Jump to content

Boot PE from USB Flash Drive


Recommended Posts

The Boss Man really wants to boot WinPE from USB Key drives. I've given him the information from Microsoft saying it won't work, but he doesn't believe that it is impossible. (In other words, I have to continue trying until either Microsoft supports it, or I find some kind of a work around) Right now, I'm looking at IDE to USB adapters. We've all seen the IDE to Compact Flash adapters that will run Linux, but has anyone tried using the adapter that is IDE female on one end to USB B on the other end with a USB gender adapter to allow for a USB Key drive to plug into it? I know this is a long shot, but I have to be fairly certain on these things before I go out and buy a $60 adapter that might just go to waste. Thanks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


I got it booted from an USB Stick and some Boards that have an Award Bios where you can choose the emulation mode for usb (you must be able to emulate as hdd).

than you can use a hp tool to partitioning and formatting the stick fat16 (i do not know the web adress at the moment from the tool).than copy the i386 dir to the stick and rename i386 to minint.Then copy ntdetect.com to the root and setupldr.bin to the root.rename setupldr.bin to ntldr.And set the stick active (thats normally done if you used the hp tools).after all that it should boot on some mainboards (not all).

there was a big thread on the 911 forum thats closed at the moment.

keep up


Link to comment
Share on other sites

All good ideas. I think we are just going to have to wait for the industry to support the concept better before we can put this into production. The problem with leaving the Key Drive in Fat is that our HDDs are all NTFS, so we would not be able to do any type file recovery, which is large part of what we see this being used for.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you had a large enough key you could always partition it so the PE partition was fat and bootable but then you had a storage partition that was NTFS. I think 1GB USB Keys are going for around ~$150 now (SanDisk Cruzer Mini), so I guess it would be feasable.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I managed to get this working yesterday using dicht's method. :thumbup Make sure you use FAT16 as the file system on the usb key. Use the HP tool (which is available as a download on their website listed under most of their new PCs drivers). That makes the partition active. Copy all of your working PE cd to the USB key. Copy ntdetect.com from the i386 dir into the root dir on the key, and copy setupldr.bin from the i386 dir to ntldr in the root dir too (no extension on ntldr file). Rename i386 to minint and it should boot.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

why would you need ntfs for DOS in winpe. Winpe is supposed to have native support for NTFS. Or maybe I didn't understand it right. there is a guide around this forun on how to get Dos applications to work on winpe. Applications that need direct access to the hardware don't work though. (Protected Mode, same as XP)

I think the post is called Porting Dos Applications to Winpe.


Porting Dos Applications on WinPe

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Right it does but, he is thinking of having the fat16 filesystem on his USB stick, and from what i gathered, I could be wrong since I never used it, but using fat16 as a FS and trying to access NTFS doesn't work. So in turn if he ran NTFS for Dos in theory he should be able to access NTFS from a FAT16 FS. Just a thought as I said before I have never used NTFS for Dos nor WinPE on a FAT16 FS. So anyone who has is more than welcome to sort this out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


but using fat16 as a FS and trying to access NTFS doesn't work. So in turn if he ran NTFS for Dos in theory he should be able to access NTFS from a FAT16 FS.
I don't want to seem a teacher, but from your post it seems like you make some confusion between Operating System and File system.

A file system is just a "convention" about how data should be stored on various memory devices.

More properly, a file system is a protocol about storing data, to access this protocol, an Operating System needs an interpreter, i.e. in this case a "filesystem driver".

You assign a filesystem to a drive when you format it, i.e. you give it the structure according to the chosen protocol.

Filesystem drivers are divided in two classes:

-NATIVE ones (build in)

-ADDONS (external)

DOS up to 6.22 has just two native filesystem drivers: FAT12 (floppies) and FAT16 (Hard disks and the like)

Windows 95 1st edition has the same filesystem drivers.

Windows NT 3.51 and 4.00 have the same as above + NTFS (v4)

Windows 95 OEM2, Windows 98 (1st and SE) and Windows Millennium have the same as DOS + FAT32

Windows 2000, XP, 2003, BartPE and WinPE have the same as above + NTFS (v5) (not backward compatible with NTFS v4 and partially supported by Windows NT Service Pack 3+)

Excluding FAT12 (for size problems), any Operating System can be installed on any filesystem supported by self NATIVE filesystem drivers, and can access any other NATIVE filesystem.

NTFSDOS is an ADDON filesystem driver, this means that you cannot install DOS on a NTFS filesystem, as it cannot read data BEFORE loading the ADDON.

There is (or better was) a similar driver for Windows NT 4.00 which gave access to FAT32 volumes, again you cannot install NT on a FAT32 partition.

There is (or better was) a similar driver for Windows 98 which gave access to NTFS volumes, again you cannot install 98 on a NTFS partition.

There are drivers for all windows to access EXT2 partitions (a LINUX filesystem), and for many others.

The boot problem in previous posts depends on the way the motherboard BIOS deals with USB Memory Sticks, there is no reason (theoretically) on why a system can boot a "drive" if formatted as FAT16 and cannot boot another one formatted FAT32 or NTFS (or any other filesystem provided its driver is NATIVE to the OS), unless BIOS programmers made some "shotcuts" in the BIOS routine that handles the device.

A proof of this is that this guy here has succeeded in booting linux from an EXT2 formatted USB stick:


From here:


USB Keys can be formatted in two ways:


Harddisk (including MBR)

This is the reason, why some bootable USB keys not boot on every system. Some computers BIOS simply only understand one of the formats, not both, and if you use Windows and plug your key in, you won't notice the difference. Using Linux it get's pretty clear. Looking at the different formats shows, that the superfloppy formatted key is formatted as one big storage device (/dev/sda is mounted). The harddisk formatted key, which has a MBR, can have multiple partitions (/dev/sda1 etc.).

So if you can (i.e. your motherboard supports) the "hardisk" format, and the USB stick is formatted accordingly, you can get a bootable USB stick with ANY filsystem, if it does not, you are stuck to FAT16.

Hope the above clears the matter.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Hy everyone!

I'm having a little problem with the boot.

I use the HP tool to format my USB key with this command line syntax:


Then...I copy all the files of a Windows PE 1.2 cd and make the necessary changes explained on this thread.

When I put the USB Key on the computer and boot from it, it boots but doesn't launch WinPE. Just the DOS Prompt.

Any ideas?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...