when grub rescue is grub panic – try ubuntu boot loader on usb stick

for instructions on installing full ubuntu OS on a usb flash drive, go here:



a handy way to install ubuntu linux, is to install on a partition on your hard drive, but put the boot loader onto a removable usb flash drive.

this way, when you boot your machine it does not have linux grub installed with the vulnerabilities that can cause. the usb flash drive works almost like a key: you plug it in and then boot your machine to go into linux.

you don’t have it plugged in …. your machine boots right into windows like linux isn’t even installed.

the reasoning for having linux grub boot loader on a stick rather than your hard drive …. is that if the linux partition becomes damaged at all, the boot loader will go into what is called a “grub rescue.”

and it’s like pulling teeth to find out what you can do if you get that blinking cursor and nothing else.

what i finally figured out was that i could boot with the ISO install program … reinstall the linux. and then if want to remove the linux partition … have to run the windows factory recovery on the machine.

with the grub on the usb stick instead of on the hard drive … that grub is no longer between me and the windows boot. so any screw up by linux is not going to effect my windows boot. are free also, then — to simply delete the linux partition whenever needed, without it effecting Windows.

and that’s a better way to have things run. was one of the factors that bothered me about using linux: that its bootloader comes up first and asks you what operating system you want to use.

i have been using usb “keys” to access(boot) my Linux partitions for 2 or more years now — the only safer way to run Linux is to install on a removable HDD. but your performance then is limited to the write speed of that HDD. a computer’s main hard drive is always going to have the better specs.

now a howto:

  • have a non-formatted free partition on your drive ready for Ubuntu install (if need to know how to make ‘free’ partition or how to make root and swap … click here for previous blog)
  • run demo version of Ubuntu from install disc.
  • insert flash drive into computer
  • go to System/Administration/Disk Utility –make SURE you are looking at flash drive options NOT your system hard drive — delete Volume or Partition on FLASH DRIVE so that it shows as “free.”
  • go back to desktop and click on install icon
  • on install screen, select the option that allows for you to customize the install.
  • that’s an old screen-pic, but it’s usually the last option.
  • locate entry of the free partition on your hard drive.  allocate the space to root (/) and swap. (if need to know how to make ‘free’ partition or how to make root and swap … click here for previous blog)
  • select the usb flash drive from list, click “add” and then use the drop-down menu to designate it as “boot” (they keep switching it up, so might also have to make sure format type is EXT4)
  • it should come up automatically then on the main page where the device for the boot loader installation is specified.
  • double check all the settings before hitting “install.”  and then let it go through the motions.

when you want your computer to go into linux after that, insert your flash drive before booting.

and have bios order set with usb stick as first boot — or select option on bios screen for the bios ‘boot menu’ – and select the flash drive from it. (most computers are set to boot from the DVD drive by default).


if having trouble booting because of grub rescue, first make sure there is no bootable flashdrive or usb device plugged into machine. if so, shut down, remove device, and try booting again.

if there is damage or corruption to the disk, or you tried to delete the linux partition — and now are stuck in the grub rescue on the boot — there are only two ways i’ve found out of the fix:

  1. run windows system recovery through Bios– F11 or F8 on the boot. (this will put your windows OS back to factory state and remove linux grub)
  2. or boot from unbuntu install CD, and reinstall linux to the machine.

another way:

commands you can run — boot from install CD, run the trial version of ubuntu …. go to applications>>>>accessories>>>>terminal. enter this:

sudo apt-get install lilo
sudo lilo -M /dev/sda mbr

that’s if you have only the one main drive ….. which is the “dev/sda” part. more info here: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1391875

running commands from the grub rescue prompt involve repairing grub — and only for advanced users.  a guide to that here:   https://bbs.archlinux.org/viewtopic.php?id=85603

2 Replies to “when grub rescue is grub panic – try ubuntu boot loader on usb stick”

  1. Many thanks to the author of this elegant solution. I searched for a long time for this and it worked for me out of the box. My target was to create a Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon system on my Acer AspireOne netbook. This netbook has no DVD reader, so I used a bootable USB stick as the install medium and as a consequence I had to use a second USB stick as well for booting purposes.
    I would like to add some remarks to the description. The picture named “Allocate drive space” does not show the final status just before the installation starts. The USB key does not appear on the list at all (why?) and the boot loader target is not correct. BTW I checked the format option box and set the “/boot” mount point for the USB key.

    1. oh the examples i used were “close enough ” pictures i found on the web, at the time of writing this had no way to include the actual screenshots….. if you mean that the options don’t display for you, this was the ubuntu install, and even their format is now changed. but am glad putting the bootloader on a flashdrive worked out…. the first time i deleted a linux partition, only to find i could not boot into windows…. figured this out to leave windows in charge of its own boot.

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