[Grml] How to use the .iso image for usb booting

Peter vmail at mycircuit.org
Mon Oct 6 14:43:09 CEST 2008

T o n g wrote:
> Hi, 
> How can I put the .iso image on usb so that the usb boots with the latest 
> devel release, grml-medium-devel_2008.09.28.iso for example?
> The wiki http://wiki.grml.org/doku.php?id=usb & grml2usb uses windoze 
> FAT16 filesystem, but I hope I can put it into (and boot from) native 
> Linux filesystems, using grub if possible.
> thanks

I have successfully set up grml on various usb sticks on various 
computers. However, I encountered difficulties because of low quality 

1) First , I found the following website very usefull:


2) Second, the BIOS problem.
A good BIOS should present you the option "Boot from USB-HDD" (boot from 
USB harddisk). This option allows you to set up FAT16 on the stick and 
it will boot.
However, low quality BIOS (like those found on popular MINI-ITX boards) 
only present the following options:
      USB-FDD (this is floppy)  USB-CDROM and USB-ZIP. In
     In this case , you have to use USB-ZIP, but this *usually*  does 
not work with FAT, because ZIP is a very different filesystem. In this 
case , you have to format with :

mkdiskimage -4 /dev/sdz 0 128 32     # for a stick with < 2GB

The details of this command are given on the link above. Note, that in 
the grml wiki, the mkdiskimage command is given as follows :

mkdiskimage -4 /dev/sdz *1* 128 32    (note the "1" instead of "0" above )

This did not work for me, but I was too lazy to figure out why. In any 
case , the upper version with "0" as the third parameter worked fine for 
me in all cases.

(Concerning the *usually* that I mentioned above. There has been a test 
case where I was able to boot from a FAT Stick with the USB-ZIP option. 
I am sorry, but I did not recorded what exactly I did, but as far as I 
remember , the stick has been formatted with mkdiskimage and later on 
with fat, so I am not sure if this is a bootsector thing. What I am sure 
is, that in "most" cases, I was not able to boot from USB stick with a 
fat volume, when my BIOS did not offer the USB-HDD option on boot)

Concerning the ZIP filesystem, I was not able to create several 
partitions on the stick, the mkdiskimage command creates a single 
partitition, that I could not read with fdisk or cdisk.  (So I was not 
able to resize, etc). Again, this might be very well due to my ignorance).

Concerning the boot loader, I successfully installed GRUB but I also 
used the syslinux approach from the link above.

Hope, that helps since grml on stick is great !
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