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glnz

How to make bootable USB stick with lots of good stuff on it

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I bought a nice PNY USB 3.0 stick at Best Buy for $30± but I don't know how to turn it into a bootable USB with lots of stuff on it.

My fantasy is that it will be a bootable USB

 

(1) that will boot in

EITHER my old Optiplex 755 machine with XP Pro SP3 32-bit (with a classic MBR BIOS boot and only USB
OR my newer Optiplex 7010 machine that now dual-boots Win 7 Pro SP1 64-bit and Win 10 Pro 64-bit (with UEFI but NOT Secure Boot, and with USB 3 as well as 2), and

 

(2) will have lots of useful stuff on it - not only install/repair of XP Pro SP3 32-bit and Win 7 Pro 64-bit and Win 10 Pro 64-bit, but also tools like the "Create Media" versions of AOMEI Backupper, AOMEI Partition Assistant Pro, Macrium Reflect Free, EaseUS Backup, EaseUS Partition Master, etc., and

 

(3) as I find more tools, I can add them to this bootable USB without wiping what's already there.

 

Ideally its "background" OS will be a Win PE version of Win 7 32-bit with as many useful features of Win 7 as possible, like Disk Management. That would be better for me than Linux, which I have hardly ever used.

 

My fantasy is that I plug it into either of my two PCs, it boots, and after the Win PE 7 is running, it gives me a menu of which useful thing I want to do. (Or maybe it gives me an initial menu as to whether I want to install/repair XP, 7 or 10 or go to the second menu with tools, and if I go to the second menu, it boots into its Win PE 7 background and offers me those tools. Just guessing.)

But I haven't a clue how to get started. The more basic websites (like HowToGeek) seem to describe how to set up the USB for ONE purpose, like installing Win 7, but not as a complete bootable toolkit that gives me lots of choices. And most of the more advanced websites are too advanced. Pendrive[something].com assumes I already know about Linux, Ubuntu and how to cook roast pig, and I just ... DON'T.

Also, I have previously used this PNY stick for something (a fresh install of Win 10), found that for some reason its only usable partition was 32GB± instead of its complete 128GB, then I used it for something else, then I "hid" that small partition and then reformatted the PNY in Disk Management, so right now it is one confused sick puppy. It is NOT recognized by my XP machine at all although it does appear in Disk Management in my Win 7 machine. This means I should completely re-clean or re-format it and/or re-partition it first, and again I have no idea what I am talking about or how to get started. If I reformat it, what format? Disk Management in Win 7 gives me way too many choices, and I have no idea which to use.

Please point me to the beginning of this education, and the next step, and the next.

Thanks.

Edited by glnz

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Beginning.

  1. Windows NT systems do not create FAT32 partitions larger than 32 Gb (and this is probably the reason why you ended up with a 32 Gb partition).
  2. Windows NT systems do not "see" or "like" (or actually mount/assign a drive letter to)  any partition if not the first one (meaning the one which is in first entry of the MBR) on Removable devices.

There are workarounds and "tricks" around the two above listed issues/features, but you are probably not (yet) ready[1]:w00t: for them. 

 

Possibilities.

RMPREPUSB, EASY2BOOT, RUFUS, UEFI MULTI

(google for the above tools, you will find their homesites and - likely -  a number of threads discussing them (here or on reboot.pro or on 911cd).

 

The mentioned tools are largely "automated" and might provide just what you need (though there is anyway an initial learning curve to use them).

 

jaclaz

 

 

[1]You have to understand that you want to go from "basic" or "n00b" (no offence whatever intended :) ) to "very advanced" and this will imply a lot of reading and learning.

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jaclaz - thanks again.

 

A)  If I figure out how to use RMPREPUSB, EASY2BOOT, RUFUS, and/or UEFI MULTI, will one of them run like an OS for the stick itself?  That is, after I boot from the stick, will I be able to download and "install" my favorite tools on the stick and its OS so the stick has all the app and common files for each tool?  So that later, when the stick boots, it shows me all the tools as installed apps and I can start them and point them to the machine's sick hard drive?  And so that even later I can install more?

 

B)  Is there any way to do all of this with Win PE that looks like Win 7?  (For free or somehow deriving from my existing Win 7?)  I ask because I assume that RMPREPUSB, EASY2BOOT, RUFUS and UEFI MULTI are all Linux.

Edited by glnz

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A) No (but maybe Yes, meaning that some of them do use "under the cover" grub4dos which is to all practical effects a minimal CLI Operating System (think of DOS) including the possibility of running batch scripts and even "native" executables, but No, it has not the capability to connect to the internet and downloading anything)

B) No (none of them are *Linux*) but Yes a Windows 7 based PE (i.e. a PE 3.x) can be made practically indistinguishable from a Windows 7 "installed", but nothing really prevents you (if not - possibly - licensing issues) to have a "real", "installed" Windows 7 on a USB stick.

 

jaclaz

Edited by jaclaz

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jaclaz - just for my info, where would I get the Win PE 3.x to install on my USB stick anyway?  If this is relatively basic, please just point me to some links.  (Couldn't find it on Google.)  Thanks.

Edited by glnz

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jaclaz - just for my info, where would I get the Win PE 3.x to install on my USB stick anyway?  If this is relatively basic, please just point me to some links.  (Couldn't find it on Google.)  Thanks.

You don't "get" it, you "build" it.

 

Four possible ways (there are more than these):

1) get the Windows 7 WAIK from Microsoft and build from it a "basic" Windows PE 3.x:

https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd349343(v=ws.10).aspx

2) get the quickPE thingy here:

http://reboot.pro/files/file/340-quickpe/

http://reboot.pro/topic/18744-quickpe/

and build with it a less basic PE from WAIK or from your Windows 7 install DVD or .iso

3) get the MakePE3 and build with it a PE 3.x from your Windows 7 install DVD or .iso:

 http://www.msfn.org/board/topic/143529-make-pe3-program-to-create-portable-windows-7-pe/

4) get the Windbuilder project Win7PE_SE and build with it a PE 3.x from your Windows 7 install DVD or .iso

http://w7pese.cwcodes.net/

 

 

The above are listed in order of complexity of use and complexity of the result, the "standard" WinPE from MS is so basic that has very few practical uses, the QuickPE is what it should have been while still simple and basic enough, the MakePE3 is more complete and allows a certain degree of possible customizations, the Winbuilder Win7PE_SE has an initial somehow stteper learning curve but allows to have anything (and the contrary of it) in the build, once you will have managed  to learn how.

 

jaclaz

Edited by jaclaz

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jaclaz - great!!

But just for my knowledge - if I am able to create Win PE 7 on a stick (with some initially included useful tools/utilities), then, later, will I be able to add more tools to the stick?  I think your answer is no, but in my ignorance that is surprising.  After all, when I boot from the stick, it runs.  Why not install new stuff?

(Maybe it's an issue of lack of internet connectivity, but can't that be in the stick in the first place?)

Also, I gather that where I first make the stick will limit that stick to a particular architecture and BIOS.  That is, if I make the stick on my Win 7 Pro SP1 64-bit Dell PC, which has a UEFI BIOS*, then the stick will boot only in other 64-bit UEFI machines and will not boot in a 32-boot non-UEFI machine.  And vice versa.  So if I really want to impersonate a PC repairman, I'll need two sticks, as well as the right tool belt, yes?

By the way, if you read about smoke over the Upper West Side, you'll know I'm still in learning mode.

____________

 

*  My Optiplex 7010 MT (which dual boots Win 7 Pro SP1 64-bit and Win 10 Pro 64-bit) is UEFI BIOS but NOT SecureBoot and WITH Enable Option ROMs checked.  However, I guess that it is exclusively UEFI because it will NOT boot off a non-UEFI 32-bit CD.

Edited by glnz

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As before, yes and no.

 

It is possible to have sticks that boot BOTH BIOS and UEFI machines, but making one of them is senselessly (IMHO) complex.

 

As always you shouldn't take my opinions as the ultimate truth (though usually they are very near to it ;)), but aside the fun in making this dual boot thingy, it is similar to the AIO's CD/DVD's or the "fully unattended" ones, you either professionally do tens or hundreds of recoveries or installs to n different make/models of hardware or it makes little sense to waste time in an attempt to build a "one media/device fits all" solution, as it is something that is nice in theory but always or nearly always results in practice in "several media/devices fit most".

 

A PE by definition is "volatile", or more properly it uses a "volatile environment" what you actually write to the Registry when booted won't be saved/available at next boot, if you prefer the whole PE stuff was designed to be run from Read Only media and be limited to "preliminary" (it is called PE because it is a Pre-install Environment) or "emergency" situation.

 

This is on one side a limitation, on the other it is a feature, as you have far less risks of corruption or infection, etc.

 

Of course there are workarounds, tricks and what not, but essentially you never install a program inside a PE, you rather build a PE with the program pre-installed to it (or you re-install the program at every boot, this is sometimes possible, sometimes not, it depends on the specific program and with it's needs to have a user account or needing a reboot to complete install).

 

And- still of course - it is usually trivial to add to a PE build *any* program that doesn't really need an installation.

 

As always the doubt might be, do you really *need* to make a "simple" PE extremely complex only to have it look and behave *like* a "full install"?

Or would it make more sense to use the PE with its limitations along it's intended paradigm (in a "preliminary" and/or "emergency" context) and use *something else* to replace a "full install"?

 

Like (example) a "portable", "universal" install?

http://reboot.pro/topic/9830-universal-hdd-image-files-for-xp-and-windows-7/

 

Everyone should try all available possibilities and then choose what he/she finds more suitable to his/her actual *needs*.

 

jaclaz

Edited by jaclaz

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jaclaz - Aah!  I get it.

So then I keep the PE source folder.  When I want to add a utility, I add it and then re-do the USB stick?

Does this all mean that ONLY "portable" utilities and drivers can be added to the PE source folder?  Or do normal tools get "installed" when the PE is built into the stick?

I suppose I have to really get into it and start learning before I ask this level of Q,

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So then I keep the PE source folder.  When I want to add a utility, I add it and then re-do the USB stick?

More or less, yes.

Does this all mean that ONLY "portable" utilities and drivers can be added to the PE source folder?  Or do normal tools get "installed" when the PE is built into the stick?

It depends, most tools can be normally "installed" to the PE at build time, essentially this is what the builder scripts do, imagine them as if they were "offline installers", they put the program and all dependent files where they should be, they add the relevant keys to the Registry, etc., of course for "inherently portable" (i.e. tools that need not an installation) the action of the scripts are usually merely those of copying the executable file to the build and add a shortcut to it (if the PE includes a shell with such shortcuts/links).

Then there are the tools like those called "portableapps":

http://portableapps.com/about/what_is_a_portable_app

that use a different approach, what you get is usually something that has been made into portable by using a "wrapper", these usually tend to be a tadbit slower or more cumbersome to use because of this overhead when compared to a tool that needs not an installation or those that were pre-installed.

There are launchers for these (like p-start or similar) that you can use to add these programs (both the "no-install-needed" and the "portable apps") to the stick without needing to actually re-build the PE.

 

I suppose I have to really get into it and start learning before I ask this level of Q,

Yep :yes: , just do it.

jaclaz

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