Boot any and all ISO images from USB drive #
I spent days looking for a way to boot any and all ISO images from a USB drive. I envisioned being able to simply copy any bootable CD or DVD (Windows installers, OS X boot discs, Linux Live CDs and recovery discs like Knoppix, etc) to a USB drive and boot it normally. Some of the possible solutions I found included:
- How to install Windows from USB: WinSetupFromUSB with GUI - Supports multiple Windows XP/2Kx sources in the same partition; BartPE/WinBulder/UBCD4Win/WinFLPC (NOT ramdisk versions) to any primary partition; Vista/Windows 7/Server 2008 setup to different primary partitions; PartedMagic; other grub4dos CD emulation compatible ISOs; SyLinux bootsector as a file, and optionally a directory, containing a Linux distro booting off SysLinux.
- The Multipass USB Project - Uses PeToUSB, grubinst and grubfordos to boot: Trinity Rescue Kit, Kon-Boot, Ophcrack, DBAN, Hiren's 9.9, Ubuntu 9.04 LiveCD, Windows 7 Install DVD, BackTrack 4, and Macrium Reflect from a single USB drive.
- Creating a multiboot USB drive (PDF) - Tested with Acronis True Image, FreeDOS, MemTest86+, Ultimate Boot CD, and WinPE.
- Shardana Antivirus Rescue Disk - Supports bootable antivirus utilities, Linux LiveCDs, and Windows PE discs.
- Guide for Multi-booting from a USB Drive
- Guide for MultiBoot USB-stick with boot.ini Menu
- Aeroboot 2010 - Scriptable Graphic Multiboot Menu System. Multiboot DVD by Aero step by step | Run AeroStudio ISO from USB Flash Drive
- miniPE, BackTrack and Knoppix in an USB pen
- How to set up a USB Flash key to boot to WinPE+BartPE+MS-DOS+FreeDOS, Using RMPrepUSB
- Multi Multi Multi Boot USB HD, Backtrack 3, XP SP3 Installation, Ultimate Boot CD
- Use ISOEmu boot installation ISO image from hard disk
- Creating Multiboot USB flash drive step by step
- Multiboot USB (PE, Linux And DOS) using Syslinux, GRUB4DOS and/or multiple partitions
- WinBuilder - A script engine that will run projects developed by several authors which produce very efficient boot disks available for several Windows platforms.
- Mk-boot-usb: a Script to Create Multiple-Bootable USB Keys
- Guide to Create a multi-boot rescue USB flash drive
- Roll Your Own Multiboot Usb Flash Drive
- MultiBoot USB with Grub2 (boot directly from iso files)
- multicd.sh - Combine several CDs into one multicd.sh is a shell script designed to build a multiboot CD image containing many different Linux distributions and/or utilities.
- Billix: Multi-Boot USB Key distribution
- UNetbootin - Allows for installation of Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, and various other Linux distributions from Windows or Linux without a CD
- liveusb-creator - Cross-platform tool for easily installing live operating systems on to USB flash drives.
The more robust solutions were generally quite tedious, and none of them worked for all ISO images, as explained here: Boot "any" ISO image or boot "all" ISO images.
Having recently stumbled upon a floppy drive emulator, I started looking for a USB CD/DVD drive emulator and finally found a way to boot any ISO image from USB drive: the iodd 2501 (newer Zalman models available - see update 5 below). It is a 2.5" SATA drive enclosure with an LED display to select the desired ISO image. Simply create a "_ISO" directory in the drive root and dump your ISO images inside. That's it! The enclosure also has a write protect switch and eSATA support.
The iodd 2501 has booted every ISO image I have thrown at it, on both PC and Mac hardware. When I first tried using the device, the LED would only report "NO-_ISO", despite having followed the instructions exactly. It turns out that formatting as FAT32 in OS X's Disk Utility was the problem; I simply used fat32format under Windows and the problem was solved (NTFS and exFAT are supported with a firmware upgrade).
I purchased mine from LinITX; they've got detailed instructions, videos, and great customer service.
- John Rothlisberger wrote in to ask if ISO images can be changed on the fly during an install. After testing with a Windows XP Media Center Edition 2 disc set I am happy to report that they can.
- Curtis Reno has started a neat project to build an open source USB CD emulator using inexpensive components. Announcement | Fourm
- isostick is a similar CD emulator that uses microSD cards and a USB Flash drive adapter. Sadly, it only supports FAT32, though large ISO files can be split.
- Finally got around to updating the firmware on my original iodd 2501. Since the English support site is gone now, here are the necessary files and instructions in case anyone else needs them (current as of May 2013).
- Zalman (which took over iodd development) continues to improve the hardware, recently adding hardware encryption and more. Current models include the ZM-VE400, ZM-VE300, ZM-VE200 SE, and ZM-VE200.
- The only problem I've encountered with these virtual ODDs is booting some Dell models when a physical ODD is present; simply unplug the physical ODD to circumvent.
- iodd (branded now as IODD) is back in the game with a number of products including the diminutive IODD MINI.
- Ventoy "is an open source tool to create bootable USB drive for ISO/WIM/IMG/EFI files." Over 470 ISO images have been successfully tested, but OS X/macOS images are not supported.
/misc | May 08, 2010
Subscribe or visit the archives.