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Computer Won't Boot with USB Drive Installed

written by: Steve McFarlane•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 5/25/2010

Sometimes a USB drive can cause a computer to stall in the boot-up process. Here are some possible causes and how the problem can be resolved.

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    USB drives offer a convenient way to carry around large files and even a fully function operating system, but sometimes USB drives can cause problems. If a USB thumb or hard drive is causing a problem with the computer’s boot up process, there a few system settings and tricks that can be used to troubleshoot and resolve the problem.

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    Possible Causes for a Boot Failure

    When a computer starts up it does a general check of the installed system components that verify that everything is work properly. This is known as the POST (power on self test). If there is a problem with a component, the computer may pause the startup process. If the computer passes the POST checks, it will then try to find boot-up instructions and then an operating system.

    Depending on how the boot sequence was set in the BIOS (basic input output system), the computer will try to find an operating system in a sequenced manner. For example, it may check the CD/DVD drive first, if it doesn’t find boot instructions it will try to find it on the next device in the boot sequence, which could be a USB drive. If these devices or media (CD or USB drive, etc.) have faulty boot instructions, the boot process may stall after which the computer may display an “Operating System Not Found" error message

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    How to Fix a USB Boot Problem

    This problem can be easily resolved using one of the following:

    Remove the USB drive prior to boot-up – The simplest solution is to simply remove the USB drive from the computer until the boot process is complete. This is not a sophisticated solution but it is a safe solution if the computer user is not comfortable with changing Dell Computer won't Boot with USB Drive Installed critical system settings in the BIOS such as the boot sequence.

    Change the boot sequence – The boot sequence can be changed in the BIOS. The steps for entering the BIOS will vary depending on the computer manufacturer. However, hitting the F2 or F10 keys at the start of the boot process will take most computers into the BIOS. From there, search for the boot sequence menu and ensure that the boot sequence is set properly. Consider putting the hard drives first in the boot sequence

    Add boot instructions to the USB drive – Installing system files onto the USB drive can also solve the problem by making the drive bootable. Some users make their USB drives bootable, or even run an entire operating system from their USB drive so that they can have a trusted and secure operating system to work with at all times. Instructions for making a USB drive bootable is beyond the scope of this article but you can get more detailed instructions here.

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    Summary

    USB drives are a convenient way to carry large files and even a working operating system, but sometimes a USB thumb or hard drive can cause problems. If a Dell computer won’t boot with the USB drive installed consider removing the drive, making it bootable, or changing the boot sequence in the BIOS.

    Credit

    Image: "Dell Computer won't Boot with USB Drive Installed." wetwebwork