[syslinux] Problems booting from cd

Ian Leonard ian at smallworld.cx
Thu May 4 08:22:46 PDT 2006

Nazo wrote:
> On 5/2/06, Ian Leonard <ian at smallworld.cx> wrote:
>> Hi,
>> I have a cd building system that has worked for ages. I made lots of
>> changes before I noticed that it now produces non-bootable cd's. I made
>> changes to the files that went on the cd rather than the programs than
>> buildings the isos (mainly mkisofs). The cd's don't fail on all
>> machines. It seems to be a combination of motherboard and cd drive. At
>> boot time, the cd light flashes quickly before it tries to boot from the
>> harddisk.
>> Looking through this lists archive I see a couple of people have had
>> similar problems. Suggestions range from the amount of data on the cd's
>> and avoiding the Joliet extensions. I have tried the latter with no
>> luck. I am producing a two cd set so the first disk is quite full.
>> I have tried to go back to the previous working version but the change
>> that did the damage must be quite subtle and I can't fix it.
>> As I said, this seem similar to problems experienced by others. I would
>> be keen to know if they got the problems solved.
>> TIA.
>> -- 
>> Ian Leonard
>> Please ignore spelling and punctuation - I did.
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> I presume you are using mkisofs?  If so, can you tell us your command
> line options?  If not, can you tell us what settings and what
> software?  In my experience, these things can kind of be a little bit
> picky and do like to mess up easily.

Yes, it's mkisofs version 2. the command line is something like this:

mkisofs -b images/boot.img -c boot.cat \
      -r -T -J -v \
         -V "CD1" \
         -A "$VERSION$LOGO with Linux" \
         -P "Name" \
         -p "Name" \
         -o $ICD/wavestore$LOGO-$VERSION-cd1.iso \
         $ICD/$ARCH-disc1 >>$LOGFILE 2>&1

> I'm doing something similar here where I maintain a directory with
> several diagnostic tools and an installer/repair console for Windows
> XP SP2.  I make changes very frequently (so frequently that I actually
> dedicated one of my few very expensive mini-DVD+RWs for the purpose
> even though mini-DVD-Rs are considerably cheaper and easier to waste.)
> I've run into the occasion or two in the past where I tweaked one
> tiny option and bam it stopped booting even though the option seemed
> unrelated.  In particular, filesystem CAN be somewhat picky.  Just in
> case it might be of some use to you, here's the command line I'm using
> (with irrelevant stuff like preparer removed):
> mkisofs -o ultboot.iso -b isolinux/isolinux-debug.bin -c
> isolinux/boot.cat -no-emul-boot -boot-load-size 4 -boot-info-table
> -pad -relaxed-filenames -iso-level 1 -N -disable-deep-relocation
> -exclude exclude -exclude EXCLUDE -exclude ultboot.iso -J ./

Mine lokks similar but with the Rockridge Extensions. I have tried
"no-emul-boot -boot-load-size 4" but it makes no difference. I don't 
really know what they do.

> Bear in mind that that's just the basic idea for it.  Don't actually
> use that because it has a very crappy filesystem set up there since I
> had issues with Windows (then again, that was back when I didn't have
> a bootable loader set up properly and had to install from DOS.  It may
> no longer be necessary.)  A rock ridge extention probably wouldn't
> hurt.  In particular, it's the binary for isolinux and the boot-loader
> size that you probably most need to pay special attention to.
> By the way, just so we get this question out of the way, have you
> tested different media?  This is a problem mainly with DVDs since

Yes. different media and different drives. I also have about 7 test 
machines, 2 of which boot the last cd I made. One machine seems to boot 
all I have made. I need to put together a table of teh combinations of 
motherboard and drive and see if there is a common component.

> today's burners still have considerably less burn quality than seems
> reasonable (especially the cheap ones, but, even some of the expensive
> ones really aren't as high quality as the price tag implies. 
> Videohelp.com has a nice user submitted list of media and drives and
> their respective qualities that may help.)  I have seen firsthand with
> an older drive and a cheap DVD+RW combined with an old DVD-ROM that
> exactly what you described can happen due to media/burn quality.  I
> later burned a DVD+R of a higher quality and the same drive suddenly
> could boot.  Ok, DVDs have a much higher rate of media quality issues
> compared to CDs, but, it seems to me as if it could happen with CDs as
> well.

Thanks for your help.

Ian Leonard

Please ignore spelling and punctuation - I did.

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