Sunday, January 27, 2008

Featured Utility CD: BootZilla

From time to time I come across a utility package that is worth keeping around.

While I carry lots of applications and utilities for Windows systems support on my USB memory sticks, there are a few "all-in-one" CD/DVD media disks that I tuck away within reach, just in case.

These include:

Some are simply a matter of downloading an ISO file and burning it to a CD/DVD disk.  Others require quite a bit of work to build and master before creating the ISO and burning to CD/DVD.

I and my tech-support team use a specialized "home-brew" support CD that is a powerful blend of a Windows PE based boot disk, and an autorun-menu driven utility disk.  If I ever get a week or two off work, I might post my recipe for it.

So when I was poking around in some forums a few weeks ago I came across this interesting-sounding support CD and decided to take a look.

BootZilla - Stomping Windows Issues, City-wide

Official Home Of BootZilla

What is BootZilla?

Simply put, BootZilla is a collection of Windows support utilities and software applications all rolled up into a bootable CD.  Nothing out of the ordinary there.  Lots of these exist.

However, the developer, Jim "jimmsta" Gall, has done a few clever things to make this creation a nice blend.

BootZilla has two "modes".  The first is a simple HTML "auto-run" menu that launches when the product is placed in a Windows system.  The menu allows selection of a wide variety of helpful applications to be used for diagnostics, troubleshooting, or utility work.  This may entail fixing stuff that was broken by malware, or running scans for baddies.  This side of operations takes place on the running system, so in this regard this portion isn't a "Live-CD" for off-line working on the system contents.

However, Jimmsta has taken that into consideration and you can also build a "Live-CD" to actually boot the system with.  The options here include running Memtest86+, Memtest, MMDisk (Prime95), a Drive Fitness Test, HDAT2, the XP Recovery Console, or boot to a hard-drive.

Getting BootZilla Going

First, download the setup package.  I just selected the "Full Download" version as the other link didn't seem to be working. Note, the ZIP file is a whopper coming in at about 107 MB so don't try this on dial-up.

Next, unpack the file to a handy location.

Inside the main folder, look for and find the "BZUpdate.cmd" and run it.

A command-prompt window will open and provide you a menu of options.

If this is your first time building BootZilla, select option 1 and press "enter".  This will begin the download process for additional applications and components.  Depending on your broadband speed and network traffic on the server(s) this might be fast or take a while.

When done, you should return back to the menu.

Now to make the combo boot-CD/auto-play-CD, select option 4 and press "enter".  This will produce a ISO file in the folder root for you to burn.


You also have other options to do periodic BootZilla "Update" or "Quick-Update" actions as well in case the program and its components change.

Tests in VirtualPC 2007 have shown it to be very stable and easy to use.

And it is free.

Random Thoughts

The Windows applications available from the auto-play side are a mix of "installers" and "executables".  By this I mean that some software listed must be installed on the system before it will run and can be used.  Others will open and run without installation.  As an administrator, I find it helpful that the majority of the applications I use to troubleshoot and repair a system are self-executable and not require installation.  Working off read-only media does present operational problems for some applications, and as such, I can understand the approach taken.  However, I would be nice if none of them required installation.

Jimmsta has done a good job making it clear in the "launcher page" which applications require installation and which ones are runnable.  The program descriptions are concise and clear.  I wonder what would happen if the default web-browser (which renders the HTML auto-run page) has been compromised or rendered non-functional by a very bad malware infection?  The user could still possibly browse the CD contents using Windows Explorer and manually launch the programs, but unless they are familiar with the names and uses, it might be more difficult.

I am curious if EULA rights allow many of these programs to be distributed in this manner.  They all come packaged in the "full" download zip file and the update activity seems to bring down additional program components that were updated since release.  Some program owners don't mind inclusion of their programs in this manner while others only allow download directly from their servers and don't allow redistribution.

Jimmsta's building menu is very well done.  It is very clever and what could be a confusing process is very simple due to his great Readme files and the clarity of his menu option wording.  This part works like a charm and even the most boot-cd-challenged in disk-building shouldn't have much trouble at all getting going.

The over-all software choices provide a great balance of tools and utilities.  I would have like to see a few from NirSoft and some more from Microsoft Sysinternals, but Jimmsta acknowledges that BootZilla isn't intended to cover all the bases as he writes in the Readme file:

This new aim is just to make a simple, small toolkit for virus and spyware removal. It is
not intended to replace all of a computer technician's tools - it is intended to take care
of the basics. It is an essentials-only toolkit now.

So, to that regard, Jimmsta has provided a very clever and resourceful tool.  It will be interesting to see how this tool matures.  I'm sure great things can come out of it.

BootZilla--definitely worth checking out.

--Claus Valca


Anonymous said...

Hey. So I'm DESPERATELY trying to reach you regarding me asking for your help about lavasoft's Ad-Aware programs. I had been using your resources to keep them working, but now nwither is, and it's too long of an explanation to leave here in comments. So PLEASE--email me at your EARLIEST convenience: thanx

Claus said...

So sorry, I don't provide my contact information in order to cut down on spam.

If you are having such large and desperate problems with Ad-Aware, I must highly recommend that you to seek out help first in the Lavasoft support forums.

Lavasoft Support Forums

These are well maintained and often have company technicians responding. It should be the first place anyone who is having issues with any Lavasoft product should try. The members there are very knowledgeable and helpful.

If you would like to leave a brief comment here explaining your issues you could do that as well so that readers can also join in and give their opinions to your problem as well.