Booting Acronis TrueImage from USB even when your BIOS does not support USB boot

September 29, 2007 at 9:45 pm 14 comments

I recently acquired an ancient laptop where the DVD/CD-RW drive has died. This makes it difficult to boot from a Acronis TrueImage recovery disc. While you can install the Acronis TrueImage recovery on a USB key, the laptop is too ancient to boot from a USB key. Usually, if you want to boot from USB, you have to have boot from USB in the BIOS.

Acronis TrueImage runs on top of Linux. Various distros like Puppy Linux, feather, and Damn Small Linux comes with helper floppy that allow you to boot from a USB key even when boot from USB is not supported in the BIOS. Can we use the same helper floppy to boot Acronis TrueImage recovery USB key? The answer is yes.

How does it work?

If you have the ability to boot from USB in your BIOS, the BIOS contains drivers to boot from your USB drive. However, the BIOS is just a transitional phase. All the BIOS does is load the OS from the USB drive. Once the OS is loaded, the BIOS role is over. This mean the OS is independant of the BIOS. Suppose the OS has no USB support, the OS will not be able to access the USB drive even if you have loaded it from the USB. The reverse is also true. If your OS has USB support, but the BIOS does not have USB support, the OS will not be able to boot from USB.

The helper floppy serve the same role as the BIOS. The helper floppy loads a small OS with USB support to gain access to the USB drive, so it can load the bigger OS. Once the bigger OS is loaded, the boot OS disappears entirely.

After looking at the various boot floppies, the Puppy OS seemed the most promising. It is essentially a FreeDOS floppy that loads the USB drivers and then use a program call linld to load the Linux OS.

Creating a Floppy to USB Acronis TrueImage system

Here’s how to create the system.

  1. Run Acronis TrueImage and select the option to create a recovery disk. Select the USB drive as the destination drive to write to.
  2. Download the WakePup program. I am using WakePup 2.02.
  3. Unzip the WakePup zip file. There should be a MakeDisk.bat file. Run it and you’ll be prompted to insert a floppy disk into the A: drive. This will create a WakePup boot floppy.
  4. Edit the Autoexec.bat file on the boot floppy. Normally, this file is invisible, but you can make it visible by setting the folder options to show hidden files and uncheck the hide operating system files. It is designed to load Puppy Linux, which means it will look for Puppy related files. We will modify it to look for bootwiz instead, then we’ll modify the linld arguments to load Acronis TrueImage. Note that the ramdisk_size is important. Without it, the kernel won’t load properly because the default ramdisk size is too small. Here’s the entire modified file:
    @echo off
    rem wakepup2 0.2 (C) 2006, Paul Akterstam ('pakt' on Puppy Linux Forum)
    rem Boot diskette for Puppy 2.xx series. For Puppy 1.xx series, use wakepup
    rem This version for IDE/USB drives (built-in or external CD-ROM, HD and flash)
    rem Inspired by Barry Kauler's BOOT2PUP (http://www.puppyos.com)
    rem Except for the drivers, uses only GPL'd software or freeware
    rem Requires FreeDOS & FreeCOM
    rem This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but
    rem WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
    rem MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU
    rem General Public License for more details.
    rem The GNU General Public License is available from http://www.fsf.org/
    rem or, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place,
    rem Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111 USA
    echo.
    echo *** wakepup2 0.2 by pakt - Boot Puppy2 Linux from IDE/USB drives ***
    rem Pause here so USB driver messages can be read...
    echo Pausing for driver messages. Press any key to continue or Ctrl-C to abort...
    pause >NULrem Init
    cls
    set drv=rem Using SHSUCDX.COM 3.03, a freeware replacement for MSCDEX.EXE
    rem Assign 1st IDE-CD to drive X:, 2nd (if found) to drive Y: and USB-CD to drive Z:
    driver\SHSUCDX /D:?IDE-CD,X,,2 /d:?USB-CD,Z,,1 /QQ

    echo Checking any IDE drive for marker file BOOTWiZ.sys...
    for %%x in ( C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W ) do if exist %%x:\bootwiz.sys set drv=%%x:
    if "%drv%"=="" goto failed

    echo ...file found on drive %drv%
    echo.
    echo ÉÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍ»
    echo º Select Puppy2 boot option º
    echo ÌÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍ͹
    echo º º
    echo º 1. acpi=on Default for newer PCs (made 2002 or later) º
    echo º º
    echo º 2. acpi=off For older PCs, or use if acpi=on causes problems º
    echo º º
    echo º 3. acpi=force Needed to force acpi=on on older PCs º
    echo º º
    echo ÈÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍÍͼ
    echo.
    choice /C:123 Please choose :
    if "%errorlevel%"=="1" set acpi=acpi=on
    if "%errorlevel%"=="2" set acpi=acpi=off
    if "%errorlevel%"=="3" set acpi=acpi=force

    set append=root=/dev/ram0 ramdisk_size=40000 init=linuxrc %acpi%
    echo.
    LINLD.COM image=%drv%\dat4.dat initrd=%drv%\dat3.dat "cl=%append%"
    goto end

    :failed
    echo.
    type FAILMSG.TXT

    :end

  5. Insert the USB key and the floppy on the machine and have it boot from floppy. It will load config.sys and load the USB drivers. Autoexec.bat will run and look for bootwiz.sys and then load the Acronis TrueImage.
  6. If everything works correctly, you should see the drive boot. Instead of getting the Acronis screen, you’ll get a prompt. This is because Acronis runs on top of Busybox and you are at the command prompt. To get the Acronis TrueImage application, type “product” and press return. I haven’t figured out how to get it to boot directly into the product.

What can go wrong?

The boot floppy is not perfect. It loads a set of DOS drivers that should give you access to the USB drive, but it doesn’t work with every hardware. While it worked with a majority of the machines I own, it did not work with a eMachine T1221. The DOS driver was unable to detect the USB.

In those situation, you may have to experiment with loading different USB DOS drivers until you find one that works.

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Entry filed under: Acronis TrueImage, linux. Tags: .

Ubuntu 7.04 on Averatec 2370 – a failure for now DTS is ignoring my failure workflow

14 Comments Add your own

  • 1. LAj  |  October 24, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    Hi,
    I’ve tried modifing ldndl and the ramsize but wakepup look for a pup_xxx.fsf file.
    What about it? is from the recent wakepup version only?
    I’m trying it for booting a xubuntu alternate 7.10 cd.
    Have you a trick? :-)

    Reply
  • 2. Grant Alexander  |  January 18, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    hi,
    can this be done from one usb/sd card
    does it have to be a floppy disk?
    i have an asus eeepc and im trying to avoid pluggin in external devices ie cd/dvd and floppy

    your tutorial is great, and your further assistance would be greatly appreciated

    Reply
  • 3. someguy  |  February 5, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Grant Alexander,

    I have an eeePC and it boots from just about anything, memory card, usb stick, etc, just have to hit the escape key when it first starts, then choose your boot device.

    Though you may be looking for a guide like http://wiki.eeeuser.com/ubuntu

    They also have information in the official ubuntu wiki

    Reply
  • 4. lexapass  |  March 20, 2008 at 3:13 am

    To the author.
    if you change lines like this acronis will boot automatically and in 800×600 hicolor mode.
    ….
    set append=root=/dev/ram0 ramdisk_size=40000 vga vesa init=acronis %acpi%
    ….
    LINLD.COM image=%drv%\dat4.dat initrd=%drv%\dat3.dat vga=788 “cl=%append%”
    ….

    Reply
  • 5. Sly  |  May 6, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    Hi,

    Does anyone know how to use this method to boot “Slax” from a USB flashdrive?

    Reply
  • 6. JoeyJoeJoeJunior  |  May 28, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    When I boot up with the modified Wakepup floppy it hangs at “… Initializing Host Controller 1/8 …” Any idea why?

    Reply
  • 7. kiki  |  July 29, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    is the floppy disk still needed? in case everything is broken except the usb port, and the motherboard doesn’t support usb boot, are these method still working?

    is it the same as saying the bios boot thru floppy and then the floppy make usb recognized ?

    Reply
  • 8. paulsiu  |  August 4, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    Kiki,

    The floppy basically boots DOS with USB drivers, which then boots from the USB. Note that it works most of the time, but not on every machine.

    Reply
  • 9. kikky  |  September 5, 2008 at 10:57 am

    USB flash drive supports booting using acronis

    Reply
  • 10. kikky  |  September 5, 2008 at 10:58 am

    when USB stick leads to the error message with Acronis

    “Error loading operation system”.

    Reply
  • 11. rickh  |  September 11, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    Results in:
    LINLD v0.97
    Can’t open kernel file

    ? do you believe that this might be machine dependent? Attempting usb boot as per instructions on a toshiba m200. Have regenerated USB from Acronis three times with the same results.

    Reply
  • 12. Frokostordning  |  March 9, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Well… that’s interessting but frankly i have a hard time determining it… I’m wondering what others have to say….

    Reply
  • 13. mike  |  July 27, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Hey there,
    I am really interested in starting Acronis with the floppy. I have Acronis 2010 and tried to start it with wakepup and your edited autoexec, but it´s not working with the 2010 version.
    Could someone help me to get this run?
    Acronis 2010 bootwiz.cfg:
    [C1]
    RUN SPL1.EXE
    RUN MOUSE.COM
    VGA VESA
    MBRCRCS ON
    INITRD dat2.dat /S
    KERNEL dat3.dat quiet
    [continue]
    SYSBOOT /MBR
    [BOOTMGR]
    QUIET ON
    BOOTMENU ON

    Greets

    Reply
  • 14. Dan  |  March 5, 2011 at 10:06 am

    First off this info helped in getting Acronis to boot up off of a Toshiba Portege m200. That hardware has serious limited boot options. No builtin optical drive, no USB flash drive boot, no floppy, and very few external CD/DVD drives are supported for boot. I ended up using the builtin SD card reader and a virtual floppy image that Toshiba supports as a boot option to boot the floppy helper into Acronis on a USB flash drive.

    Now to address Mike’s post from 7/27/2010. Not sure if it’s still an issue for him, but perhaps this will help others.

    It looks like the image and initrd files are named differently on the new True Image versions. I am using True Image Home 2011 and I had to use the below which if you look closely the image is now dat3.dat (instead of dat4.dat) and initrd is dat2.dat (instead of dat3.dat). I found this info in the bootwiz.cfg file on the Acronis boot media.

    LINLD.COM image=%drv%\dat3.dat initrd=%drv%\dat2.dat vga=788 “cl=%append%”

    Once changed, I was able to successfully boot into Acronis using the helper floppy.

    Hope this helps someone else get this to work.

    Reply

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