Sunday 2 August 2015

Why can't I boot Easy2Boot on some old systems?

If you use Easy2Boot on a wide range of different and older systems, you may find that some of them won't boot, even though they look like they should support USB-booting.

This problem is usually caused by the BIOS on the system.

Here is a checklist of things to try:

1. BIOS Settings

  • Disable Fast Boot
  • Enable USB Legacy support ( + Hi-Speed = USB 2.0)
  • Change any settings for USB booting to USB-HDD (not USB-FDD or USB-ZIP)
  • Enable CSM (you only get this option on modern systems)
  • Disable Secure Boot (you only get this option on modern systems)
  • Set USB Emulation mode to 'Hard Disk', not Auto or ZIP or Floppy or Removable.
  • Set a BIOS Supervisor Password (only necessary on some systems - don't forget the password! Write it on a label on the bottom of the system or you won't be able to change the BIOS settings again!)
  • Always switch off the system - wait 10 seconds and the switch it on again whenever you test a new USB drive or reformat or modify the USB drive. Some BIOSes remember what 'type' of USB drive it was on the first cold boot, and performing a reset or Ctrl-Alt-Del is not enough to clear the BIOS! A power-off/on (cold boot) is needed. I found this out the hard way after nearly going mad with frustration!
  • If possible, use the BIOS Boot Selection Menu (by pressing a hotkey like [ESC] or F2 or F8 or F12) - do not set the USB drive as the first boot device in the boot order menu because this can cause problems when installing some OS's.

2. Ensure your E2B USB drive has been prepared using the MAKE_E2B_USB_DRIVE.cmd batch file provided in the download. This ensures that...

  • The E2B boot partition is marked as Active
  • grub4dos is installed to both the MBR and PBR (using RMPrepUSB or the special version of grubinst.exe included with E2B and RMPrepUSB)
  • Your E2B USB drive has two or more Primary MBR partitions (a small hidden partition is added by RMPrepUSB).
  • The last partition does not extend right to the very end of the USB drive
  • Try a FAT32 E2B USB drive (I have heard of some systems not 'liking' NTFS - although I have never seen this myself, but you might as well try it! P.S. Let me know if you find such a system please as I don't really believe these systems exist!)
  • Check there is no \EFI folder on your E2B drive - some BIOSes will not MBR-boot if they see EFI boot files on the same FAT32 drive.
All these things help in the 'bootability' of the USB drive.

3. Try booting using Plop

You can try booting from a bootable CD containing Plop!,  Plop! contains a read-only USB driver that will then allow you to select the E2B USB drive and boot from it. However, E2B will not work correctly if booted using Plop!, so once you get to the E2B menu, you need to go to the Utilities Menu and run the 'Install fast USB driver' menu entry.

If this does not find the USB drive, then you cannot proceed. If it does detect the USB drive however, you can then proceed to use E2B (except that you may not be able to use .imgPTN files).

Note: On ordinary USB 2.0 systems, this option is worth trying anyway, especially if the USB driver in the BIOS is really slow. If it works, it should speed up the E2B menus and the loading of ISOs, etc.

Instead of a Plop! Boot CD, use the E2B USB_BOOT_v2.1.iso to make a CD - this contains the grub4dos USB 2 driver which is rd/wr and compatible with E2B (as well as the Plop! driver).

4. Use FlashBoot to prepare your E2B USB drive

FlashBoot is a proprietary method of formatting a USB drive so that a 'bad' BIOS will boot from a USB drive as a hard disk. This is often the only solution for some badly-behaved BIOSes which had early USB-boot support. These 'bad' BIOSes often try to boot from the USB drive as a Floppy disk or Super-floppy (ZIP) drive instead of as a 'hard-disk'.

You can try FlashBoot for free for 30 days.

Note that there is a problem using .imgPTN files with FlashBoot as explained in the Tutorial.

For any other problems and details of 'bad' BIOSes and BIOS settings, etc., check out the TroubleShooting pages on the E2B website.

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