Old Toshiba laptop won't boot to USB with HD installed
May 12, 2014 7:20 PM   Subscribe

I have a laptop (Toshiba A105 S4344) with a windows xp install and a bootable USB clip with Win7 on it. I want to put Windows 7 on the laptop. If I take the hard drive out then the USB clip boots fine (but has no hard drive to install windows on). If I put the hard drive in then it runs windows off the HD even though USB boot is ahead of it in the BIOS startup order (and when I put a blank hard drive in then it complained it couldn't find the windows startup files). And when I try and insert the HD after loading Win7 off the USB, the installer can't see the hard drive. I've checked the BIOS and there aren't any secure boot/UEFI shenanigans going on. I will probably end up burning the win7 install onto a dvd, but does anyone know why the Toshiba would be overriding the boot order?
posted by Sebmojo to Computers & Internet (3 answers total)
It might be how it's interpreting the USB drive. Have you tried other bootable drives in that slot? Are there additional USB slots that weren't used? What tool did you use to create the drive?

Sometimes a different method has better results. For example Rufus may work better on some machines than YUMI. USB booting has come a long way with BIOS and EFI support but there are still a handful of quirks with different manufacturers. We ran into one earlier last week with a Lenovo where one USB boot method where another did not.
posted by samsara at 8:27 PM on May 12, 2014

Some BIOSes let you pick something like "USB external drive" as a boot option but won't boot from a USB stick if you do that. This is because they lump any USB stick that's been formatted with a partition table in with the hard drives.

What you need to do to tame one of those horrors is make sure the USB stick is plugged in before you power up the machine and get into the BIOS settings, then tell it to boot from hard drive (not "USB external drive", which actually refers to a USB-connected CD/DVD drive), then find the other setting that lets you set the boot priority within the available hard drives; you'll find your USB stick listed amongst those.

Sometimes you can get lucky and find that your BIOS lets you hit some function key or other to bring up an explicit boot device selection menu (google your model number to find the appropriate key sequence). For BIOSes that lump USB sticks in with hard drives, there will generally be an unobtrusive little + sign next to the Hard Disk option on that menu; choose that option and you will typically get a choice of partitioned drives, typically including your USB stick if it was plugged in before power-up. If you choose USB something-or-other instead of Hard Disk, the machine will look for every kind of connected USB device except a partitioned flash stick, fail to find one, then boot from the default hard drive - which, unless you've gone into the BIOS settings and picked your USB stick as the top priority, will still be the internal HD.

But in the end, all you really need to know to understand fully what's going on here is that Toshiba laptops, especially the low-end ones, are Satan's spawn and that's all there is to it.
posted by flabdablet at 11:53 PM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ahh - thanks flabdablet, i was hitting keys at random and it cycled between USB Memory and USB ADATA HD. But I'm sure your answer would have got me there too!
posted by Sebmojo at 12:44 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

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