe. To make a live usb with unetbootin: (from pendrive linux)

  1. Download UNetBootin for Windows
  2. Download your favorite Linux ISO
  3. Double click the Unetbootin Executable to start the program

    1. Click the Diskimage radio box
    2. Browse to select your ISO
    3. Set your target USB drive
    4. Click OK to start the creation

    Unetbootin creating live USB

(If you are using the target computer to view this, then write the following instructions down, or print them out)

Reboot and boot from the floppy drive, with USB drive plugged in. Get to the command line (you may or may not have the menu pop up.)

Once there you will need to find your boot device. (Glance at the code below). If you only have 1 hard drive it will be hd1 for the second hard drive - the usb drive (the numbering starts from 0). The second number afterwords is your partiton number. For a USB drive it us usually 1 for the first partition (numbering starts from 1). Enter the code below to boot from your USB drive.

set root=(hd1,1)
chainloader +1

(Line 1: select boot device, Line 2: Say that we will just ask it to boot, Line 3: "Now! Boot now!")

^ link latest at time of writing

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I highly recommend you check out puppy linux .Puppy linux is made for old computers.There are many varients for puppy .

but you should check out lucid puppy.. it ubuntu compatible..

full description of puppy

Download information of latest puppy variants

why Lucid Puppy(ubuntu compatible).

1)You don't have to install Puppy (to hard disk) to use it.

2) What's different here is that Puppy is extraordinarily small, yet quite full-featured. Puppy boots into a ramdisk and, unlike live CD distributions that have to keep pulling stuff off the CD, it loads into RAM.

3)This means that all applications start in the blink of an eye and respond to user input instantly.

4)Puppy Linux has the ability to boot off a flash card or any USB memory device, CDROM, floppy disks, internal hard drive.

Now complete guide to install Puppy Linux from floppy through usb drive.

note: Wake2pup tool is specifically built for puppy linux..therefore it can be applied to all latest puppy variants (lucid,racy,wary,slacko).. so it may be not for other distro(havn't tested but if it can be done for other distro..i will edit this post asap)

Limitation:- The whole tutorial is tested in vmware by booting from floppy drive through usb drive ..which worked but still it is tested on virtual system , not on real system...

I am assuming that you have working windows 98 with working floppy drive.

A) Collecting Resources

1) A Working Floppy

2) USB Flash Drive

Minimum Capacity- 256 MB

Recommended -1 GB or higher

3) Download the latest lucid puppy (Size-129 MB)

4) Download Unetbootin

5) Download wakepup2-img-write

B) Now explaining How to use resources

1) Unetbootin for creating live puppy..

Open unetbootin ..and select puppy linux.. after that ..select the downloaded os location and usb location.

Helping Screenshot:

enter image description here

when completed , close unetbootin, then open the newly created bootable usb drive , here create a new text document and rename it to USBFLASH.

Helping Screenshot:

enter image description here

enter image description here

Note:when renaming clear the whole name including .txt

enter image description here

2) Create bootable floppy-drive

1) First format the floppy drive, go to computer and right click on the floppy drive icon and select format.

2) Extract wakepup2-img-write.zip

3) Open extracted folder and double click it.. it will automatically detect and install wakepup2 in the floppy drive.

Helping Screenshot:

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

That’s it ..now restart & make sure that floppy disk and usb drive is properly inserted…

These are the screenshots you will encountered when booted from floppy drive..

1) First Puppy Boot CD menu will prompted

enter image description here

Select menu by entering one of the given number . Don't press enter cause it will take you to option 8 (which is you don't want)

most probable by looking at the menu is option 1

if option 1 doesn't work for you .. try 2 , 7(scsi most common controller), maybe 8 too..

Option 1 or 7 both worked out for me

but check other options other than 1,7 if didn't work out for you..

2) Now it will scan for usb devices

enter image description here

3) scanning completed after founding jetflash usb drive and installed managing software.Hit enter

enter image description here

4) enter 1 for normal boot

enter image description here

5) Copying Puppy to RAM ..

enter image description here

6) Here is lucid Puppy UI ...click the install icon on the desktop..

select universal installer..

enter image description here

Note:- Now you can install anywhere you want according to your hardware support..i.e internal hard drive(support for ide,sata and scsi controllers),usb drive & external usb hard drive, cd drive...

In this case you should select internal hard drive or may be old scsi hard drive.

enter image description here

Just for info


Common error when your device is not located(or installed)

enter image description here

ignore the message, restart and choose different option from the Boot Menu.


You can boot from the following devices by creating a text file on the device(same as we did with the usb drive) and renaming it to the following names..these files are called maker files.

1) Boot from a built-in hard disk: just create a file IDEHD on your hard disk

2) Boot from a USB hard disk: USBHD

3) Boot from a USB flash pen: USBFLASH

4) Boot from a built-in IDE or external USB CD-ROM: no file is needed, WakePup2 should find the Puppy2 files anyway.

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  • 2
    -1. 1) He cannot boot of a CD or USB drive from the bios. Only from a floppy disk. 2) Puppy is too large to fit on a floppy. 120MB (Puppy) > 1.44 MB (Floppy disk). – Portablejim Dec 13 '11 at 11:52
  • @Portablejim I was suggesting him the os & yaa! by no way puppy gonna fit into floppy(plus I didn't mean this). There are two softwares that handles the line 4, 1) wakepup2 -> that solves usb boot through floppy 2)Puppy Universal Installer(comes preinstalled)-> once puppy booted through usb, you can install wherever you want.There are lots of features that I can't write here ..thats why i pasted links. – emtin4 Dec 14 '11 at 0:02
  • @nitinmartolia I think you missed what the question was asking for in your answer. The OP wants a program he can install and boot from a floppy so he can load Ubuntu/Lubuntu/Puppy Linux/whatever through a USB drive. However, your previous comment mentioned WakePup2, which does look like what the OP wants; I'd suggest rewriting your answer to explain how to set that utility up and use it instead of being merely a distro recommendation / feature list. – Christopher Kyle Horton Dec 14 '11 at 0:40
  • 1
    @nitinmartolia If you edit your answer to refer to wakepup2 as a way of booting a USB drive from a floppy drive and include instructions on how to do it, I will remove my -1. Improving the answer further may get a +1. – Portablejim Dec 14 '11 at 3:05
  • Detailed answer, but doesn't answer the author's question at all. Basically what WarriorIng64 said. – Icedrake Dec 15 '11 at 0:33

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