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What is Syslinux?

Syslinux is a standard boot loader for MS-DOS FAT file systems. At boot time, a boot loader ensures that your machine knows where to find the Operating System.

GRUB and LILO are other boot loaders commonly used to boot Linux on the x86 (PC).

Using Syslinux with DSL

If you want to install DSL to a USB stick, you need to decide whether to use a FAT16 or FAT32 file system. Syslinux did not support FAT32 before Syslinux v3.00, so you'll need v3.00 or above if you want to use FAT32. Check your Syslinux version first.

To upgrade Syslinux, either

  • try to use apt-get or Synaptic to upgrade to the current version (3.72 was released in Feb 2007)


If you have trouble, check that you have the packages "mcopy" included in the package "mtools". Syslinux needs these. If you use apt-get, it should take care of this for you.

Common Problems

At the Windows command line, when I run syslinux.exe -ma F:\ it flunks out and says: Usage: syslinux.exe [-sfmar][-d directory](drive): bootsecfile . What gives?

  • 7 November 2008 15:53 (UTC) says: Try typing just the drive letter and a colon (without the backslash):
       syslinux.exe -ma F:

If you download syslinux-3.72 from, dated 25-Sep-2008, it may not 'make'.


To learn more about Syslinux and how it works, Google it or visit:

Syslinux - Project Homepage and Wiki

Syslinux - Wikipedia entry