Create a Bootable USB

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Creating a bootable Alpine Linux USB Stick with UNetbootin

UNetbootin is a graphical tool that allows you to create bootable Live USB drives for Ubuntu, Fedora, and other Linux distributions without burning a CD. UNetbootin is available for many distributions and Windows. This process applies to all versions of Alpine Linux, and results in a run-from-ram style installation.

Requirements

To create a bootable Alpine Linux USB drive, you will need:

  • An Alpine Linux ISO image file (Download)
  • A partitioned and formatted USB drive
  • UNetbootin

Process

After the launch of UNetbootin, click the Diskimage radio button, and then the ... button to select the Alpine ISO image.

size=400

When you selected your USB device under Device and press OK' to proceed. When UNetbootin is done, your USB drive is ready to use.

Creating a bootable Alpine Linux USB Stick from the command line

This process applies to Alpine Linux 1.9.0 or later, and results in a run-from-ram style installation.

Requirements

In order to follow this document, you will need:

  • Alpine Linux CD-ROM (Download a .iso file containing an Alpine release.)
  • A USB drive (flash, external HD, card reader, etc.)

Boot Alpine Linux CD-ROM

  1. Insert the Alpine Linux CD-ROM into a computer.
  2. Boot the computer from the Alpine Linux CD-ROM.
    • This step may require changes to the BIOS settings to select booting from CD.
  3. Login with the username root. No password is needed.
Tip: If you're not able to boot from the CD, then another option is to boot from a regular Alpine installation, and manually mount the ISO image to /media/cdrom.

Determine the Device Name of the USB stick

Determine the name your computer uses for your USB stick. The following step is one way to do this.

  1. After inserting the USB stick, run the command:
    • dmesg

    • At the end of this command you should see the name of your USB stick, likely starting with "sd". (For example: "sda").
    • The remainder of this document will assume that your USB stick is called /dev/sda
Tango-dialog-warning.png
Warning: Be very careful about this. You do not want to mistakenly wipe your hard drive if it's on /dev/sda

Format USB stick

Run fdisk (replacing sda with your USB stick name):

fdisk /dev/sda

  1. (Optional) - Create new partition table with one FAT32 partition
    • d Delete all partitions (this may take a few steps)
    • n Create a new partition
    • p A primary partition
    • 1 Partition number 1
      • Use defaults for first and last cylinder (just press [Enter] twice).
    • t Change partition type
    • c Partition type (Win95 FAT32/LBA)
  2. Verify that the primary partition is bootable
    • p Print list of partitions
    • If there is no '*' next to the first partition, follow the next steps:
      • a Make the partition bootable (set boot flag)
      • 1 Partition number 1
  3. w Write your changes to the device

Add Alpine Linux to the USB stick

To boot from your USB stick you need to copy the contents of the CDROM to the USB stick and make it bootable. Those two operations can be automated with the setup-bootable tool or can be done manually.

Note: If the following commands fail due to 'No such file or directory', you may have to remove and reinsert the USB stick, or even reboot, to get /dev/sda1 to appear

Automated

Tip: If using Alpine Linux 1.10.4 or newer, you can use this section to complete the install. Otherwise, follow the Manual steps below.
Note: The target partition has to be formatted. Use the mkdosfs command from the Manual steps below if needed.
  1. Run the setup-bootable script to add Alpine Linux to the USB stick and make it bootable (replacing sda with your USB stick name):

    setup-bootable /media/cdrom /dev/sda1

Note: If you get something like 'Failed to mount /dev/sda1 on /media/sda1' when running the above setup-bootable command, you might want to try running:

modprobe vfat

and then try re-run the setup-bootable command as described above.
Tango-dialog-warning.png
Warning: If you are installing to a USB Stick, you may need to modify the syslinux.cfg file to say usbdisk as described below, or you will face possible problems booting and definite problems with the package cache. Recent versions of setup-bootable will specify the alpine_dev using a UUID instead, so it should work properly by default.

Manual

  1. (Optional) - If you created a new partition above, format the USB stick with a FAT32 filesystem (replacing sda with your USB stick name):

    apk add dosfstools
    mkdosfs -F32 /dev/sda1

  2. Install syslinux and MBR (replacing sda with your USB stick name):

    apk add syslinux
    dd if=/usr/share/syslinux/mbr.bin of=/dev/sda
    syslinux /dev/sda1

  3. Copy the files to the USB stick (replacing sda with your USB stick name):

    mkdir -p /media/sda1 mount -t vfat /dev/sda1 /media/sda1 cd /media/cdrom cp -a .alpine-release * /media/sda1/ umount /media/sda1

  4. (Optional) Remove any apkovl files that were transfered as part of the copy process. This should be done if you wish to have a fresh install. Replace sda with your USB stick name)

    mount -t vfat /dev/sda1 /media/sda1 rm /media/sda1/*.apkovl.tar.gz umount /media/sda1

Troubleshooting

Wrong Device Name

If you cannot boot from the USB stick and you see something like:

Mounting boot media failed.
initramfs emergency recovery shell launched. Type 'exit' to continue boot

then it is likely that the device name in syslinux.cfg is wrong. You should replace the device name in this line:

append initrd=/boot/grsec.gz alpine_dev=usbdisk:vfat modules=loop,cramfs,sd-mod,usb-storage quiet

with the proper device name.

  • For boot from USB, the device name should be 'usbdisk' (as shown above)
  • For other options, you can run cat /proc/partitions to see the available disks (i.e. 'sda' or 'sdb')

Non-FAT32 Filesystems

When your USB stick is formatted with a filesystem other than FAT32, you might have to specify the necessary filesystem modules in the boot parameters.

To do so, mount the USB stick and change the syslinux.cfg file line from

append initrd=/boot/grsec.gz alpine_dev=usbdisk:vfat modules=loop,cramfs,sd-mod,usb-storage quiet

to

append initrd=/boot/grsec.gz alpine_dev=usbdisk:ext3 modules=loop,cramfs,sd-mod,usb-storage,ext3 quiet

in the case of an ext3 formatted partition. A similar procedure might apply to other filesystems (if they are supported by syslinux and the Alpine Linux kernel).

Slow USB Devices

Specifying the 'waitusb=X' option at the end of the syslinux.cfg line might help with certain USB devices that take a bit longer to register. X stands for the amount of seconds kernel will wait before looking for the installation media.

append initrd=/boot/grsec.gz alpine_dev=usbdisk:vfat modules=loop,cramfs,sd-mod,usb-storage quiet waitusb=3

See Also

Alpine Linux has some special applications that helps you to use it in the way you want.
Some of the first scripts you are suggested to use is:

  • setup-alpine (Configures all basic things on your Alpine Linux)
  • setup-acf (was named setup-webconf before Alpine 1.9 beta 4) (Configures ACF (webconfiguration) so you can manage your box through https)
Note: Just type any of the above commands on your console and hit Enter to execute the script.

Other useful pages