Skip to main content

Booting From an ISO image using GRUB

Sometimes, it's handy to use a specialized boot environment on your system. Examples include SpinRite, GParted, TRK, FalconFour's Ultimate Boot CD and others.

Typically, you have a CD or DVD of that environment, insert it and boot from that.

Assuming that your own system isn't borked, it is possible to use GRUB to load the ISO image and boot from that. Here's how . . .

The special software that allows you to boot from an ISO image on your drive is SYSLINUX. While it is a complete boot system, mostly noted for its ability to boot from MS-DOS and MS Windows FAT filesystems, it contains a program named MEMDISK.

NOTE: While I am focusing on Linux systems, SYSLINUX and MEMDISK have MS Windows  versions, so with a careful reading of the documents you can do the same thing on a MS Windows computer.

Intended primarily to allow you to boot legacy operating systems, it also allows you to boot from floppy disk images, hard drive images and ISO images.

To use it, copy MEMDISK from where your system installs it by default into the /boot directory. Then, copy the ISO image you want to boot from into /boot as well.

The web page for MEMDISK describes how to configure your main bootloader to launch MEMDISK and have it boot your ISO image.

For my Mageia5 Linux system, the lines that are added manually to /boot/grub/menu.lst are as follows for SpinRite.iso as an example.

title SpinRite_6.1
root (hd0,0)
kernel (hd0,0)/boot/memdisk BOOT_IMAGE=SpinRite iso
initrd /boot/SpinRite.iso

If the filename of your ISO image is long, don't be afraid to rename it to something more convenient to type.

Sometimes it is necessary to use append iso raw. Try that if booting fails at first.

Using PLPBT, an Alternative Boot Loader

Rather than booting an image of an operating system or a live image of a utility, it make be necessary to boot from a different device. Most modern motherboard BIOS have a feature that allows you to boot from a number of different devices attached to your system.

If you BIOS does not support that, the Plop Boot Manager can help. It provides executables for DOS, MS Windows and Linux as well as for booting over a network.

For Linux, you copy the file plpbt.bin to your /boot directory and your GRUB entry in /boot/grub/menu.lst looks like:

title Plop Boot Manager
root (hd0,0)
kernel /boot/plpbt.bin

The documents also show how to create other boot images using the Plop Boot Manager.

NOTE: This procedure works just fine with GRUB. It does not seem to work with GRUB2, so I need some more investigation before I can update this page.


Popular posts from this blog

DOS4GW.EXE Version 2.01a and Alternative DOS Extenders

DOS4GW.EXE The Tenberry DOS extender DOS4GW.EXE was used by many early DOS games. I still enjoy playing many of these games and DOS4GW.EXE is usable with DOSBox , so they can be played on Linux. However, the version of DOS4GW.EXE that was included with the game was whatever was current at the time. The most recent version that includes many bugfixes that possibly affected the games when used with DOSBox have been fixed in the latest version, 2.01a. It's not free at US$49, but you can downloaded it here . Simply substitute it for whatever version of DOS4GW.EXE your game provided and enjoy the bug-fixed goodness. Tenberry also makes a "high-performance" "pro" version of DOS4GW.EXE, but it costs $300. I think that they could sell quite a few of these to hobby users (since, you know, DOS is dead) for US$5. Open Souce to the Rescue There are better performing, free and Open Source alternatives available and worth a look. DPMI Explained Let's unders

Return to Castle Wolfenstein for Modern Linux

Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a first-person shooter originally released on November 19, 2001. The game, like many other classic games, is available at and costs only US$5.99. iortcw for Linux Don't bother with old and crusty Linux binaries offered by idsoft; they are problematic and it's painful to use them on a modern Linux. Fortunately for us, there are more modern GPL-licensed Linux binaries available for 32- and 64-bit systems as well as high resolution textures packages. The project at GitHub provides source code that can also be compiled for MS Windows using MinGW. iortcw for Windows and Mac You can download pre-compiled binaries for 32- and 64-bit Linux, MS Windows and Mac from here . Let's put our files in /usr/local/games/rtcw . As root, extract the downloaded .ZIP file for your architecture to  /usr/local/games/rtcw . All we are missing are the game data files. I purchased them from The game installer downloaded from can be

Unreal Tournament GOTY/UT99 for Modern Linux

Released on November 16, 1999, Unreal Tournament (also known as UT99) is an arena first-person shooter for Multiplayer on-line competition or you can play against bots off-line. It features several game types, with more details provided at Wikipedia . The game was re-released on February 25, 2000 as Unreal Tournament Game of the Year Edition (GOTY) which included the three bonus packs released previously and additional mods, or game modifiers that had become popular. It is the GOTY version that is available from STEAM or . The GOG version for Windows installs in Linux and plays well using WINE , PlayOnLinux or Codeweaver's Crossover . There is a Linux binary available in two versions, one for the original game and one for the GOTY edition . Also provided at that site is the Official Bonus Pack with a Linux installer. All these Linux installers are created with makeself . There are some issues using such a crusty old Linux binary. Let's see why getting a Lin