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Linux USB Multiboot

In Archived on January 16, 2011 by netritious


Boot Ubuntu Live CD, Server Installation, Alternate Installation, and Much More From USB Flash Drive.

Benefits

  • Fix A Broken Computer
  • Reduce waste, cost, and clutter by burning fewer CD’s.
  • Install the latest Ubuntu Long Term Support (LTS) release of your choice with ease.
  • Powerful yet small enough to fit in your pocket.
  • Safely demonstrate Ubuntu to friends and family on their computer without making permanent changes.
  • Backup and Restore files and/or entire drives to alternate media or network file server.
  • Boot to a Live CD when Windows is broken for emergency access to internet services.
  • Remove Windows Virus Infections/Spyware/Malware even if you can’t boot into Windows!
  • Perform Hardware and Software Diagnostics
  • Choose from Live CD versions or Server/Alternate installs, both i386 and amd64 releases.
  • Can be extended to support just about any distribution of Linux or Windows.
  • Works with almost any IBM Compatible PC manufactured during and after 2005.

Project Requirements

  • Intermediate computer skills including changing BIOS boot priority options
  • IBM Compatible PC that supports booting USB-HDD
  • 8 USB Flash Drive
  • Windows XP/Vista/7 (I used Windows 7 Professional 64-bit; Support for creating from Ubuntu Coming Soon!)*
  • Time and Patience. This project can span many hours, possibly days.

Caveats

  • Only works on modern computers manufactured during and/or after 2005, and even then it is not exactly standardized. You may do all this work just to find out you have to burn a CD anyway for some old computer that doesn’t support booting USB-HDD in the motherboard BIOS.
  • Easier to create using Windows than Ubuntu.**
  • I haven’t worked out how to do this completely from scratch using Ubuntu desktop. However, a Clonezilla image to use as base to build on is prepared and will be linked soon.
  • This method worked for me but it’s no guarantee it will work for you or the computer you want to boot using USB. The reasons why your particular computer won’t boot from the USB device is beyond the scope of this article. You can leave a comment if you run into trouble. Someone probably will reply.

* My procedures fall short of amazing using Ubuntu to create the multi-boot device therefore scope is limited simply to Ubuntu 10.04 LTS versions/remixes and ISO based booting. Please do leave comments about how to properly setup GRUB4DOS via Ubuntu Desktop or command line. I can’t seem to figure out the difference between syslinux.exe -maf <drive>: in Windows vs syslinux -F /dev/sd<Xn> except the latter just doesn’t seem to work like I think it should.

** If you can avoid reinventing the wheel and save time you should. Using Windows XP-7 with “MultiBootISOs USB Creator” from Pendrivelinux.com is the fastest way I’ve found yet.

Steps to Create Using Windows

1. Plug in your USB flash drive that you want to make bootable. Close any prompts or windows that open concerning the drive.

2. Open Windows Explorer and Right-click mouse on the Flash Drive. Select “Format”

3. Change “File System” to FAT32 (if it isn’t already).

4. Uncheck the box “Quick Format” and click “Start”.

5. You will receive a Warning message about formatting. Click “Ok”.

6. When formatting is complete click “Ok”, then “Close”, then exit Windows Explorer.

7. Download MultiBootISOs USB Creator from Pendrivelinux.com.

8. Find the downloaded file MultiBootISOs-2.1.4.7.exe. Double-click to run.

9. Read the License. If you Agree click “I Agree” button. (Bottom-right)

10. Select your target drive using the list box. (It’s not A:, which is your floppy drive if you have one.)

11. Select ONLY “MemTest86+ (Memory Testing Tool)”

12. Check the box “Download the zip” and click “Yes” when prompted. This will open a web browser and prompt you to download the memtest86+-4.10.iso.zip file. Remember where you save it.

13. Click the “Browse” button in MultiBootISOs USB Creator Window to select the memtest86+-4.10.iso.zip that you downloaded in the last step.

14. Click the “Create” button. Click “Yes” when prompted both times.

15. When you see “Installation Done. Process is Complete” click “Next”.

16. When prompted with “Would you like to add more ISOs now?” :

  • Click “Yes” to add BackTrack 4 Final. Follow steps 3-15 just replacing references to Memtest with what you are actually adding.
  • Click “Yes” to add and Clonezilla if you have already added BackTrack 4 Final. Follow steps 3-15 just replacing references to Memtest with what you are actually adding.
  • Click “No” to exit “MultiBootISOs USB Creator” and go to next step.

17. Download versions of Ubuntu 10.04.1 Desktop, Server, Alternate (i386 and amd64), and Ubuntu Netbook Remix using your preferred method from http://releases.ubuntu.com/lucid/. I recommend using uTorrent on Windows and the torrent links listed at the bottom of the web page, but if you are not familiar with torrent use regular http:// links at the top of the page to download using just your browser. You *CAN* save Desktop and Netbook versions directly to USB flash drive, but save Server and Alternate ISOs elsewhere. Server and Alternate do not work properly in ISO form. More instruction on this to follow.

18. Other ISOs to download and save to USB flash drive:

  • Ubuntu Rescue Remix 10.04 – Ubuntu Server command line Live CD. Download | Home Page
  • AVG Rescue CD – Offline Windows Spyware/Antivirus Removal. Download | Home Page
  • Darik’s Boot And Nuke (DBAN) – Hard drive eraser. Also good for preparing hard drives for Full Disk Encryption. Download | Home Page
  • Offline NT Password & Registry Editor  – Best known for resetting Windows Administrator password, and/or enabling the account. Un-zip the .iso file to flash drive. Download | Home Page

19. Create the following directories on your USB flash drive where E: is the drive letter assigned to flash drive; amend as necessary:

  • E:\server\i386
  • E:\server\amd64
  • E:\alternate\i386
  • E:\alternate\amd64

Convention: <release>= server or alternate; <arch>= i386 or amd64

20. Extract the entire contents from the ubuntu-10.04.1-<release>-<arch>.iso to the corresponding directory on the flash drive, eg E:\<release>\<arch>

21. Rename E:\<release\<arch>\isolinux\ to E:\<release>\<arch>\syslinux\

22. Rename E:\<release>\<arch>\syslinux\isolinux.cfg to E:\<release>\<arch>\syslinux\syslinux.cfg

23. Copy E:\ldlinux.sys to E:\<release>\<arch>\ldlinux.sys

  • If completed <4 ISO files, repeat steps 20-23 for each additional Server or Alternate ISO file not yet completed.
  • If completed all four ISO files, continue to step 24.

24. Copy/paste menu.lst on the USB flash drive to create a copy. Open menu.lst with notepad and replace the contents with the menu.lst here.

25. Optional: Download my customized Ubuntu themed splash.xpm.gz to the USB flash drive, replacing the one from Pendrivelinux.com.

Reboot the computer and have fun!

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