Install GNU/Linux without a CD or USB Flash Drive (just a spare computer)

Saturday 15 May 2010 - Filed under Default

Most laptops that don’t have a CD drive can boot from USB but not all. This I found out with the Toshiba Portege 3500 Tablet that I recently was tasked to get up and running with a new operating system. I chose Fedora 12 after having seen some compelling footage of Fedora on a tablet. The problem was, I could not boot from CD and a flash drive prepared with fUSBi didn’t work.

What did? I used another laptop that had a built-in CD drive to install Fedora to the hard drive. Then I put the hard drive back into the Portege. When I attempted to boot, I was dropped to an administrative shell because the partition /dev/sda2 was dirty or needed to be fsck’d. I did that a couple of times and voila, I was up and running with F12 on the Toshiba.

After doing this, the maximum screen resolution I could get was 800×600 but adding a line to a newly created xorg.conf solved that.

Moral of the story: You can install GNU/Linux to a hard drive and move that hard drive to your target system.

If there’s any reason this should not work, please leave a comment. So far, I’ve not seen any adverse impact. Since mainstream distributions like Ubuntu and Fedora use a single generic kernel for many different hardward configurations, I would expect a hard drive swap of this sort to work in general.

One other thought I had is about the non-booting flash drive. I recently had an incident where a fUSBi-prepared flash drive wasn’t bootable and this was fixed by running the HP Drive Key Boot Utility.

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2010-05-15  »  David Sterry