Saturday, August 15, 2009

QuickPost: Bootable USB Stick

I’m preparing to attend a conference where were were asked to bring an 8GB (empty) USB stick.

I’ve got one, but I have configured it to be recognized by most BIOS systems as a “bootable” USB device.  Then I copied all my Custom Win PE Boot Disk files to it.  Now I can use it to quickly boot a system and have all my key portable tools and utilities right at hand in a Win PE 3.0 environment.

So the thought of wiping it out didn’t appeal much to me.

To work around this, I’ve used Alexander Beug's USB Image Tool freeware utility to make an image of it.  Then when the conference is over, I will make an image of that new file-set, then restore my original USB load.

It’s a great and simple tool to use.

The only trick for making images of USB bootable devices is found in the FAQ.

Q: What is the difference between device and volume mode?

In contrast to the volume mode, the device mode copies the whole USB device, including boot sector. So if you want to make a backup of a bootable USB device, or you have created a flash drive with more than one partition, you should use the device mode. The volume mode processes the first volume on an USB flash drive. Windows currently limits removable USB flash drives to only one volume. As long as the partition information on the flash drive doesn’t change and it is not a bootable device, it is ok to use the volume mode.

Q: I restored an image of a bootable USB flash drive. Why does it not boot anymore?

A: Volume images do not contain the boot sector. A boot sector holds the boot loader, which makes the USB flash drive bootable. You can use the device mode to create an image of a bootable USB device.

So, select the “Volume Mode” method option and you should be fine.

Creating the “bootable” USB device.

Most USB devices aren’t “bootable” by default.  You have to perform some voodoo to get it correctly configured.  Then you can copy your actual “booting” system to it.

In my case, since i am using WinBuilder and Win PE as my sources, I simply followed this excellent guide.

However there are several additional tools and techniques that could be used to accomplish a similar thing.

Do Google Search and you will quickly find even more links and resources.

Dead-handy to have for any incident responder and/or system technician.

--Claus V.


Steve Si said...

RMPrepUSB will make an image of a USB pen and restore the image. It can also make it bootable for a number of different OS's and will display partition tables, boot code and FAT table info. The latest version also has a 'Disk Doctor' disk editor.

Claus said...

@ Steve - RMPrepUSB is a really awesome utility.

RMPrepUSB home page

I'm curious. You wouldn't happen to be the same Steve responsible for that tool and all the great community tippage regarding USB/ImageX etc.?

Anyway, I love the RMPrepUSB site and all the great tips and techniques available there. It's really heavy-duty stuff and a tremendous resource.

Generally my needs are pretty simple at work with making USB storage media bootable; some simple DISKPART work, some BOOTSECT /NT60 work. Then just seed it with some custom WinPE material.

Sexy USB Boots (Win PE style) GSD blog.

RMPrepUSB is a heavy-duty tool that really goes above and beyond such simple things! I've linked to it a few times in the past.

For others who are curious and would like to get a good overview, they might want to check out this useful post.

Create Bootable Windows or Linux USB with RMPrepUSB -

Thank you very much for the tippage!



Steve Si said...

Guilty as charged!
Have you seen the nifty tool made by JFX that extracts imageX and other tools from a Windows WAIK across the web?
GetWaikTools.exe will download imagex, bcdboot etc from the Vista, 7 and 8 WAIKs in about a minute - this saves having to download the whole WAIK just to get these tools. See Tut #83 on the rmprepusb site for more details...