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SuSE installations from USB drive


Suse 11 Installation Checklist

Recommended Links Installation of Red Hat from a USB drive Setting up the Installation Server autoyast
YaST SLES Registration Packages   Humor Etc

For a successful install, you should have:


You can also use


and look for a device that matches your USB drive. Then check the partition as root type via:

fdisk -l

or, if you know the disk

fdisk -l /dev/<disk>

The output should have line like

/dev/sdb1  * 1  3924     1004528    c  W95 FAT32 (LBA)

Here "FAT32" indicates the filesystem.  If you see a star (as in the example above), then this means that the bootable flag is set.

fdisk /dev/<disk> 

(<disk> is the disk name, e.g. "sdb". It's not the partion name as "sdb1"). Then press "a", and enter the partition number (e.g. 1, if the partition is sdb1). Save the changes with "w". If the automount prevents the changes from being saved, you can temporarily disable automount using "rcdbus stop" as root.

fdisk /dev/<disk>

Then press "t" (to change the partition type) and "c" (for FAT32). Save the changes with "w".

umount /dev/<partition>
mkfs.vfat -F 32 /dev/<partition>

(Here <partition> is the partition, for example "sdb1").

fsck.vfat /dev/<partition>

If this fails, fix the filesystem with

fsck.vfat -a /dev/<partition>

Copy files to the USB drive

mkdir /mnt/dvd
mkdir /mnt/usb
mount dvd.iso /mnt/dvd -o loop

Also mount the USB drive:

mount /dev/sdb1 /mnt/usb
cp -R -L /mnt/dvd/* /mnt/usb/
umount /mnt/usb

Make the USB drive bootable

See 2nd comment in Discussion-tab if the mksusebootdisk script program does not finish. !!!!!!

Make sure the script is executable:

chmod +x mksusebootdisk

Install syslinux if it isn't already:

zypper install syslinux

Run the script with arch set to 32 for i386, or 64 for x86_64. This should work for any architecture e.g. ppc, IA64.

./mksusebootdisk --arch --partition /dev/<partition> /mnt/dvd

This command works reasonably fast. It will fail if you forgot to unmount (using umount) the USB disk. It will also fail (and give a "not a FAT file system" error if you press crtl-c) if the drive has errors. To fix the errors, use

 fsck.vfat -w -r /dev/<partition>



This is entirely depends on your BIOS menu and configurations. If everything goes well the openSUSE boot menu will appear.


During setup, the install media will not be automatically found. The setup will fall back to text-mode setup where you can choose the install media location.

Your media should be in Local hard drive and USB drive should be /dev/sda1 or similar. The setup will ask for the ISO file location on the selected drive. Type in the file path and name. Initial / is required, so if your image is at the root of the drive and has name of dvd.iso, you need to type: /dvd.iso

Gotchas / Common issues

Why cannot I just use the mkbootdisk shipped with SuSE Linux

The PC won't boot from USB drive

If no matter what you try, the machine does not boot from the USB drive:

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Support How to create a bootable USB drive to install SLES

SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 (SLES 10)


This explains how to create a bootable USB stick to install SLES 10 from for situations where a CD-ROM drive may not be available in the server. It assumes the machine BIOS allows booting from a USB device.


It is first necessary to download CD1 or a mini.iso of SLES 10. The proceedure can then be completed in either Windows or Linux.

Creating a bootable USB device from Windows

  1. Extract the contents of the .iso file to a temporary directory like C:\isotemp (A utility such as WinRAR can be used for this)
  2. Assuming the USB device is E: copy the contents of C:\isotemp\boot\i386\loader\* to E:\
    Note: replace i386 with x86_64 if it is 64 bit
  3. Delete E:\isolinux.bin
  4. Rename E:\isolinux.cfg to E:\syslinux.cfg
  5. Download syslinux and extract it to C:\syslinux (Note: this must be downloaded separately from the Internet)
  6. Open a command prompt and change to C:\syslinux\syslinux\win32
  7. Run syslinux E:

Creating a bootable USB device from Linux
This example will use /dev/sdb as the USB device.

Create a FAT16 partition on the USB device:
(/dev/sdb1 must be a primary partition no more than 4GB in size)
mkfs.vfat -F 16 /dev/sdb1

For i386:
umount /dev/sdb1
mount -o loop SLES-10-i386-GM-CD1.iso /mnt
/mnt/boot/i386/mkbootdisk --32 --partition /dev/sdb1 /mnt

For x86_64:
umount /dev/sdb1
mount -o loop SLES-10-x86_64-GM-CD1.iso /mnt
/mnt/boot/x86_64/mkbootdisk --64 --partition /dev/sdb1 /mnt
The USB device can then be booted from. For a network installation, select the default 'linux' option and enter options for a custom installation server:

Additional Information

Quite often it is required to set the boot device order each time the USB device is connected. It must be placed before the hard drives in the system.

This application can also be used for SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 (SLES 9), however, SLES 9 does not include the mkbootdisk utility so it must be downloaded separately or taken from SLES 10.

Must be 16 bit FAT
If the mkbootdisk script fails with the error: "must be 16 bit FAT", the cause is that the FAT partition is not using a 16-bit file allocation type. You can confirm this using the command:

fsck.vfat -v /dev/sdb1

and looking for the line:

2 FATs, 32 bit entries

This must read "16 bit entries" for the script to succeed. You must recreate the filesystem using mkfs.vfat to modify this.

WARNING: Not enough clusters for a 16 bit FAT!
When attempting to execute the mkfs.vfat command it may fail with the following error:

WARNING: Not enough clusters for a 16 bit FAT!

The filesystem will be misinterpreted as having a 12 bit FAT without mount option "fat=16".

mkfs.vfat: Attempting to create a too large file system

This is caused by attempting to create a 16-bit file allocation table size on a partition larger than 4GB. Verify a partition smaller than 4G has been created on the USB device.


This Support Knowledgebase provides a valuable tool for NetIQ/Novell/SUSE customers and parties interested in our products and solutions to acquire information, ideas and learn from one another. Materials are provided for informational, personal or non-commercial use within your organization and are presented "AS IS" WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND.

Installing Suse 11.0 on a USB External Hard Disk. - Linux Forums

The C:\ drive on my laptop is reserved entirely for XP. I made three partitions on my USB External Drive. I want to put SUSE into the first partition. I plan to follow the advice of an excellent tutorial by Simon Parsons
"Understanding the Boot Process and NTLDR" 03/04/2002 on Now I have several questions about the SUSE install process:
First, I do not want to put a new bootloader into the mbr. Instead, I want to tell SUSE to put the initial GRUB bootloader at the beginning of the first sector of the partition that I allocate for SUSE. How do I tell the SUSE install process to do that? Second, I want to understand why the SUSE install process is in two steps. Why does a reboot take place between steps 1 and 2? Is the part after the second reboot just doing additional package installation? I need to know this because BEFORE a reboot I need to set up the Windows Bootloader(NTLDR) to access the SUSE partition.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, whether or not you can contribute to an answer. And check out the referenced tutorial. It is a short, easy read and very clear in its approach.

11-13-2005 #2 (permalink)
Hi. I have a Suse 11.0 64 BITS installed on a USB connected IDE drive. (I have a Compaq V2321US Turion machine), as you, I have the internal drive with the WXP that came with it for support issues. It doesn't have USB boot, but I can boot it up with the installation DVD (yes it's boring to put it on the tray everytime I boot Linux) but I haven't found any suitable solution. I installed grub on the boot sector of the USB drive (/dev/sda) so, when it is not plugged in, the laptop goes directly to the wxp boot), when it is plugged in, the dvd finds the usb drive and I can boot. Regards.
11-13-2005 #3 (permalink)

Howard3005, if you have the dvd in the drive while the install is going, it will go back to the install after the reboot. Now for putting the bootloader to the 1st sector rather than MBR, when the SUSE install loads up (and assuming the install for 10 is similar to 9.3) there is a heading called bootloader, under here you can choose where the bootloader is installed.

tutankamon, if you use ntldr as your bootloader, you can have it boot into SUSE without the use of the SUSE install media. It will act the same as grub/lilo, and when you want to boot SUSE, just select it from the ntldr list. The tutorial that Howard3005 is using, talks about setting this up link

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