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Ubuntu on a USB stick with XPS 720

Fixing the MBR on Vista 64 bit or how to remove GRUB from Vista. Keep this link handy, it saved me a lot of time.

Well running Ubuntu 7.10 beta did not work as well as I planned.

The 2 GB USB memory stick I had laying around was too small. This caused the installer to just stop and die around 70% or so. I printed out the coupons of the day and took them with me to BestBuy. I purchased a PNY 8 GB OPTIMA Pro Attache USB stick. It’s as no-frills as you can get and does not come with any software.

This time the installer ran, copied all the files, etc. It also installed GRUB into the MBR of my first hard drive.

Remember I thought that Vista would not play well with other operating systems? Oh, yeah that. My system could not boot off of the hard disk anymore.

This is how you can uninstall GRUB from a Vista partition:

I went to and read the whole page. I then downloaded and extracted MBRFIX.ZIP onto another USB stick. This stick was FAT32 formated and I put the contents into the directory called SAVED.

I booted off of my Vista 64 install DVD, ran the command prompt located the directory on that USB stick and ran

MbrFix64.exe /drive 0 fixmbr /vista

And all was right in the world. XP comes with FIXMBR but I could not find Microsoft’s equivalent for Vista 64.

After I booted up Vista a few times, I went back to the Ubuntu install CD. I mounted the 8 GB USB memory stick (it mounted it on /media/disk from /dev/sdc1) and ran

grub-install –recheck –root-directory=/media/disk –no-floppy /dev/sdc

On my system this put the root as (hd2,0) which just plain won’t work. While I was still on the live system I ran from a terminal window

sudo vi /media/disk/boot/grub/menu.lst

and located the entries I needed. All (hd2,0) had to be switched to (hd0,0) because in my BIOS when I select “Boot from USB device” that USB device gets treated like the first hard disk. I also removed the Vista section just because it makes sense.

I’m running that installation right now and doing a software update. On the 8 GB stick I have 4.4 GB free. Once I have it up to date the fun can really begin. Wonder if Compiz will like my setup?

Categories: Geek Linux Software

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Jan Dembowski

4 replies

  1. I low-formatted the USB 8GB with HP-USB tool to make it bootbale, but I found the space become 4GB. How can I reformatted back to 8GB and bootable ?

    Thanks for your help.


  2. I’m not at my workstation but I think you should be able to boot off of a Live CD, pop in the USB stick.

    It will automatically mount.

    Use the mount command to find out what drive it is i.e. /dev/sdd0 for example.

    Then use the GUI to unmount the drive but leave the USB drive in and then ‘sudo fdisk /dev/sdd’ or whatever the drive came out to.

    You should be able to delete the partitions using fdisk. Once that’s done you should be able to create a new partition on the USB stick for the whole 8 GB.

    Hope that works,

    Jan Dembowski

  3. Jan,

    I’ve got a question for you which I really hope you can help me with. I have an XPS 720 also with a set of 1TB Hitatchi drives in a RAID configuration. I mistakenly tried to partition the drive with Symantec’s Partition Magic and had nothing but issues with disk fragments getting lost and had to run chkdsk constantly to recover them. Finally I got fed up and tried to wipe the drives completely and reinstall the OS and haven’t been able to do so. I can boot the machine with the OS disk that came from Dell with the machine but when it reboots it gives me a hardware configuration error; apparently it can’t read from the RAID. Any ideas as to what might be the issue?

    Many, many thanks in advance!


  4. Andy,

    On the re-installation:

    Do you have more than 2 GB installed in your box? I can’t re-install Vista 64 until I take out the additional memory. It’s a pain.

    On the RAID config:
    Sorry but you won’t like the answer: after kicking the RAID config and generating an install disk with vLite I gave up and just installed Vista 64 with the two disks as C: and D: drives.

    It’s almost certainly a driver issue but I was never able to find a setup using vLite that worked. It was easier for me to just break up the drives.

    Good luck,

    Jan Dembowski