Introduction: Boot From Usb on an Old Pc Without Modding the BIOS

Picture of Boot From Usb on an Old Pc Without Modding the BIOS

I spend most of my spare time testing new linux based distros so I have already burnt a huge stack of Live CDs which also cost a lot of money. While having them in DVD format was good enough for my needs, most of them where scratched and useless so I started researching for a new way to test my beloved distros among different computers.

Then I found that I could write my iso files in a usb flash drive and boot from that key. While most of new pc models were capable of booting off a usb drive, some old pc models (on which I usually test ultra-lightweight Linux distrubutions such as "Puppy Linux") cannot boot from usb keys.

However, there is a way to bypass this awful motherboard restriction and boot from usb flash drives without modding the B.I.O.S.(!!!!do not try this method unless you really know what you are doing!!!!).

In this instructable, will bypass this restriction using a linux based bootmanager. This bootmanager can be written on a disk or on a floppy disk.

Step 1: Things You Will Need

Picture of Things You Will Need

---------->PloP Boot Manager image Download the zip file here----->
---------->Usb drive
---------->iso image
---------->Blank CD
---------->iso burning software (cd burner xp,magic iso......)

Step 2: First Burn the Boot Manager Image in a Blank Cd

Picture of First Burn the Boot Manager Image in a Blank Cd

Use your favorite iso burning software to burn the boot manager iso to a blank cd
The iso is located at the root of the zip file and it is named plpbt.iso

Step 3: Then Create a Bootable Usb Drive

Now you have to create a bootable usb drive. If you have one skip this step.

Step 4: How to Use PLOP Bootmanager

First of all boot from the media that contains the bootmanager. This is done by pressing the key that is defined by the motherboard manufacturer to lead to the setup menu.
While this key is different for every machine, the most common ones are the DELETE, the F2 and the F2.

After you have succesfully entered the BIOS setup, head to the boot section and put the media that the bootmanager is installed in first boot priority.

Finally save your changes and reboot with the media connected to the target pc

Step 5: Choose the Usb Option From the Menu

Picture of Choose the Usb Option From the Menu

Then a menu will appear on the upper left of your screen that has some options(cd,usb....)
Before selecting an option you have to plug in your usb flash drive.Then choose the usb option. You are ready to go.


AlbertoS88 (author)2017-10-10

In order to work, in the BIOS, I had to disable Legacy USB Storage.

YogenderV (author)2017-04-21

Simply super...though I have not tried in physical but tried in VM...working super fine...

thank you for the tutorial.

GeraldE1 (author)2016-08-06

wow that worked great...thanks

tibosuys (author)2016-06-26

thx mate you realy helpt me out here thanks for the great instructable ;)

AdamBredenberg (author)2015-02-14

Okay, I have a fun problem: you can't get floppy disks in Africa, and my computer doesn't have a CD drive, and can't boot from USB via bios. So I need to use a pxe boot, I think. What's the best way to supply PloP via pxe server?

MaximG8 (author)AdamBredenberg2016-04-11

Probably a TFTP Server?

personxx made it! (author)2015-12-28

Worked great, thanks for sharing.

allshouldknow (author)2015-12-18

In case someone would find it helpful: I would install Plop and have a USB connected, but my keyboard and mouse were both USB. I kept skipping the USB and will boot straight to HDD. In this case, disconnect all USB peripherals except the USB stick and revert to non-USB peripherals. Then it will boot straight up to USB stick.

steve.archer.12 (author)2015-03-13

Great simple tutorial!

However, I am attempting this resolution on a Sony Vaio VGN-FS920 laptop circa 2008 or so that has no USB boot option in BIOS. I have defined boot order to CD ROM first, followed by NETWORK and HDD last, but when the device boots up and I hear the CD ROM working, eventually it just boots into the my normal GRUB loader (this system has Ubuntu and XP). When I bring up the CD in Ubuntu, it shows it as an ISO, so I don't see where that could be an issue. These old computers (I have two) have been my all-time favorites and they work just fine running both Ubuntu 13.10 and Fedora 20 native, but I always yearn for more and would like to try other systems via USB. Any suggestions?

SiddharthB2 (author)2014-12-21

Can i remove the PloP CD now and boot directly from USB?

arv_christos (author)2014-10-13

I'm sure installing the boot manager on the hard drive would be a great idea. However, my initial purpose was to just show a way to boot from usb. I didn't have in mind adding the steps that have to do with MBR editing and so on. Thank you for your interest though

GnuO (author)2014-10-13

Great idea but why not install the boot manager on the hard drive. I guess this lets you use it in different machines but there is also a net boot option which would allow that.

marcusm1 (author)2014-09-14

your awesome man!

mmari2 (author)2014-08-18

Thanks man! Successfully boot windows 8 installation from usb :D

androidgye (author)2014-03-27

after select usb and the usual 8 logo this message pop up

i dont know what can i do i try many posiblie solutions...

arv_christos (author)androidgye2014-03-27

I think this may be helpful

androidgye (author)arv_christos2014-03-27

thanks i check for that virtualization but i cant find something like that on bios...

arv_christos (author)androidgye2014-03-27

I suppose your system doesn't support virtualization. If that's the case I am not really sure whether you can setup windows 8. But this is just an assumption.

arv_christos (author)2014-03-12

I've never heard that before. So you tell me that old computers detect USB flash drives as HDD ?

Cube_ (author)2014-03-12

Interesting article but why burn a bootloader to a disc? then you might as well just burn the distro itself to a disc.

Anyhow, most old computers that don't support USB booting can be booted from USB, I've had computers as old as Pentium Pro detect USB flash drives as HDDs.
If your computer detects the USB as a HDD you should try (if that doesn't work there should be some delay setting somewhere, however the name is different in different BIOS versions and I can't recall the name from the top of my head)

snoobeagle (author)2013-07-01

Good article, but the title was misleading. Should be boot from USB Flash Drive. I'm desperately looking for ways to make 10 year old computer boot from an external, USB CD/DVD drive. I'm beginning to believe the firmware will need flashing to enable the drive to be detected during the POST, and hence be a candidate as a boot drive.

nurdee1 (author)2012-03-16

Nice, but the download limk is dead so I can't download the ISO file. Help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

arv_christos (author)nurdee12012-04-19

Thanks, I added the correct link.

Sorry for being a LITTLE late :-)

nurdee1 (author)arv_christos2012-04-19

thanks. I tracked don the correct link and used it. It is a really nice thing. In the proccess of getting it working on my laptop I discovered that my laptop actually boots from USB on its own which is weird because there is no usb boot option in the bios.


kbhasi (author)2011-12-03

It's better to replace the windows boot manager with plop, but keep a part of windows bootloader so you can enter safe mode. That's what I did

kbhasi (author)2011-12-03

A keychain

lemonie (author)2011-07-19

You seem to be telling us "if you load the right drivers from a CD you can boot from USB", is that it?
Did you have a particular use for this technique which led you to discover it?


PKM (author)lemonie2011-07-20

Perhaps wanting to experiment with lots of different multi-gigabyte live distros and not wanting to burn a whole stack of DVD-Rs? It's a decent tip, anyway, especially if you run a lot of live distros and want the speed advantage of running from USB rather than optical.

lemonie (author)PKM2011-07-20

Yes that makes sense, you could add that in to the intro' - it's often nice to know where people are coming from.


ironsmiter (author)lemonie2011-07-20

not drivers... it's a boot manager.
it's like a mini operating system, that unloads itself, once your "main" os begins to load itself into memory.

this one just has the option to load the os from somewhere other than the first boot media.

"normal" live-cd's use this same technique, but put the bootable OS on-disc with the boot loader.
"windows" linux, and such do the same, but normally the bootloader is on the harddrive, along with the os files.

arv_christos (author)2011-07-20

That has nothing to do with usb drivers required to boot from flash drive.PloP manager is a bootloader but acts like "portable" software for windows, it loads and once a function of the bootmanager is triggered by the user, it just unloads.
This is very easy even for a novice because you don't have to install anything, neither drivers , nor linux botmanagers or something like that

About This Instructable




Bio: Electrical and computer engineering at National Technical University of Athens.... Karate Athlete
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