Is there any way to boot an Android phone* from a bus-powered USB drive**? If so, what are the steps to achieve this?
* E.g. one with USB OTG functionality.
** E.g. a flash drive.
Please clarify what is the intended goal and why?
Android phones have their own boot-loaders and cannot be overridden by other means.
It is not like a PC's BIOS where you can switch the ordering of boot to boot from certain devices such as Network PXE, USB, Primary/Secondary H.D.D...
After the comments below, and in relation to the OP's question
The generic boot-loader (*which resides on the chip-set) has no knowledge of USB etc, as the lk (Little Kernel) is more concerned about trapping keystrokes in order to chain-load into recovery or to boot directly into Android environment (When holding Vol+Down key in this instance) - in pseudo-code (this is from the context/aspect of lk, and also, the memory addresses pertaining to how to read the partitions are hard-coded into this lk so it will know how to process the logic!)
The lk kernel is the de-facto standard by Qualcomm for MSM chipsets (Snapdragon) and adopted by manufacturers such as Sony, Motorola, LG, Samsung and can be found in the AOSP source under
if (Is Volume Down key pressed?) then
As the kernel within lk is pretty limited, considering that the binary image of the kernel is burned into the chip and therefore no way of modifying it. And also should be mentioned that lk contains the
Side note: Samsung is fond of the PBL/SBL (Which is Primary Boot Loader and Secondary Boot Loader respectively) in their jargon when it comes to modding. Thing about Samsung, is that, in some handsets, PBL and SBL may be encrypted (Samsung Wave GT-S8500 is one such example, where porting Android to it was nearly impossible to do because of the DRM within the boot loaders which was a nightmare to deal with and made modding it extremely difficult, nonetheless, it is sort of working via an exploit in the FOTA code!)
This is why there are no extra facilities such as OTG functionality or anything else such as serial communications, reading from SDCard, graphics etc as it would make the lk kernel bigger than is intended. In other words, it is the smallest possible size of kernel that is designated to do just the above pseudo-code happen.
Also, another way of looking at it is this, and this is dependent on the Android version - the USB OTG functionality is fully brought up within the Android environment, i.e when the familiar home screen appears, then OTG's functionality is enabled. Unfortunately not the case when looking at it from lk's perspective.
If you're curious, here's the Qualcomm entry on the above lk which is a part of the tiny C source that has ARM assembly included and found in JellyBean's AOSP source in
It is possible in a sense, however. Given the limitations mentioned in @t0mm13b 's answer, it makes sense that the mentioned boot loader (lk) is incapable of doing this. So, we boot a custom kernel from
This has actually been used to boot Ubuntu on a Nexus 9 tablet, using the method:
Now, if you wanted to, you could boot a compatible Android ROM image in a similar way, but remember that the OTG drive would have to be kept connected to the device until you decide to return to the native OS (since all apps would load from, and all data would be written to the USB flash drive, unless the entire Android ROM could be configured as a ramdisk (ever heard of Puppy Linux?), which, given the current memory capacities of common Android devices and the size of the ROM itself is currently impractical). That precludes charging while booted to OTG OS, too, on most devices with unified data/charger ports.
Source: XDA-Developers Nexus 9 subforum