Installing from a USB Flash Drive (Was: Newbie needs help setting up rackmount server)

Nikolas Britton nikolas.britton at
Fri Aug 12 15:55:55 GMT 2005

On 8/11/05, Nikolas Britton <nikolas.britton at> wrote:
> I'm personally liking the usb flash drive thingy idea I mentioned
> earlier if you have no floppy or cd-rom drives. Not sure if this will
> even work btw, never tried it.
> What you would do is download the the 20MB bootonly.iso CD-ROM image
> and mound it (this step my not be needed) with mdconfig:
> "mdconfig -a -t vnode -f 5.4-RELEASE-i386-bootonly.iso -u 0"
> Use "mount_cd9660 /dev/md0 /mnt" and you can change the config files
> on the fake cd for console redirection to serial port, 'echo
> "/boot/loader -h" > boot.config', etc.
> Next you would dd the image onto the usb flash drive:
> "dd if=/dev/md0 of=/dev/da0 bs=1M"
> Now remove the usb flash drive from your laptop and plug it into the
> server, tell the server to boot from the usb flash drive, the
> filesystem on the flash drive would be cd9660 and hopefully boot like
> a normal CD-ROM. If your flash drive was big enough you could load the
> entier disc1.iso cd onto it, what happened to the miniinst.iso that
> was only 270MB? I guess you could strip all the packages off the
> disc1.iso to make a miniinst.iso disk?
> What do you guys think, would this method work? the only hang up's I
> can think of is making your usb flash drive think it's a CD-ROM and if
> the FreeBSD install discs will work when it thinks its a hard drive,
> da0 for usb storage.... I'll have to try it tomarrow....

Ok I tried it. I can't trick the computer and the USB flash drive into
thinking it's a CD-ROM. Going to try a few other methods now. Another
stumbling block I thought of is if your hard drive is scsi it will
show up as da1 because the flash drive is da0. Might mess up
sysinstall's install and /etc/fstab.

Maybe we should come up with an official install method and install
media for USB flash drives. 99% of the systems sold today can boot
from USB and the things are cheap, I can pickup a 128MB version for
$15 and a 1GB version for $60. These devices would also be good for
automated installs on embedded and thin client devices that don't have
floppy or CD-ROM drives, yes?

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