Installing ArcaOS (OS/2) on modern PC hardware (Asus X570 mobo with a Ryzen 5 CPU) – booting and installing from USB flashdrive

My AMD Ryzen 5 PC is hanging when booting the ArcaOS installer from a USB DVD drive, so I’ve moved on to trying a bootable USB flash instead. I’m following the steps here.

The install guide says to use:

\dfsanwin.exe -q run aosboot.dfs

… to create the USB, but this is prompting me to write to disk 1 which is my Windows 10 SSD. Dis 4 is showing up as my USB stick, so I ran it with

\dfsanwin.exe run aosboot.dfs 4

After initializing the USB the installer tells you to copy the .iso to the ARC-ISO dir:

Eject stick, reinsert, copy ArcaOS ISO to the ARCA_ISO directory on the stick as 'ARCAINST.ISO' to boot from it

Note that the .iso I have from my download is named ArcaOS-5.0.7.iso, so after copying it to the ARCA_ISO dir I also renamed is to ARCAINST.ISO to match the instructions.

Now I’m going for the reboot.

… and it wouldn’t boot. I couldn’t work out why it wouldn’t boot from the stick, I think I tried creating a couple more times with different USB sticks but every time the same issue, the PC just wouldn’t see the stick and boot from it.

(Thanks to for the SpongeBob Time Card generator!)

At this point I gave up and a few months passed before I decided to look more into why it wouldn’t boot. I know this PC will boot from a USB because that’s how I installed Windows 10 on it in the first place.

First I got side-tracked reading the FAQs and discussions about ArcaOS support for USB2.0 standards compliant controllers, and that attempting to use USB3.0/3.1 controllers and ports may have varied results. My Ryzen PC has a Asus X570 board with a mix of 3.0 and 3.1 USB ports. At one point I got it to boot from an ISO burned to a CDROM, but then it would hang on the installer where the graphical installer was loaded, so I suspected it was the USB3.0 lack of support.

Next I started reading more about how to configure the boot menu in the Asus BIOS and troubleshoot boot issues from USB devices. In short, the recommendation were to change the following in the BIOS settings:

  • disable Secure Boot
  • disable Fast Boot
  • change UEFI boot support to legacy spport

I couldn’t find how to disable Secure Boot since I think it’s required by Windows 10 that I have on another SSD, but this combination of options allowed a successful boot from the USB stick prepared earlier with the ArcaOS installer on it:

Successful boot of the installer!

Yes, graphical installer!

I bought and installed a cheap 1TB SATA SSD specifically for this install, since I have Windows 10 on the m2 SSDs. I partitioned a 40GB partition for the ArcaOS install:

I know the major selling point of ArcaOS is driver support for modern hardware, but it was eye opening to see this is action, detecting the Ethernet support on the motherboard and selecting a driver automatically:

Success! ArcaOS installed directly on modern hardware!

For those interested, here’s a quick summary of my hardware:

  • Asus X570 mobo with Ryzen 5 cpu
  • 32GB RAM
  • installed to a 40GB partition on a SATA SSD (there are other m2 SSDs on the mobo already with Windows 10)
  • Nvidia 3060 gpu

That’s some pretty hefty hardware for an operating system who’s last release/update was 21 years ago!

USB bootable OS/2?

OS/2 was technically far superior than any other desktop OS available at it’s time. The fact that it continued to be used in ATMs by banks, ticket machines, voice mails systems, PABXs and various other systems for years after IBM sales and support was discontinued says everything. Even though it was discontinued by IBM in 2006, it is still sold as eComStation, packaged with updated drivers for common hardware available today. According to eComStation’s site, it’s still in use by a number of major corporations.

I’ve spent probably too much time recently installing and playing around with OS/2, especially since ISOs of the install disks became freely available on the Internet Archive. This article about eComStation looking for help to build a version of OS/2 bootable from USB flash drives caught my attention. Interestingly though, from my experience recently trying to install OS/2 Warp on fairly recent PC hardware, I’d rather prefer to see updated drivers for today’s CPUs, motherboards and hard disks.

Installing OS/2 Warp on VirtualBox

Why? My first job after graduating college was working as a contractor for IBM UK in the software support centre (Basingstoke, UK) supporting OS/2 and various other apps (Comms Manager/2, DB2/2, CICS OS/2). For a number of years I think I had a stack of OS/2 install diskettes in a box somewhere, but they got thrown out as trash at some point.

A few points over the years I looked to see if once the product was discontinued if there would be a free download of the install disk images. Well, IBM officially discontinued the product in 2005 and support ended in 2006. I can’t remember what I was looking for when I run into this, but over on the Internet Archive site they now have disk image archives for most of the major versions – the OS/2 Warp 4 download disk images are here (other versions, Warp 3, 2.1, 2.0, 1.x are also in the archive).

Turns out Warp 3 installs pretty easy on Virtual Box: here’s a couple of screenshots of the installation:

OS/2 Warp 3 installation

OS/2 Warp 3 installation 2

The disk images for Warp 4 from the Internet Archive site didn’t work for me on Virtual Box. I read some posts this is because the disk image format (dsk?) for the install floppies isn’t a common/standard supported format.

I found another download that used the .img disk image format and this version installed just as easily:

OS/2 Warp 4 install

OS/2 Warp 4 install 2

So what now? Well, there’s a huge list of instructions here for installing the latest (and last) fixpacks, so maybe I’ll play around with this for a while…