How to Boot From USB Without BIOS Support
Although it’s not such a major problem with computers manufactured in more recent years, if you have a slightly older computer, something it might not be able to do is boot up directly from a USB device. Being able to boot your computer from USB flash drive is an advantage because there are so many tools around that can be used to install or repair Windows such as Antivirus discs, and repair CD’s. Having them on USB is easier and quicker than burning discs every time.
Installing Windows by running the setup files from a USB drive is also popular because it can be a good bit quicker than installing from a CD/DVD drive, even Windows 8 setup files can be downloaded and copied straight onto USB these days. It depends entirely on the computer’s BIOS as to whether USB booting is supported and some manufacturers may have provided a BIOS update to enable it. However, what if you encounter an old computer that doesn’t support booting from USB?
Thankfully, all is not lost because there is an excellent little tool called Plop Boot Manager which can do the impossible and allow you to boot the computer from USB even if the BIOS does not support it. Plop can boot different operating systems such as Windows or Linux from hard disk, floppy, CD/DVD or from USB.
There are probably 2 main scenarios where you would like to use Plop; firstly to be able to boot a USB device when you already have Windows installed, maybe loading a Live Linux or a rescue/antivirus disc etc. Another way is when you have no operating system currently loaded and perhaps would like to install one via USB. Here, we’ll show you both ways to install the Plop boot manager, one using the Windows Boot Menu and one from a bootable CD.
Adding Plop to the Windows Boot Menu
The easiest way to set up Plop to boot your USB flash drive is by adding it to the Windows boot menu so when you have the option to choose a Windows installation on boot, you will also have an entry to load the Plop Boot Manager and launch a USB boot.
This isn’t nearly as complicated as it used to be because to get the entries into the boot menu, you used to have to edit the XP boot.ini or manually use BCDEdit in Vista or 7. These days it’s far easier and only requires the execution of a batch file to get the Plop Boot Manager entry inserted into your windows boot menu.
1. Download Plop Boot Manager, then extract it to a folder.
2. Navigate into the plpbt-[version]\Windows folder. Run the InstallToBootMenu.bat file. If you don’t have full admin rights already in Vista and 7, right click on the bat file and “Run as Administrator”.
3. When asked if you want to continue, just press Y and enter. The necessary files will be coped and the boot entry added to the menu.
Now when you boot your computer, the Plop Boot Manager entry will be there and you can now select it and boot from a USB flash drive.
Even though they have different boot menus, running the batch file will create the correct menu entry for both XP or Vista / 7 depending on which you’re using. For anyone who wants to rename the default “Plop Boot Manager” menu entry, open the InstallToBootMenu.bat, look for “set ENTRYNAME=Plop Boot Manager” and change it to what you want.
Removing the entry from the Boot Menu
1. This is quite easy whether you have XP, Vista or 7 and you just need to run the C:\plop\plpbt4win tool or run plpbt4win from the Windows folder in the Zip you extracted in the previous step 1.
2. Type L and press enter. This will give you the current entries of the boot menu, note down the ID number for the Plop Boot Manager entry.
Type R [ID] to match the ID from step 2 which removes the boot menu entry.
For example “R 3” will remove the Plop entry from the list above.
Installing Plop if You Don’t Have Windows installed
If you want to boot your computer from USB and have no Windows installed, then you’re probably looking to install Windows from a USB flash drive which can be quicker than using an optical drive. Plop Boot Manager does itself also include an ISO image which can be burned to a CD and then USB can be launched from there.
1. Download the Plop Boot Manager Zip file, then extract it to the folder of your choice.
2. Navigate to the extracted Plop main folder and find the plpbt.iso file, it’s the disc image file around 550KB if you have show extensions turned off in Explorer.
3. Now all you have to do is burn the ISO file to a CD and then boot from it. To make a bit more use of the leftover space on the CD, this next solution could be useful…
A rescue and repair CD we just can’t stop recommending to people is Hiren’s Boot CD. This disc has so many useful tools there are very few things it doesn’t do when you need to perform a number of fixes or recovery operations. Another one of its included features is the Plop Boot Manager which can be loaded straight from the main Hiren menu.
1. All you need to do is Download Hiren’s Boot CD if you don’t already have it, and then burn the ISO to a CD.
2. Boot your computer using the CD and you will get to the main Hiren boot menu. Use the arrows keys to go down to the “PLoP Boot Manager” option and press Enter.
You will then get the standard Plop boot options and can boot from USB.
Using Plop Boot Manager
After you have either booted from a CD or used the Windows boot menu and selected “Plop Boot Manager”, a new menu will appear. If you want to boot your computer from USB, make sure the flash drive is inserted and use the arrow keys to highlight the USB option and press enter.
If your computer is old enough to not even have a boot from CD-ROM option, a floppy version of Plop can be downloaded from the website and it can be used to boot a CD in a similar way. When we tried tried Plop on a laptop that couldn’t boot from USB, it was able to boot up a Windows 7 or 8 setup from USB and install the operating system with no problems at all.
Try all the options until it works. its not quite straight forward. Buy the dev a cup of tea as well.
it did not work for me
I managed to get it to work. it required a few trial and error fiddlings with the menus and options. certainly not a plug and play option for me but happy it works
I have a old Toshiba Tecra A2 Year 1998 with Xbuntu installed.
The BIOS doesn’t support booting from USB.
After I select the USB my PC hangs and just shows the screen “loading ehci driver searching on hosts host 1”.
1. different versions 5.0.14 & 5.0.15.
2. different USB’s (small and large capacities)
3. Different USB ports
But all produce the same result.
Have Linux installed and was wanting to try some other versions from a “Multiboot” or “Yumi” USB stick to save burning multiple CD’s
Any ideas, would be really cool if I could get this old thing to boot from USB and try a few other linux distro’s without constantly burning CD’s :-)