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I have an old computer that only runs bootable CDs and it does not have BIOS. I was thinking that it might be able to boot a live Linux USB from a live Linux CD because it also does not have a DVD drive and I wish to install via the DVD version.

So using a live Linux disc and using the GRUB loader – or whatever you call the first screen that asks you what you want to do – there normally is a custom option where you can write your own boot code.

If this is possible – and I have no idea if it is – what would be the boot command for the USB? I do realize that I would need to find out the generic name for the USB before I started.

If you are wondering: It's an eMachine, about 10-15 years old, has 512MB of RAM (which I upgraded from 256) and I believe a Pentium 3 or 4 processor. Yes I realize there are other ways to do this, like using the 13 disc set, but I really rather not wait to download ALL of those discs as I already have the iso for the DVD version that I already tested and it has the options I want.

I'm installing openSUSE, but that's not important as I want the answer for future reference.

Also, I would like to know how to find the generic name for the USB when plugged in — I have no idea where to find that without the BIOS.

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FYI: – iglvzx Jan 4 '12 at 23:15
All standard pcs have bioses - many 'consumer' pcs just hide them away. Something that old, might not have usb support, so cds are the safe bet – Journeyman Geek Jan 4 '12 at 23:35
@Journeyman Geek you are correct I had thought that if it didn't show an option and F12 didn't work there was no bios I am incorrect and there is a very sneakily hidden bios with no warning using the delete key. I had no expected that as it didn't tell me anything. – gabeio Jan 5 '12 at 7:24
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Most Linux distro's can be installed from a single CD (e.g. OpenSUSE) and additional packages then installed over the Internet using the native package manager. I have installed RHEL/Centos this way (use 1st CD of set, deselect all packages, install, boot, use package manager).

There is no need to copy an image intended for a USB flash drive onto a CD.

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* Correction "I was planning on using openSUSE in Server version/mode on this computer as it can not handle a gui with any alacrity or grace. Otherwise no complaints as it is archaic and I;m asking it to do some serious computing. – gabeio Jan 5 '12 at 7:14
@CGeniusGo: I believe you can do a non-GUI openSUSE install using the Network ISO (perhaps the Installer uses VESA but AFAIK it doesn't install Gnome or KDE desktops) – RedGrittyBrick Jan 5 '12 at 10:39

You can use Plop Boot Manager. It can be burned on a CD or even written on a floppy disk and it works on almost any PC (I remember having issues only once). Just remember to put the live version on the disk, not the installer version which will just offer to install the bootloader.

It is not FLOSS, but it comes at no cost. Once you boot the CD with Plop, you will be greeted by a screen similar to this one:

Plop Boot Manager

I took the picture from here.

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