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 Forum index » Advanced Topics » Hardware
add-on USB bootability?
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Joined: 20 Oct 2005
Posts: 451
Location: Boston MA USA

PostPosted: Sat 14 Jan 2006, 12:24    Post subject:  add-on USB bootability?  

Is it possible to add USB bootability?

In the old days (circa 1995) it was common to use SCSI cards that included BIOS extensions, in hardware on the add-on card itself. Presumably, modern hardware still allows add-in cards to extend the BIOS.

So, it should be possible to add a USB/Firewire PCI card that has BIOS extensions to make the added devices bootable. But does anyone actually make/sell such?

Along the same lines, any flashable mainboard BIOS could in theory be modified, even if the manufacturer does not support USB booting, with a LinuxBIOS or some third-party modifications, to be able to boot USB. Has anyone tried anything along these lines with Puppy?

Interesting resources I came across, researching this question (but not finding answers):

Boot times of about 20 to 30 seconds are normal for PCI motherboards. One of the functions that all BIOS' perform during system boot, is the Power-On Self Test (POST). Other functions may include scan for add-in cards with BIOS extensions, configuration of PCI add-in cards, assignment of system resources to the devices that are needed to boot the system and the isolation of ISA Plug and Play cards.



Bios 1.35.1 (24 kB) (2)
- Saving and restoring the BIOS settings
- Validating actual settings to saved settings
- Deleting the BIOS settings (there are some strange cases...)
- Displaying information about the BIOS, BIOS Extensions and BIOS beepcodes
- Finding BIOS passwords for Award, Ami, Phoenix and AST BIOS
- Finding BIOS universal passwords for Award BIOS
- Dumping the whole BIOS segment to disk
- Switching the 1st and 2nd level caches on/off
- Turning the PC into Suspend or Stand-By mode (requires APM 1.1+)
- Turning off the PC (requires APM 1.2+)
- Rebooting the PC (cold/warm/int19)
- Freeware
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Joined: 16 Jan 2006
Posts: 17

PostPosted: Mon 16 Jan 2006, 20:47    Post subject:  

in theory, a flash bios should be able to be modified to boot from usb. however, if you mess it up, your motherboard will be dead, unless you can get a spare motherboard with the same bios on it and hot swap it back (switch the chip while the board is running and reboot).

some boards also have a factory reset switch near the bios in case of this.

that said, it may be easier to just buy a motherboard that does boot from usb, as they're fairly cheap. if all your old components are compatible, it sure beats fiddling around with hacking bioses.

you also might want to check and see if your usb drive partition is bootable, as some older boards just scan for bootsectors and may see the usb drive as a "removable device" (floppy, zip disk, etc...).

also, some bioses are just custom versions of other bioses (intel's desktop board bios are rebadged ami bioses), so you may be able to flash the bios with an upgrade of the original manufacturer. maybe. after all, if you kill the bios, you're kinda screwed.
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