Create a USB Install Drive - Detailed Guide

If you have been struggling with creating a bootable USB Install Drive, you’re not alone. Here is a detailed step-by-step guide to get you going.

Preliminary: Will that be One Drive or Two?

If you are planning to use a USB stick as the permanent System disk for Rockstor you will need two USB sticks – one for the initial install disk and the other to be the System drive. You cannot use the same USB device for both.

USB Drive Recommendations

The Install Drive can be any convenient USB drive, 1GB minimum size. If you may ever want to install Rockstor again you should label it, put it away and not reuse it for something else. USB sticks – cheap. Your time – valuable.

For the System Drive:

  • Minimum 8 GB. Use 16 GB, the cost difference is insignificant, and you don’t want later hassles if log files get large.
  • USB 3.0 or higher preferred
  • Use a mini drive, one that doesn’t project from the computer, creating a breakage hazard.

Format the USB Drive and Make it Bootable

These steps need to be done on a Windows computer. The program that will be used to format the drive and make it bootable is RMPrepUSB, freely available on the web and it works well, Download this program and download the Rockstor ISO file if you haven’t already got these files.

Remove all other USB drives from your computer (to minimize screw-ups), plug in the USB stick that will be used as the Install Drive and launch RMPrepUSB.

Do these steps in sequence on RMPrepUSB:

  1. Select the USB drive in the drop-down box at the top.
  2. From the menu bar select “Bootloaders” and then “Install Std MBR”.
  3. Set “Partition Size” --> MAX
  4. Enter a simple and unambiguous volume label, avoiding the use of spaces, e.g. “ROCK1”. Make note of this, you will need it later.
  5. Make sure “Set partition as non-bootable” is not checked.
  6. Under “Bootloader Options” select SYSLINUX.
  7. The “Image Tools” area should have “File --> Drive” highlighted.
  8. In “Filesystem and Overrides”, select FAT32 and “Boot as HDD”.
  9. In “Copy OS files from here after formatting”, check the box next to the heading.
  10. Click “Choose Source”. You will get a pop-up asking if you want to “COPY files to drive or EXTRACT from a file?”. The correct choice is “No”. You want the program to extract files from the ISO not copy all contents from a folder. Navigate to the Rockstor ISO file you downloaded and select it.
  11. Do a final check that everything is right, then click “Prepare Drive” and let the process run to completion.

Rename Files

In Rockstor-3.9.1.iso (and perhaps other versions) several files are incorrectly named for USB boot. If you have already tried to install Rockstor from USB and got the error, “no default or ui configuration directive found”, this is the fix.

View the contents of the USB drive just created. Look for a folder named isolinux and rename it to syslinux. Look inside this folder for two files named isolinux.bin and isolinux.cfg. Rename them to syslinux.bin and syslinux.cfg

Now you can eject the USB drive and plug it into your Rockstor computer.

Starting Rockstor Installation

Before starting the computer plug in the USB installation drive and (if applicable) the empty USB drive that will be used for the System. When you first power up the computer it will display what function key to press to choose the drive to boot from. Watch for this and be ready to press the function key and then power up the unit.

Select the Installation drive and press Enter. In a few seconds you should get the Rockstor installer splash screen with several menu choices. “Install Rockstor” will be the default highlighted.

Press Tab before the 30 second timer expires. A string starting with “> vmlinuz…” will appear. Look within it for the string “LABEL=Rockstor\x203\x20x86_64” (or something similar). Using the arrow keys and Backspace, replace “Rockstor\x203\x20x86_64” with the Volume label you used when formatting the USB drive (“ROCK1” in my example above) but change nothing else. There are two instances of this string, be sure to replace both. Now press Enter to start the installation.

We now return to your regularly scheduled program.

1 Like

@Walt Welcome to the Rockstor community.

Nice write-up and thanks for sharing your findings. However there are far simpler ways to go about this. Have you had a look at our Quick start doc section: specifically the Making a Rockstor USB install disk where we cover what programs have been found to work and what have not on Linux, MacOSX, and Windows with both graphical and command line options mentioned. We also have the following 2 entries in our Howtos section of the Docs:

Rockstor USB install disk using Rufus
and
Rockstor USB install disk using Gnome Disks

I have also just recently successfully created a working Rockstor install USB via openSUSE’s:

USB ImageWriter installed on an openSUSE Leap 15 desktop via:

sudo zypper install imagewriter

by just dragging and dropping the rockstor.iso file from KDE’s dolphin file manager to this program, no config options required.

I hope to add an ImageWriter howto myself when time permits as we will hen have covered both main desktops within Linux.

Please take a look at our existing doc references with a view to improving them as I like some of your ‘nice touches’ such as explicitly mentioning the need for 2 USB devices during an install. For beginners such things can be most helpful and my hope is that we are as easy as we can be both during install and day to day use. On this note I’m hoping with our openSUSE move to offer an image based install, either primarily or as an ‘extra easy’ install option. That way there will be almost zero choices during the install which should further help with easing the initial install.

Thanks again for sharing your experiences. I’m not sure why such complexity was required in your case but if it worked for you it may well work for others and so there is value in that.

It may have been that your particular hardware required the text mode installer and I believe we have an issue with a type in our most recent iso that at least affects the recovery mode which is only really used in more advanced applications such as when ‘bending’ our upstream installer to do a btrfs on mdraid install. And example of the change required to get around this typo is indicated towards the end of:

Step 7: Start the Troubleshooting shell

in our Mirroring Rockstor OS using Linux Raid howto.

I.e we have “x203.0” where we should have “x203”. But I’m not certain if this actually affects the test mode install actual. This typo does however not affect the default (in most cases) graphical installer option.

Phil,
Tx for the detailed reply. When I initially installed Rockstor two years ago I had difficulties with creating the install drive using the Quick Start doc but I didn’t write down what I did to solve it. So this time I wrote down my steps in detail. Publishing it to the web makes it available to everyone should someone else be able to benefit from it.

This was the only way for me to install Rockstor. Banged my head with other USB-writers. Tried Rufus, Unetbootin and Etcher. Neither worked. But your solution did. Thank you!!!