Sunday, 30 December 2012

Version 2.1.654 released as full version

The 'full release' version was getting a bit long in the tooth, so I have updated it with the latest version.
Changes can be read at http://www.rmprepusb.com/documents/release-2-0/version-history.
If you click on the Help (F1) button and click on the update box, the new version will be downloaded. You must then click on the downloaded file to install it manually.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Easy2Boot tutorial updated

I have included the AutoLinux code from Tutorial #96 into the Easy2Boot Tutorial #72.
I have also tested over 30 ISOs using the 'partnew' technique used in these tutorials and with 98% success; only the Trinity Rescue Disk ISO failed to work correctly.
Even DOS based ISOs just worked fine.
This allows you to just copy any ISO onto your Easy2Boot USB drive and try it. The menu is automatically made as the USB drive boots.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Automatic grub4dos Linux ISO boot menu entry

Tutorial 96 shows how to add a grub4dos menu entry that will automatically create a new dynamically-created grub4dos menu in a ramdrive and list all your linux ISO files. You can then choose one of them and boot from it.

Thus means that you should be able to quickly try any linux ISO that you fancy without needing to make a special menu entry for each one. Just download the ISO file and copy it to the folder on your grub4dos bootable drive. Then boot from the drive and chose the Linux ISO menu entry - all the ISO files in a folder will be listed (as shown below) and you should be able to boot from any one of the ISOs.

Even a BackTrack 5 iso will just work!



Thursday, 13 December 2012

Tails you win! A new method for booting linux from an ISO file!

I recently came across a post on reboot.pro by cdob on how to map an ISO file to a partition using grub4dos. This technique has the advantage that it should work for most linux ISOs, even the ones that don't support booting from an ISO file!
It also can get around the problem of booting a version of linux from an NTFS boot drive, even if that linux does not understand or support the NTFS filesystem.
This means that even if your USB grub4dos boot drive is formatted as NTFS, you can boot nearly any linux ISO from it!

Cool!

I tried this out using a Tails linux ISO file (which at the time I could not find a way to boot from an ISO file) and it worked a treat.

You can even boot from Ophcrack ISO file AND access the rainbow tables (no need to extract the rainbow tables onto the USB boot drive!).

If you have a linux ISO that you cannot get booting as an ISO file from a grub4dos boot pen/hdd, try this technique!

See http://www.rmprepusb.com/tutorials/tails for details.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

grub4dos and the blocklist command

It has always been there, but I have just found that the grub4dos blocklist command can be used to display the groups of contiguous sectors that make up a file. So you can use this command to check if an ISO file (for instance) is contiguous (and can therefore be directly mapped under grub4dos using map /xxx.iso (0xff)) or if it is not contiguous.
The file pe.bs is 512 bytes long and thus occupies one sector on the disk. The file knoppix511.iso however is split into two contiguous sector 'runs', one starting at block 24856 (1425152 sectors long) and the other at 1450616 (976 sectors long).
WinContig is included in RMPrepUSB and can be used to make all files on the drive contiguous if you run into this problem.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Windows 7 To Go tutorial download updated

I was recently contacted by James Leyden who was running the Installer.cmd script on his Dell M15X Alienware laptop from 2008 to prepare a 1TB USB HDD drive.
The resulting USB drive would not boot:

BOOTMGR is missing
Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart

 and indeed did not even have \bootmgr in the root of the drive. Upon investigation, we found that the bcdboot command was not working in the Installer.cmd script and further investigation revealed that James' Dell was in EFI mode (this was confirmed by running the command line utility testefi.exe).
The bcdboot command used in the script was modified to use the /f BIOS parameter but still the bcdboot command did not work. Finally, James downloaded the Windows 8 WAIK files and replaced the Win 7 WAIK version of BCDBOOT.EXE with the Win8 version. At last his Windows 7 To Go now boots!
I have now modified the NT6FastInstaller.zip download in tutorial #43 so that it uses the /f BIOS parameter and also now checks that both the bcdboot and bootsect commands actually complete successfully!
For your reference, the error that the Win7 version of bcdboot reports, if you attempt to use it to prepare a Win 7 USB drive on a system running 64-bit EFI Win 7, is:
BSFVC: Failed to create a new system store. Status = [c000003a]

See Tutorial 47 for the revised download files.

92 - BITS Intel BIOS Implementation Test Suite added

This is a BIOS test suite from Intel. It can be added as an ISO to a multiboot grub4dos USB drive and is useful to test BIOSes for compatibility. It is most useful for testing BIOSes on new or pre-production systems but can be use on any Intel CPU-based system.

http://www.rmprepusb.com/tutorials/92bits 

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Boot Splash Screen

A user wanted to use the Clonezilla auto-restore tutorial, but did not want the user to see any menu text at all. They just wanted a splash screen and then a 10 seconds delay to allow them to hit F4 if they wanted a restore, otherwise they just wanted the system to boot to Windows as normal. This is similar to the way the Windows 7 F8 key works.
I found you could hide the menu completely and use hotkeys by adding two grubutils utilities, menusetting and hotkey - see here for more details.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Windows 8 install from ISO #43 updated

The technique in Tutorial 43 required the unattend.xml file to be pre-populated with the Windows 8 Product Key. This is OK for volume licence versions where the same key is used each time, however, for Retail versions, a different key is required each time for each different system. I have therefore added a user prompt to the grub4dos menu which asks the user for the Product Key before the installation begins.
Note that the set /p prompt string cannot be over 80 characters and should be less than 70 characters to avoid an error!

If you are prepared to make a small modification to the iso and edit the ei.cfg file in the \sources folder within the iso file, then you can avoid the need for the unattend.xml file needing to contain the product key.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

New QEMU options added to RMPrepUSB

v2.1.651 now has two new options under the File menu tab.


Boot from ISO file using QEMU Emulator Ctrl+F11 - User can select an ISO file and optionally create a virtual hard disk and then boot QEMU from the ISO (for instance you can install XP to a virtual hard disk using this option)
Boot from Virtual HDD image using QEMU emulator Shift+F11 - Boot from a previously installed virtual hard disk image (for instance, you can install linux to a virtual hard disk using Ctrl+F11 and then boot to the hard disk at any time later using Shift+F11)

For instance, if you hit Ctrl+F11, you can select an XP install ISO, choose to create a new virtual hard disk image of any size and then choose how much memory to allocate to QEMU. The ISO will then boot and you can install Phase 1 (textmode) XP to the virtual hard disk. When the XP setup phase 1 reboots, it will reboot to the ISO file again but this time do NOT press a key to boot from the 'CD'. The QEMU BIOS will then boot from the hard disk and the ISO will be attached as the CD and the 2nd Phase (GUI Mode) of the XP install will continue to completion successfully. Note: Because QEMU is verrrry slow, this can take 4-6 hours!

You now have a virtual hard disk which is installed with XP. You can now run this at any time using Shift+F11. Again verrry slow to boot!

This allows you to quickly test boot an ISO to see what it looks like, without needing to set up QEMU Manager or use a different virtual machine.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

CloneZilla Windows Backup/Restore partition Tutorial added (Tut89)

Whilst discussing how to make a grub4dos menu.lst file show only one 'boot to Windows' option, a solution was posted by ndog37 on reboot.pro here for how to add CloneZilla to an existing Windows system. With this solution added, you can quickly backup your copy of Windows at any time and then later restore any of the previous Windows backup images. An XP backup takes approximately 5 minutes. Restoring an XP image takes approximately 1 to 5 minutes. The backup is made on the hard disk, so it is not suitable for off-line backups.

See YouTube vidoes here and here.

You just need to add the files to your backup partition and then install grub4dos (I provide a script file in the download to do this with just one click) and then hide the files to protect them from accidental deletion (again using a script provided in just one click).
This makes it very quick to install onto any simple Windows PC or notebook (e.g. your grannies PC) so that they can quickly restore a working image if their Windows installation gets infected or becomes SNAFU'd.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Avira Rescue, ImDisk and RockRidge!

Recently, I was asked to look at making Avira Rescue ISO boot from a bootable grub4dos USB drive (see Tutorial here). It turns out that most of the Avira Rescue iso's content actually needs to be in 'flat file' form (i.e. exist as files and folders on the USB drive) and so I needed to extract the contents of the iso file to the USB drive.

Now my favourite tool for this is ImDisk to mount the iso as a virtual drive volume and then copy over the files and folders that I think (guess!) that Avira might need. However, when I did this I found a problem - the resulting Avira linux boot pen did not fully boot to the Avira GUI desktop and stopped at ' Press Alt+F7 to return to the graphical User Interface '.



After much head-scratching, I found that the problem was caused by the case of the files. All of the files appeared in the ImDisk virtual drive as upper-case file names and folder names, yet when the Avira iso file contents were displayed by the 7Zip GUI, most of the files were lower-case. If I extracted all the files from the Avira ISO using 7Zip and copied them to the USB stick, it booted fine, up to the full GUI.


I realised that this must be due the ISO standard that the Avira ISO file was made with and an interesting discussion evolved on my favourite boot forum reboot.pro (see here).

It turns out that we just can't trust the Windows CD filesystem as it does not support the RockRidge enhancements used by *nix OS's. This means that utilities like ImDisk and SlySoft Virtual CloneDrive may shows filenames as all uppercase if a non-Joliet (i.e. RockRidge only) ISO is mounted under Windows.

Windows 8 supports the mounting of ISO files natively, no utility is needed - but it still does not support RockRidge! (come on MS - this is 2012!).

The moral of this story is, if you are extracting files from a linux ISO file, don't use a virtual drive to mount the ISO because the filenames 'case' cannot be trusted - instead use an extraction utility like 7Zip which will detect that the ISO is a RockRidge ISO and use the correct case for the files and folders.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

v2.1.650 new feature for multi-partition flash drives

If you have a flash drive with more than one primary partition on it, then Windows Explorer will only allow access to the first partition defined in the partition table. The new option allows you to re-order the table so that any one of the four primary partitions will be instantly accessible under Windows.
To create a multi-partition USB flash drive, I recommend the free Easeus Partition Master Home Edition.
RMPrepUSB version2.1.650 now has a new option in the Drive menu tab which allows you to make any one of 4 primary partitions on a USB or removable media drive visible to Windows. You do not need to remove the USB drive - the change is instant. So now you can quickly change the contents on each partition using Windows Explorer.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Was YLMF now StartOS

Tutorial 17 has been updated for the latest version of YLMF which is now called StartOS.
This is a Vista-like liveCD/installer but starts up in Chinese. I have added some cheat codes to get it to start in English. Take a look here.


Monday, 13 August 2012

Windows 8 To Go

I seem to be getting a lot of hits on the Windows8ToGo page on my site, so I have added a YouTube video to help people to get started. Using JFX's tool, you can now directly download and extract the essential WAIK tools in about 30 seconds, rather than have to download the entire 1GB WAIK and then install it!

Friday, 3 August 2012

First attempts at Raspberry Pi

I finally got my RPi a few weeks ago but have not had the time to play with it until now.
The first mistake I made was trying to power it from one of it's two standard USB ports (as I did not have a mini-USB power adapter at the time). This appeared to work, in that the RPi powered up and gave some video on the HDMI connection. However, the RPi kept crashing and rebooting and the USB keyboard did not work.
I was getting very frustrated until I tried a new mini USB charger (ordered from Amazon) - now it works well and does not crash.
Next, I tried Debian Wheezy, but I found it very slow - even for gmail browsing, and I could not find any instructions that worked to get YouTube working.
Finally, I tried an XBMC build from http://wordpress.silenz.se/ and then found a guide on how to install BBC iPlayer and other TV add-ins. I also found that a TVCatchup add-in is also available, so I can watch Live UK TV as well! Picture quality varies and there is some buffering delay on occasion even though I have a direct Enet connection.
It is ironic that TVCatchUp plays live TV, whereas as BBC iPlayer and other TV players play recorded TV!
My next step is to get a WiFi dongle working and then an IR dongle for a remote mini-keyboard.


Sunday, 8 July 2012

82 - install XP from XP ISOs

This new tutorial shows you how you can place a number of different XP install ISO files on a grub4dos bootable USB drive and have multiple grub4dos menu items so that you can have a fully automated install without modifying the ISO - even if the ISO is a standard MS one.
The grub4dos menu allows you to specify a diskpart script so you can partition and format the drive however you want, an unattend.txt answer file so you can automate the install and change any settings you like, and a folder that will be copied over to the target C: drive during the install. This folder can contain all the drivers for a specific system, so you can use the same ISO to install a Dell PC or an Asus laptop and specify a different driver folder, diskpart script and answer file for each.

You can also have different answer files for different languages and timezones but use the same XP install ISO. This process will also work with nLited ISOs or XP install ISOs that are already semi-automated.
It uses WinPE v3 as the bootable OS and then runs diskpart and winnt32.exe to start the install. Only a single USB boot is required - the next boot is off of the hard disk.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

81 - Make your own automatic image restore partition

If you want a hard disk backup partition which can be easily restored by a newbie, it can be done using imagex. This allows you to make a backup of the Windows volume and then restore it at a later date just by selecting it from a boot menu.
A full Windows XP restore on my laptop takes less than 2 minutes.
Checkout Tutorial #81 to set up your grandma's system with a 'reset' feature for when it all goes horribly wrong!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

QEMU

Some people have reported that the QEMU button in RMPrepUSB does not run on their system. This may be because I am using the qemu-system-x86_64.exe version 0.15.1. The latest version of RMPrepUSB in the Beta Downloads section uses qemu.exe and may give better results.
So far, I have not been able to make any version of QEMU boot a WinPE 64-bit iso, which is rather disappointing...
If you are having trouble getting QEMU to run after trying this new version, please let me know and let me know what OS you are running, etc.
P.S. The most common problem is that you are assigning too much memory to QEMU, untick the 'No User prompts' checkbox and select a smaller size of memory when you run QEMU (e.g. choose 900 instead of 1300). If that still does not work and QEMU does not launch, reduce it even more.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Latest version improves file access performance

v2.1.647 has a slightly modified filesystem tweak. This improves file access time for small files by about 10% when formatted as FAT32 or NTFS. See reboot.pro thread for more details. This makes file copying to your USB drive even faster!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Monitor which apps are using the network/internet

Microsoft Network Monitor at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=103158&clcid=0x409

This free MS tool will capture all network packets and show you which application is responsible for them. This is useful for checking if a newly installed application sends any secret network packets, etc.
You can see the data that it sends in each packet too. A useful tool to have in your box!


There is a support article here and a support forum here.

There are also some specialized plug-ins for it that might be useful:
TCP Analyzer Expert: Make Your Network Run Faster – For Microsoft Network Monitor 3.3
Top Users Expert for Network Monitor 3.3 – For Microsoft Network Monitor 3.3

The first is a post describing the tool which can analyze and suggest issues with your network based on packet capture data. The second provides a report on which users are eating up all the bandwidth.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Easy2Boot

Well it's been a busy week!
RMPrepUSB and RMPartUSB have been tweaked (v2.1.643) and RMPrepUSB has improved menu tabs (checkout latest version!). I have had reports that formatting HDDs as NTFS has failed for many people and have tweaked the code to improve this. As a last resort, the NTFS format routine now calls format.com if the FormatEx API call fails! However, it still needs a drive letter to be assigned by Windows before the drive can be formatted (use the Drive - AutoMount Drives tab to update the Registry to do this).
Next we have Easy2Boot. This is an early project to make it easy for anyone to add a new bootable binary (OS, memory test, etc.) to a multiboot USB drive. Once they have made the Easy2Boot USB drive using RMPrepUSB, all they need to do is add a .mnu file and the payload file(s) (e.g. an ISO) and the USB drive will automatically add this to the user menu each time it is booted. This means a user does not need to edit a menu.lst file at all.
Lastly, Windows 8 Consumer Preview has arrived, and I have updated my Win8ToGo and Win8 on VHD tutorials accordingly. Why not try Windows 8 now without affecting your current OS at all? A download link and Beta Product Key is provided in the articles or on the 'Useful Links' page.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

v2.1.640 is coming!

This new version has a menu at the top. Unfortunately this can only support English as vb6 does not seem to be able to change the font set (e.g. Chinese) and also I do not have translated text for all  the extra menu items anyway. The menu headings can be hidden using the RMPrepUSB.ini configuration file and setting MenuVisible=False - note that this also disables their shortcut keys too.
RMPartUSB has been changed very slightly so that if FAT16+64hd/32sec is specified, then type 06 will be used for the partition type. This is required if booting to DOS 6.22 (DOS 6.22 does not support LBA FAT16 ptn types or any FAT32 types).
New version of WinContig will be added when it is available. Help PDF will also be updated.






Friday, 10 February 2012

v2.1.638 includes WinContig

New Beta includes CTRL+F2 WinContig function to make all files on the selected drive contiguous.
www.rmprepusb.com

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Marco from WinContig has said I can use WinContig.exe with RMPrepUSB, so the next version will include WinContig in the install package. Just need to tweak a few minor issues before Marco releases a new version which we are working on.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Enhancements to RMPrepUSB

This week I have been adding functionality to RMPrepUSB. It now has the ability to overwrite the MBR code with the standard Win7 MBR boot code and thus replace any grub4dos/syslinux boot code. This function is actually in RMPartUSB and so can be scripted too.
I have also been looking at WEE which is a cut-down version of grub4dos bootloader. WEE has an integrated menu and needs no external files such as grldr or menu.lst. It also can be loaded by bootmgr directly (unlike grldr which cannot), thus you can configure your BCD to load WEE and from WEE you can load grldr. This gives you a way to boot to grubdos from Windows 7 (or Vista or Server 2K8) even if your boot volume is BitLocker encrypted - See Tutorial #68.
I have also included a Disk Doctor utility in RMPrepUSB which allows raw sector access of a disk. This utility is nowhere near as polished as WinHex or HexEdit ,etc. but it does allow testing and editing of USB flash drives (actually all drives).
The next thing may be to also add a drop-down menu to RMPrepUSB to make some of these features more accessible!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Welcome

This is my blog for RMPrepUSB and USB booting. If you have any comments on RMPrepUSB or the RMPrepUSB website at www.rmprepusb.com then let me know.