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USB Storage boot on Inspiron 1420


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USB Storage boot on Inspiron 1420

  • Hello,


    I've been trying to get an external drive to boot on my Inspiron 1420 for a little while now.  The BIOS is on A07.  I've changed the boot order to boot off of USB storage device first.  


    I've tried both USB flash keys and USB physical hard drives.  I can't seem to get any of them up and booting after making them bootable and testing on other machines (including much older Dell laptops).


    When I hit F12 for the "temporary" boot menu, USB storage doesn't even appear in the list, just internal drive and the optical drive.


    Thoughts? Any ideas?  I'd rather not partition up the internal drive more than it already is...


    Am I missing some setting somewhere?  The BIOS settings imply this is possible but the behavior makes me think it's not possible.


    Thanks for any help,



  • Did you in fact install a bootable OS on the external drives?


  • Heh.  Yes, I did.  I had assumed mentioning that it could boot on another computer would have answered that question.  It wasn't just one attempt or the same OS -- a couple of different OSs were attempted, though that's largely irrelevant -- a failed boot would be progress at this point.


    I can't seem to get it to even attempt to read the drive when booting.  It'll check the optical drive (which is set for after the internal drive since the F12 menu allows it to be chosen) but I don't see any activity on the USB storage device.



  • Not necessarily - you can't necessarily transfer a boot drive USB from one system to another any more than you can with internal hard drives.


    Are you saying a bootable CD/DVD doesn't work in the internal optical drive either?

  • It is necessarily that way, actually.  Being able to boot and being able to successfully boot are two different things.  This computer won't even attempt a boot - successful or not.


    And yes, the optical drive boots fine in to whatever OS or rescue boot disk I happen to have in there.  My point there is that I see activity on the drive even when it's not set to boot first.  I don't see activity on the USB drive when it is set to boot first -- the boot just goes straight to the internal drive.


    I can't use F12 to force an attempt to boot of the USB drive since the only two boot options are Internal and optical. This isn't the same list that appears in the BIOS, which also includes network booting.


    It feels like it's not supported at all, except for the reference in the BIOS.



  • It actually isn't necessarily that way.  You will see the external drive as bootable ONLY if the BIOS senses that it is connected _and bootable_.  If the device was partitioned/formatted/made bootable in another system, it is VERY possible the 1420 won't find the boot sector and therefore won't place the device in the BIOS boot list.


    Try making the device bootable IN the system - then make sure it has enough power to run, and try again.


    It has happened many, many times that even one internal hard drive, partitioned and formatted in one system won't be sensed as bootable in another - it's no different with USB drives.



  • That's strange, because your typical rescue boot disk will boot on all systems -- even likely Apple Intel boxes -- as a bootable flag is just that. Drivers aside, I've never had a bootable disk not attempt to boot on a different computer, and that sort of observed behavior dates back to at least 1991, if not before.


    In any case, the disks were formatted and made bootable with the i1420.  Everything looks just as it should.  I've tried various boot loaders on the external disks, too, to see if any of them will come up and they don't. And installing one on the internal drive was of no use... as you've pointed out, it's as if the drives aren't being recognized at all in pre-boot land.  They've got plenty of power (the two physical disks I've tried have dual USB plugs for more power).


    That leads to a further question:  Is there a limit to the type of USB storage device that can be used?  For instance, will only a certain brand work?   Does Dell have any documentation on this? And are you saying that if a bootable disk is recognized by the system, the F12 menu will have the "USB Storage Device" option on it?

  • Boot CD/DVDs have standard locations for the boot loader - that's not true of hard drives or flash drives.


    Yes, it IS true that some flash/external drives will work and some won't - I don't know if Dell has a list of the ones that have been tested to work, but you could try emailing tech support.


    And yes, once a device is deemed bootable, it should appear in the boot menu.  It's been a while since I tried this, but even some of the older Dells WILL boot from USB - though I remember having to go through some trial and error to find devices that would work.


  • Well, I guess what I've learned here is that my new Dell i1420 doesn't think these are bootable but my old Dell XPS gen2 does.  Not sure how I can make the new one think a device is more bootable than a bootable device.


    Thanks for the help.