BIOS freezes when trying to boot from Ubuntu 18.04 LTS live-usb

The problem

Desktop PC freezes completely at BIOS boot up when trying to boot from Ubuntu 18.04 LTS USB stick.

How I made the USB

Using Startup Disc Creator application which comes installed by default in Ubuntu Gnome 16.04.4 LTS (laptop) and ElementaryOS Loki (desktop in question).

Other things I've tried

  • Booting from Ubuntu Gnome 16.04 LTS and 14.04 LTS also freezes at boot up.
  • Creating the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS USB stick with UNetbootin but also fails. However, it doesn't freezes, it just reports "Missing Operating System".
  • Booting from ElementaryOS Loki USB stick. It works!
  • Using GParted to compare how the USB was formatted by Startup Disc Creator with the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and ElementaryOS Loki.

With Ubuntu 18.04 LTS made with Startup Disc Creator:

|Partition   |File system |Size        |Used        |Unused      |Flags      |
|/dev/sdc1   |unknown     |4.00 KiB GiB|         ---|         ---|           |
|unallocated |unallocated |1.75 GiB    |         ---|         ---|           |
|/dev/sdc2   |fat16       |2.28 MiB    |2.26 MiB    |20.00 KiB   |           |
|unallocated |unallocated |27.31 GiB   |         ---|         ---|           |

With ElementaryOS Loki made with Startup Disc Creator:

|Partition   |File system |Size        |Used        |Unused      |Flags      |
|unallocated |unallocated |2.62MiB     |         ---|         ---|           |
|/dev/sdc2   |fat16       |2.28 MiB    |2.25 MiB    |28.00 KiB   |esp        |
|unallocated |unallocated |7.26 GiB    |         ---|         ---|           |

With Ubuntu 18.04 LTS made with UNetbootin:

|Partition   |File system |Size        |Used        |Unused      |Flags      |
|/dev/sdc1   |fat32       |7.22 GiB    |1.85 GiB    |5.37 GiB    |           |

Possible cause(s)

The problem seems to be related to how the USB is formatted. I'm suspecting it has something to do with the flags. While the ElementaryOS Loki live-usb made with Startup Disc Creator has a partition flagged as esp, the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS one made with either Startup Disc Creator or UNetbootin doesn't. I think it should be flagged as boot but I'm not sure since the ElemntaryOS one has esp, which I'm not even sure what it means.


¿Should it be flagged as boot? And if so, why is not being flagged automatically?

Other details

  • Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD5 motherboard
  • BIOS F7
  • Sony 8GB USB
  • Kingston DTmicroDuo 8GB

Any help would be much appreciated!

Answers 2

  • Ubuntu Startup Disk Creator

    In Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and newer versions, the Ubuntu Startup Disk Creator is a very robust cloning tool, which simply makes an exact copy from the iso file to the USB pendrive. This makes a USB boot drive, that works in most PC computers.

    In older Ubuntu versions (for example Ubuntu 14.04 LTS), there are buggy versions of the Ubuntu Startup Disk Creator. It is better to use some other tool to create a USB boot drive.

    This particular case

    I agree that this might be the answer (originally explained by @oldfred).

    I forgot to mention that it's BIOS (it's a 10 years old motherboard). I think this might be the answer: "some systems will not boot without a boot flag on some partition."

    My experience makes me guess that you might have an HP computer. But there might be other brands, that need a boot flag, where other computers won't need it to boot.

    • Please tell us the brand name and model of the computer/motherboard and BIOS system. It is useful information for other people with the same or similar problems.

    If this is the problem, you might succeed, if you

    • use mkusb to make a persistent live drive and
    • select an msdos partition table (instead of the default gpt)

    mkusb creates a persistent live drive, that boots via grub also in BIOS mode. You can boot such a [USB pen] drive live-only, if you do not want or need persistence. I can boot HP computers, that are approximately 10 years old this way.

    Please test mkusb, if you have the time

    If you have the time, please test a persistent live drive by mkusb and share the result.

    If you run standard Ubuntu live, you need an extra instruction to get the repository Universe. (Kubuntu, Lubuntu ... Xubuntu have the repository Universe activated automatically.)

    sudo add-apt-repository universe  # only for standard Ubuntu
    sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mkusb/ppa  # and press Enter
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install mkusb mkusb-nox usb-pack-efi

    Link to mkusb

  • With BIOS based systems grub does not use Boot flag. But some BIOS must assume Windows and will not boot without some partition having a boot flag on a primary partition. Windows requires a boot flag on a primary NTFS formatted partition to boot.

    Live installer in BIOS mode is FAT32 (normally) and needs boot flag on that partition. Some tools (like dd) when used to create live installer, use different methods to create live installer and then it may not look like standard partitions. Not sure which versions, create which type of view from gparted or partition lists.

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