Saturday, July 22, 2006

Installing Ubuntu on a Dell PowerEdge without a CD drive

I recently purchased a very basic DELL in Australia. In the USA, it is impossible to buy a DELL server without a CD ROM and after buying a few there for various reasons, I did not think to ask when ordering the one on the phone. Well, let me assure you, no other CD drive I could get my hands on would actually work and the support staff at DELL were of no help. I even managed to get a DELL CD from a friends PC but it would not work in the server either - the server was just too fussy.
Before sending it back, I thought I would give it one last shot and purchased a 1GB USB key from a local computer dealer. Then downloaded a ubuntu ISO for a CD install. After a few trial and errors and searching on the internet, I think I have the actual instructions to get it working. Although, I am no linux kernel hacker, here goes:

1. Download the ISO that you want (in my case ubuntu 6.06 desktop)
2. Download the syslinux tool for windows (syslinux latest)
3. Optional USB format utility (from HP)
4. Copy the CD contents to your USB device
5. Unzip the syslinux and run it against your USB drive (syslinux.exe -f F:) from the win32 directory of syslinux
6. Copy these files to the root of the USB
  • vmlinuz (kernel binary) from "casper\vmlinuz"

  • initrd.gz (initial ramdisk image) from "casper\initrd.gz"

  • syslinux.cfg (SYSLINUX configuration file) rename and copy from "isolinux\isolinux.cfg"

7. Then edit the syslinux.cfg so that the vmlinux and initrd.gz now point to the root

DEFAULT /casper/vmlinuz
GFXBOOT bootlogo
APPEND boot=casper initrd=/casper/initrd.gz ramdisk_size=1048576 root=/dev/ram
rw quiet splash --
DEFAULT vmlinuz
GFXBOOT bootlogo
APPEND boot=casper initrd=initrd.gz ramdisk_size=1048576 root=/dev/ram
rw quiet splash --

8. Eject the USB and you can now boot from it as soon as you go into the BIOS settings on the DELL server (F2 at boot) and set the boot order to allow the USB device to boot as a priority


Anonymous said...

And it worked - I am writing this now from firefox on the said CDROM-less Dell Server.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Worked for me too :)

All Hail Ian - Hail!


kman said...

Unfortunately didn't work for me :(

Could not get my Dell PowerEdge 860 to boot off my 2GB USB flash drive. Tried with various BIOS settings combinations to no avail.

Anonymous said...

syslinux.exe -f F: <<< NO

syslinux.exe -f F:\ <<< YES !!!!!1


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