Question about RUNNING CentOS 7 from a USB flash drive

Issues related to hardware problems
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taylorkh
Posts: 534
Joined: 2010/11/24 15:08:33
Location: North Carolina, USA

Question about RUNNING CentOS 7 from a USB flash drive

Post by taylorkh » 2016/08/08 13:46:06

Yes, I know I can boot CentOS from a flash drive for installation or testing purposes. This question is a little different. Can I install and run CentOS from a flash drive? Here is the background...

I found a deal on a brand new Dell Poweredge T20 server - just the box, no drives nor OS - $129 US delivered! That is less than the cost a 1 year extended warranty contract. It is due in next week. I have 2 - 2 TB and 2 - 1 TB drives which have been obsoleted from my existing T20 which I will install in the new server. My existing server uses a 16 GB SSD obsoleted from an old mini-notebook/netbook for the boot and OS (Ubuntu Server 12.04) drive. Data is stored on 5 - 4 TB mechanical drives. It is used simply as bulk data storage. I only boot it up when I need to archive or retrieve data. Works great.

The new server will be used for the same purposes. Rather than adding a SATA card to support more than 4 drives I was wondering if I could "permanently" add a 16 GB USB3 flash drive and install the OS there. The BIOS on all Dell machines I have owned since USB was invented have had the option to boot from USB. I suspect the new T20 will as well. Considering the intended use of the server - I am not too concerned if boot time is increased by a minute or so - any reason why this could not be done? The T20 comes with a bunch of USB3 ports. Hate to waste all of them.

TIA,

Ken

aks
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Joined: 2014/09/20 11:22:14

Re: Question about RUNNING CentOS 7 from a USB flash drive

Post by aks » 2016/08/08 16:15:16

I don't see why not (you could format the drive as ext4 for example), so long as you configure the boot environment to use the USB and not the "spinning rust".

taylorkh
Posts: 534
Joined: 2010/11/24 15:08:33
Location: North Carolina, USA

Re: Question about RUNNING CentOS 7 from a USB flash drive

Post by taylorkh » 2016/08/08 16:48:01

Thanks aks,

I would plan to insert the USB3 drive and boot from another USB drive with the installation image. If I can then remove the install drive and boot from the USB3 drive I will add the desired packages and then plug in the mechanical drives and add them to /etc/fstab.

If I am successful I will clone the installation, change the host name etc. and upgrade my old Ubuntu server which goes off support in a few months. I also had the idea that if I encrypted the file system on the mechanical drives and stored the encryption keys on the USB3 drive... I could keep the USB3 drive under physical lock and key when not needed as a security model. Of course as small as the flash drive are today - I plan to use a Sandisk Ultra Fit - I could kill power, snatch out the drive and swallow it if a black helicopter appears :lol:

Ken

taylorkh
Posts: 534
Joined: 2010/11/24 15:08:33
Location: North Carolina, USA

Re: Question about RUNNING CentOS 7 from a USB flash drive

Post by taylorkh » 2016/08/12 13:20:59

For what it is worth, here is my experience to date...

I decided to test this on my old server as the new one has not arrived yet.

I installed CentOS 7 minimal (CLI) on a Sandisk Ultra Fit USB 3 flash drive. No problem.

I can boot the Poweredge T20 server from the flash drive - quite fast actually. BUT I must press F12 and select "Boot from USB" even though USB is the 1st boot preference in BIOS. Or I can press F1 to continue when prompted during the boot process. These will not work for a headless system.

If I plug in a hard drive - with an OS, no OS, data only or empty it does not seem to matter - the system now has a primary hard drive and will boot to the USB drive as I have set in BIOS. I guess the BIOS writers did not figure a machine without a hard drive was possible :lol:

I then group installed X Window system, Mate desktop and TigerVNC.

I allow the machine to boot to the CLI and can access by SSH, start my VNC session and connect with Vinagre from my CentOS 6 machine if I wish to use a GUI.

Hooray :D

As to my new server...

I got a call Monday evening from someone claiming to be from Dell telling me that they had run out of these servers and had failed to turn off the sale page on their web site in time and that my order was cancelled. I told him that it sounded like Dell's problem not mine. He said I would be receiving a confirming email and asked if this was OK and I said NO.

As of Friday morning the order still shows in process and the delivery date increased by one day yesterday so it looks like the order is still alive. I have never received a cancellation email. And as for not having any of these servers... they are currently listed again - for $30 more and including a totally worthless 500GB hard drive. We shall see.

Ken

taylorkh
Posts: 534
Joined: 2010/11/24 15:08:33
Location: North Carolina, USA

Re: Question about RUNNING CentOS 7 from a USB flash drive

Post by taylorkh » 2016/08/19 20:57:01

Well on Monday I saw - that my server order had been cancelled. :cry: I called Dell to ask WTF? I was told that they routinely over sell these loss leader items figuring some folks will cancel or change their order. Sort of like airlines or sporting events. The cheapest server they had was about $450. Wrong thing to tell ME.

I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau explaining the events which had transpired. I received a call Tuesday evening from a lady at Dell Executive offices apologizing for the cancellation and telling me that a sales rep would call in 24 - 48 hours for redo my order. As of this morning (Friday) - nothing. I sent a note to BBB and about an hour later the lady called from Dell. They had no more T20 servers but could provide me with a T130 at the same price point. She sent me the quote. I now have on order a T130 with the same Pentium processor as the T20 for $129. It is due on 8/30. Looking at their web site it appears that this is about a $400 server :D

I did not bring up the point but offering one item on sale and then trying to substitute a more expensive item is I believe considered "bait and switch" in consumer protection speak and is generally illegal. I guess I sort of had Dell over a barrel. But I don't feel too bad. I have purchased at least a dozen Dell systems for personal use since 1987!

To update the old saying... "the squeaky wheel gets the server."

Ken

p.s. Provided it arrives I will report on how my run CentOS from a USB flash drive scheme works. It is working great on my current T20.

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