RPi USB booting

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USB booting

As discussed in RPi SD cards, the SD card is the default boot device for most models of the Raspberry Pi. However, it is not the only possible option on some models. For example, if the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ (3B+) finds no bootable SD card, after a few seconds it will try to find a bootable USB device.

The physical nature of the device isn't critical; it could be a disk drive, flash drive, solid state drive, etc. As long as the device appears and behaves as expected, the 3B+ will attempt to boot from it.

There are various reasons a user might prefer to boot from a USB device. They may simply dislike dealing with the microSD card format, which is too small to be usefully labeled and has no way to attach a tag. The microSD card can also be difficult to handle, especially for users with limited vision and/or dexterity.

Timing Issues

There are a couple of timing issues that can affect USB booting.

Slow Start-up

Some USB devices start up too slowly to be used (at least, reliably) as boot devices. Devices that are powered from the Raspberry Pi (e.g., flash drives) are a case in point. The device only has a limited amount of time, after it receives power, to get ready to receive an inquiry from the Raspberry Pi. If it does not respond in time, the Raspberry Pi will give up on it.

Multiple Devices

There is nothing to prevent someone from plugging more than one bootable USB device into the Raspberry Pi (or a connected USB hub). If multiple USB storage devices are available at power up time, the Raspberry Pi has no way to know which one to use. So, it will use the first one that responds.

Device Tables

The tables below attempt to indicate which USB devices are thought to work as boot devices for a Raspberry Pi. Entries whose Description contains "per blog" were adapted from an August 2016 blog post (Pi 3 booting part I: USB mass storage boot beta) by Gordon Hollingsworth and the associated comments.

Each table can be sorted using the triangles in the top row. Please add entries in the correct location, so that the initial sort is by Manufacturer, Size, and Part Name. Keep separate entries for working and non-working. Put your user name and date in the final column, so people can judge if the problem is still likely to occur.

Flash Drives

A number of USB flash drives have been reported to work well as boot devices for the Raspberry Pi. The following table will always be incomplete, and some entries may be inaccurate, but it's a start...

Working / Non-working

Manufacturer Name Size Part Number Description Added
ok Lexar USB 3.0 16 ? per blog Rich_Morin 27 Sep 2019
ok Lexar JumpDrive S45 (USB 3.0) 64 LJDS45-64GABNL per blog Rich_Morin 27 Sep 2019
ok MeCo ? (USB 3.0) 16 ? per blog Rich_Morin 27 Sep 2019
ok Samsung ? (USB 3.0) 32 ? per blog Rich_Morin 27 Sep 2019
ok Samsung Flash Drive Fit (USB 3.0) 128 MUF-128BB/AM per blog Rich_Morin 27 Sep 2019
ok SanDisk Cruzer Glide (USB 2.0) 16 DCZ60-016G-Q461 per blog Rich_Morin 27 Sep 2019
ok SanDisk Extreme (USB 3.0) 128 ? per blog Rich_Morin 27 Sep 2019
ok SanDisk Cruzer Blade (USB 2.0) 16 ? per blog Rich_Morin 27 Sep 2019
ok SanDisk Extreme (USB 3.0) 32 SDCZ80-032G-G46 per blog Rich_Morin 27 Sep 2019
ok SanDisk Extreme (USB 3.0) 64 SDCZ80-064G-G46 per blog Rich_Morin 27 Sep 2019
ok SanDisk Cruzer Fit (USB 2.0) 16 ? per blog Rich_Morin 27 Sep 2019
ok SanDisk Cruzer Ultra (USB 3.0) 32 SDCZ48-032G-U46 per blog Rich_Morin 27 Sep 2019
ok SanDisk Ultra Fit (USB 3.0) 16 SDCZ43-016G-GAM46 per blog Rich_Morin 27 Sep 2019
ok Transcend ? (USB 3.1) 32 ? per blog Rich_Morin 27 Sep 2019
ok Verbatim PinStripe 16 ? per blog Rich_Morin 27 Sep 2019
nok Kingston DataTraveler 100 G3 8 DT100G3/8GB per blog Rich_Morin 27 Sep 2019
Manufacturer Name Size Part Number Description Added

References