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Apr 11

Multi-OS bootable USB

How to create a Multi-OS bootable USB drive

 

This guide will show you how to simplify things by creating a Multi-OS USB drive which can store multiple operating systems and diagnostic tools which you can plug into just about any machine and boot.

There always comes a time where you need to wipe Windows and start over, or install an OS on a new gaming build. Gone are the days of  multiple CDs or DVDs laying in a drawer somewhere with OS names scrawled on them.

 

What do you need?

 

  • A USB drive with 8GB storage or more, depending on how many ISOs you need.
  • A couple of Linux and/or Windows ISOs
  • A Windows PC to install the software
  • Software to allow multiboot  solutions

 

Preparing the USB Flash drive

iBoutique 128GB Flash Drive

iBoutique 128GB Flash Drive

Even though we stated a USB Flash drive is required, it’s not limited to flash drives; portable hard drives can be used just as well.

The flash drive I’m using is an iBoutique 128GB USB 3 drive, a great drive that has been very useful for many things, such as transferring Steam game files to my friends PCs to save them downloading the files, all they need to do is verify them! (Another guide will go indepth on this)

The latest version of this particular drive can be found here:
iBoutique IB128GUSB3 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive

Please make sure you have backed up any data on your flash drive, as it will get wiped!

First we need to download two pieces of software:

 

Formatting the USB drive

Install RMPrepUSB and launch it. You will be presented with a screen with many configuration options.

The ones we are interested in are selected in the image below. Make sure the correct drive is appearing in the selection list at the top. In our case its our iBoutique Drive, which comes up as Innostor.

Set the configuration as follows:

  1. Partition Size = MAX
  2. Volume Label = Anything you like, we went with Multi-OS
  3. Bootloader Options = WinPEv2/WinPEv3/Vista/Win7 Bootable [BOOTMGR] (CC4)
  4. Filesystem and overrides = FAT32 & Boot as HDD checked
  5. Leave section 5 for now.
RMPrepUSB

RMPrepUSB Configuration Screen

 

Next, click Prepare Drive.

This will format your usb drive and prepare its Master Boot Record (MBR) so it is bootable.

Click OK on the popup to begin formatting the drive. It will give you a final warning that all data will be wiped, so please make sure you backed up your data! Otherwise cancel and do it now.

Prepare DriveFormatting

Once it is complete you will be returned to the configuration screen.

 

Installing a bootmanager – Grub4DOS

 

Within RMPrepUSB, with your flash drive still plugged in, select Install grub4dos.

A window will pop up asking you to install it to the MBR or the PBR, we will be installing it to both for maximum compatability.
Click Yes the first time to install it to the MBR, follow through the onscreen prompts.

Once it is complete, select Install grub4dos again, but this time click No so it also installs to the PBR.

 

Installing the Easy2Boot Files

The next part is the easiest  thing to do, remember those East2Boot files we downloaded? All you need to do now is extract them to your USB drive, or extract then copy them over.

Extract Easy2Boot

Easy right?

 

Adding the ISOs

Instead of only having one ISO available on a USB drive or having many CDs/DVDs burnt with the images, we’re going to add multiple ISO images to our drive which will be accessible through Easy2Boot.

Open up your USB Drive in Windows Explorer and browser to the _ISO folder.

ISO files

Within this directory we can add as many ISO files are our drive allows us space wise. There is a lot of configuration that can be done with Easy2Boot, but for this tutorial we will keep thing simple.

We want to add a couple of Windows ISOs and a few Linux distros. This will make things easier when repairing Saor members computers or upgrading our PCs!

The folder structure is self explanatory, there are folders for Windows, Linux, Utilities, WINPE, Backup, DOS and Antivirus, with the exception of the Windows directory, all we need to do for the other directories is copy over our ISO files.

 

Let start with Linux. I have downloaded from debian.org a Debian Live AMD64 Standard ISO and a Net Install ISO.

First, navigate to

USB://_ISO/LINUX/

Then copy over your .ISO files.

Linux ISOs

The same sort of method goes for Windows files.

Navigate to USB://_ISO/WINDOWS

Next navigate to the folder which matches the version of the OS you are copying over.

For instance to install Windows 10, navigate to the WIN10 directory and copy over your ISO.

 

Windows ISOs

 

 

 

Testing our Multi-OS USB

RMPrepUSB makes testing really easy, within the application you can press F11 or click Test using QEMU Emulator. This will boot an emulator and boot to your USB drive, allowing you to select your ISOs and launch them. I had trouble launching QEMU with the default RAM allocation, I dropped it down to 1024MB and it happily booted.QEMU MenuWe can now navigate to the Linux Menu, using the arrow keys and Enter to select a menu item. Lets check our Debian ISOs!

 

QEMU Debian

Yup both are there, lets try booting to the Debian Live ISO, select the image with the Enter key. The ISO booted, but we could not launch the Live CD as it was for an AMD64 architecture, QEMU only emulates an i686 CPU.

QEMU Debian i686

 

Finally lets check the Windows 10 ISO in the Windows Install Menu and boot to it.

QEMU - Windows

QEMU - Windows fail

 

Again Windows 10 booted fine, but failed the install because its the x64 version of the ISO. QEMU is good for testing the USB stick boots, but the ISO itself still needs to be run on a supported platform.

 

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, let me know if it was helpful in the comments and any questions you have!

 

– Wully

 

 

About the author

Wully

2 comments

  1. Steve

    No need for RMPrepUSB. Just download the zip file, extract to a new folder and run the MAKE_E2B_USB_DRIVE (run as admin).cmd script to make a E2B USB drive.

    1. Wully

      Oh that’s much quicker, thanks for the input Steve! Great software!

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