I wrote an .img file containing a custom debian distro to a USB stick via win32diskimager program. The stick doesn't boot on my older motherboard, returning:

SYSLINUX: No DEFAULT or UI configuration directive found

I learned that it's because my motherboard doesn't recognize FAT32 partitions. It will only boot from a FAT16 partition. Sadly win32diskimager creates a FAT32 partition by default and there are no means to configure it.

usb stick after writing .img by win32diskimager usb stick fat32 partition content

I found a workaround by someone who wrote:

I've managed to recreate with fat16 filesystem, by reformatting the 525MB partition, copying over the files and reinstalling syslinux (latest version, 4.05) - and now it boots. It looks like indeed some motherboards have issues booting from fat32 USB sticks.

I have followed the workaround and done this:

  • Made a copy of all the contents of the fat32 partition
  • Unmounted and formatted the fat32 partition to fat16 via gparted (at this point the new fat16 partition is not marked as boot in the flags column)
  • Copied the contents back to the newly created fat16 partition

Unfortunately I do not know how to reinstall syslinux on the USB stick so that it boots. I've got syslinux available (syslinux --version => 4.05) from the command line but have no idea what to do with it.

  • Check that you USB fat16 partition is still /dev/sdb1.
  • Open a terminal window (Ctrl+Alt+T).
  • Execute this command:

    $ sudo syslinux --directory /syslinux/ --install /dev/sdb1

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