Ubuntu – Full install of Ubuntu 12.04 on USB pendrive halts at GRUB prompt


For the last three days I have been trying to install Ubuntu 12.04 LTS on a Kingston DataTraveler Micro 16GB USB pendrive (to be called the install USB). The processor is a brand new Intel Atom D525 (computer is brand new). It is a regular full install (so I am not trying to create a live USB) using the regular desktop installer run from another USB pendrive (to be called the live USB) which runs the Desktop 12.04 ISO. I want to use this install USB as a default for booting, no other drives are connected.

I followed all steps from: How can I run Ubuntu without a hard drive? and from Method 1 of: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/LiveUsbPendrivePersistent/. So basically I created a new MBR on the USB pendrive with two partitions (EXT2 mounted on / and 2GB swap). I have installed the bootloader (GRUB) on the /dev/sda (I actually also tried /dev/sda1 just to see whether that would work…) which is the install USB (the live USB is /dev/sdb). Everything seemed to work perfectly fine (live USB boots/works perfectly).

However, when booting from the install USB I am confronted with the GRUB prompt instead of a menu or Ubuntu booting. No message whatsoever, just the prompt. This happens everytime I try to install. Entering commands in the GRUB prompt such as "ls" all end in an error: "hd0 read error" or "no such partition".

I have already tried these options:

  • Install on /dev/sda1 instead of /dev/sda (obviously does not work, had to try)
  • Install using EXT4 instead of EXT2 (same result, as expected)
  • Reinstall GRUB using Boot-repair (same result)
  • Reinstall GRUB from commandline (same result)
  • Two complete reinstalls using a brand new Ubuntu Desktop ISO and different tools to create the live USB pendrive (hash checked) (takes ~2 hours per install including updates…)

My guts tell me that somehow GRUB2 is incompatible with reading from the pendrive (again, live USB boots fine, but I think that uses a different bootloader).

I would like to use the install USB as a default boot drive (as the computer is going to be online 24/7 so a slow boot is not a problem and it should work…). I hope my problem is clear and that someone could help me out. I already tried Googling and asking for help on the IRC channel, but no result (the guy did not know what was going on either and suggesting posting here). I would very much appreciate any help as I am basically out of options.

Best Answer

Maybe you already did that, but be sure to rename all isolinux* file to syslinux* on the pendrive, as explained in the Unetbootin section of this guide. One time I had a similar problem and I was missing this part.