Minimal boot CD

Do you have a question? Post it now! No Registration Necessary

Translate This Thread From English to

Threaded View
I'm trying to learn how to make a bootable Linux CD with a bare minimum
of tools on it as I only need it to do a few things.  I've spent hours
searching google and experimenting with some various methods explained
in articles I found, but none of them have panned out.

I've read the bootdisk howto but besides being seriously outdated, it
focuses on floppies.

So far I have been able to use ISOLINUX to create a bootable CD by
following the instructions at

The CD boots, finds my kernel, and then panics because it can't find
anything else.   That was obviously expected since I had not yet built
the root file system.  But at least getting to that point assured me I
was on the right track.

I knew I needed some kind of sane working environment for the kernel to
load.  Busybox was the first thing I thought of.  I may one day be
interested in compiling everything I want from source, but for the time
being Busybox is absolutely perfect for what I want.

I'm just not sure how to proceed from the point I'm at now.  I was
thinking I had to make an initrd image, mount it as a loop device, and
then install busybox to that location.  I have done that.  (Though I'm
not sure I did it right ... does the initrd have to be a specific
size?)  I then updated my CD image to include the initrd image I
created.  I reburned the CDRW and tried to boot from it.

The loader finds and loads vmlinuz and even finds and loads intird ...
but it still kernel panics.  I didn't expect it to work the first time,
but I have tried reburning the CDRW a dozen times, trying a few
different things, and I'm getting nowhere.

The kernel panic I'm getting is:

Kernel panic - not syncing: VFS: Unable to mount root fs on

I think the problem may be with my /dev directory inside of my initrd
... but I'm not even sure if we are at that point yet when the kernel
panics.  Do I need two /devs?  One inside of the initrd for the ram
disk image and one outside of the initrd so the system can boot?

I'm pretty confused about that point.  My ISO contains:


Here are the lines I have in my isolinux.cfg:

timeout 10
default vmlinuz
append initrd=initrd.gz load_ramdisk=1 ramdisk_blocksize40%96

I compiled everything I needed into my kernel.  No module support at
all.  I included RAM disk support ((4096) Default RAM disk size) and
Initial RAM disk (initrd) support into the kernel.

I'm not sure if my isolinux.cfg is being read properly ... my timeout
setting of 10 seconds doesn't seem to work.  It boots instantly.
(Though now that I'm writing this I'm thinking that might be

Also I'm not sure if "root=/dev/rd/0" is right.  I copied that from
someone else's setup and I'm thinking it could be the source of my
current problem.  But since there's no /dev on the CD to look at, I
don't know what it should be.

I feel like I'm pretty close to achieving my goal.  Can someone help me
make the final leap?

Re: Minimal boot CD
Quoted text here. Click to load it

---- clip clip ----

Get the Diskless-root-NFS-HOWTO from the Linux Documentation Project.
It has part 5: Added bonus: booting from cdrom. It explains the
bootable CD pretty well.

In principle, the BIOS looks at the El Torito boot directory on the
CD and shows the boot image as a diskette to the rest of BIOS. This
is why the boot image has to be 1.44 or 2.88 MBytes. You have to
have on the floppy image the kernel and enough stuff to get the
root filesystem mounted.

As you clearly cannot write on a normally mounted CD, the root
of the filesystem has to be on a ramdisk. You may need to have
an initial ramdisk to get all the necessary drivers if they are
not compiled in the kernel.



Tauno Voipio
tauno voipio (at) iki fi

Re: Minimal boot CD

Quoted text here. Click to load it

Tauno only tells 1/3 of the story, and not the most interesting part.
El-torito allows for you to make a bootable CD using floppy emulation,
disk emulation, or no emulation.

1. floppy emulation has the size limitations Tauno mentions.
2. disk emulation has the complication that you must create a boot sector
for your image and it is reported that some BIOS don't fully support
the specification.
3. no emulation.  What most vendors use.


You may want to try disecting a working cd to see how they are put


Site Timeline