Monday, June 18, 2012

A Multiboot USB Drive with Windows 7, Ubuntu, UBCD4Win, Drive Tools, etc. - Second Cut

I had previously worked through the steps to create a bootable USB drive.  I had intended to create just a simple alternative to booting the basicWindows 7 system recovery tools from a CD, but it turned out to be easier to make a more powerful and flexible multiboot USB drive.  Now I had a larger (16GB) USB drive, and more stuff to put on it.  This post contains what I hoped would be a simpler and more comprehensive description of the process of setting up that kind of multiboot device.

USB Drive Setup

I started with YUMI and a bunch of ISOs, either downloaded or created with ImgBurn (see the previous post).  For now, the ISOs I wanted to install were the full Windows 7 DVD, the Windows 7 System Recovery CD, the full Windows XP SP3 CD, Ubuntu 10.10 and 12.04, Knoppix, Acronis True Image Home (ATIH) 11 and also ATIH 2011 with Universal Restore, Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD) and UBCD4Win, Balder FreeDOS, Hiren's Boot CD, BartPE, U.S. DOD LPS, Super Grub Disk, Super Grub2 Disk, MHDDMicrosoft Windows Memory Diagnostic, Memtest86+, Balder FreeDOS, Darik's Boot & Nuke (DBAN), ClonezillaGParted, Partition Wizard, Parted Magic and diagnostic CDs for Samsung, Hitachi, Western Digital, and Seagate hard drives.  Some of these, I knew, were redundant.  I figured I would work out the details later; I was just curious to see how much would fit, and what would work, in the multiboot approach.

Some of those ISOs were already listed as distributions in YUMI.  That was true for Balder FreeDOS, Clonezilla, DBAN, GParted, Hiren's Boot CD, Knoppix, Memtest86+, Parted Magic, Partition Wizard, both flavors of Ubuntu, UBCD, and the Windows 7 installer.  For the others, there was an option at the bottom of the YUMI menu:  Try an Unlisted ISO.  Except for that last choice, using the option to install a recognized ISO would remove that ISO from the list, apparently to help people keep track of what had already been installed.

The ISOs that I had created from CDs, using ImgBurn, were not necessarily named properly. YUMI didn't recognize some of them until I renamed them to match the hint provided in YUMI. For instance, YUMI wanted the downloaded (still zipped, yet renamed to remove the ISO pre-extension) version of Memtest86+.

The installation process got interrupted partway through: I had to pull out the USB drive to use the jack for something else, and wound up killing YUMI and starting again. Neither Windows Explorer nor Windows Disk Management were able to see the drive at all when I reinserted it. This may have been due to not removing the USB drive properly.  I had to plug it into another computer, eject it from that computer, plug it back into the machine running YUMI, and kill and restart YUMI again, to get YUMI to see it again. At about the same time, I also noticed that YUMI would no longer make a program or other ISO (e.g., Ubuntu 12.04) available on its list, once that program was installed on the multiboot USB drive.  Also, YUMI now seemed not to be making any new files or folders on the USB drive, even though it was reporting that the various processes were completing successfully.  The ejecting and reinserting process also apparently fixed these problems:  now, as before, the programs already installed on the USB drive were no longer listed in YUMI, and I could see new things being added to the USB drive.

Windows Explorer seemed to tell me that the installation process was somewhat irregular, presumably due to the divergent demands of these various programs.  Many got their own subfolders, under the "multiboot" folder on the USB drive.  Hiren's Boot CD got its own folder on a higher level; UBCD was represented by just an ISO file in an "ISOS" folder on the USB drive; Balder FreeDOS seemed to have been installed as nothing more than a single file in the multiboot folder.

As noted above, I had to use the "Try an Unlisted ISO" option for a number of the programs listed above.  I used this, first, with the full Windows 7 DVD.  I decided to take this route, after first using the canned "Windows 7 installer" option because, as noted above, I was hoping to install several flavors of Windows.  When I used the canned installer option, the process took only a few seconds, suggesting that perhaps that option was just copying over the information needed for a system recovery approach.  But when I used the custom "Try an Unlisted ISO" option, YUMI indicated that it was copying 3 GB of material, and took several minutes to do it.

After installing Windows 7 on the multiboot USB drive, I used the Unlisted ISO option for the Windows System Repair CD.  That took only a few seconds.  The USB drive's ISOS folder now contained entries for both of those ISOs.  Same thing when I added Windows XP.  I proceeded likewise for the other unlisted programs noted above:  two flavors of Acronis, BartPE, MHDD, Microsoft Windows Memory Diagnostic, two varieties of Super Grub Disk, UBCD4Win, U.S. DOD LPS, and four hard drive diagnostic CDs.

I made some additional observations during these processes.  One was that the ISOs seemed to be copied verbatim into the ISOS folder.  It was possible that long filenames, or filenames containing spaces or odd characters, could cause problems for some programs.  In other words, looking ahead, I wondered whether it would have been to my advantage to rename some ISOs, at least temporarily, to something simpler.  During each installation, YUMI would report information of the following nature:
Creating Label MULTIBOOT on F:
Good Syslinux Exists...
A Previous Multiboot Installation was detected...proceeding to add your new selectio...
Copy to F:\multiboot\ISOS\Super Grub Disk.iso
Try an Unlisted ISO and its menu entry were added!
All Finished, Process is Complete!
Most of these processes took only a few seconds.  After all, these ISOs were mostly very small, containing just a utility program.  Instead of using the "Try an Unlisted ISO" option, I probably could have configured many of them as "Try an Unlisted ISO (Run from RAM)."  When I had finally worked through the foregoing list of programs to install and indicated that I was done, YUMI said,
YUMI has completed the installation.

Your Selections have been Installed on your USB drive.

Feel Free to run this tool again to Install more Distros.

YUMI will keep track of selections you have already Installed.
Windows Explorer > Properties indicated that the 16GB USB drive was now about 60% full (around 8.5GB used, out of 14.9GB actually available).  I exited YUMI, ejected the USB drive, put it into my laptop, and booted it.

Using the Multiboot USB Drive

When I booted the laptop with the USB flash drive (hitting Esc at the appropriate time to see the option of booting from that drive), I got the YUMI Multiboot USB screen.  It presented four options:  Linux Distributions, System Tools, Other Operating Systems and Tools, and Directly Bootable ISOs.  Under Linux Distributions, it showed me the two Ubuntus (10.10 and 12.04) and Knoppix.  So that part of the installation seemed to have worked.  Under System Tools, it showed me Clonezilla, DBAN, GParted, Parted Magic, Partition Wizard, Balder DOS image (FreeDOS), and Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD).  It had nothing under Other Operating Systems and Tools.  Finally, when I chose Directly Bootable ISOs, it said, "Launching GRUB," and then it showed me quite a list:  Windows 7, the Windows 7 Repair CD, Windows XP, two flavors of Acronis, BartPE, MHDD, four HDD diagnostics options (Hitachi, Samsung, Seagate, and Western Digital), Windows Memory Diagnostic, two flavors of Super Grub Disk, UBCD4Windows, and US DOD LPS.  Collectively, these items accounted for everything on my original list except Hiren's Boot CD and Memtest86+.  I wasn't sure how those had slipped through the cracks.

I decided I wouldn't be able to run all of these programs at this point.  But I did want to try a few.  I started off with the full Windows 7 CD.  It worked.  I was able to go into its repair options and run CHKDSK on an external USB hard drive.  (I had to skip past some dialogs in which Windows expressed its interest in repairing my system.  I was not surprised that it was confused by what it found, and there seemed to be a good chance that it would make a mess of everything as a result, if I let it go ahead.)

After running CHKDSK on that external drive, I exited Windows 7 via its Restart option.  That put me back at the point of hitting Esc and seeing the YUMI Multiboot screen again.  This time, I tried Ubuntu 12.04.  I was able to use its copy of GParted to scan the laptop's internal and external hard drive.  GParted found problems with the laptop's C partition, so I retarted from within Ubuntu -- which, again, restarted the computer hardware rather than putting me back at the YUMI Multiboot screen, as might have happened in a virtual setup.  This time, I chose the Windows 7 System Repair CD, rather than the full Windows 7 DVD, and I was able to use that to run CHKDSK.

Next, I wanted to defragment the laptop's internal and external hard drives.  Of course, I could do that from within Windows after a normal boot, but it occurred to me that I didn't actually know, or recall, whether there were any defrag tools that could run from a non-Windows boot -- and, if there were such tools, I didn't know whether they would be included in any of the ISOs that I had installed on the Multiboot USB drive.  One thread indicated that Ubuntu, itself, did not have an NTFS-compatible defragger that would be advisable for use on an NTFS partition, especially on drive C, with the possible exception of ntfsfix.  So I looked instead at UBCD.  It seemed to be working -- its System Speed Test ran, producing a processor benchmark and other information -- but it did not seem to have anything for defragging, and it exited awkwardly, requiring a Ctrl-Alt-Del reboot.

BartPE appeared to have plugins that would defrag, so I tried that.  BartPE began to load, but then gave me a BSOD, requiring a hard reset.  That problem recurred on the second try.  BartPE did not seem to work, at least for purposes of this particular laptop.  It gave me a BSOD with STOP error code 7B.  As I watched it start to load, I was reminded that it used Windows XP, so I tried the Windows XP SP3 option from the Multiboot USB drive.  That gave me an Error 27 ("unrecognized command") in response to this command, apparently contained in the Multiboot CD:
find --set-root --ignore-floppies --ignore-cd /multiboot/ISOS/Windows XP SP3 Slipstreamed.iso
I was not able to determine whether the laptop would have accepted a CD in place of the USB drive, for purposes of booting WinXP, because I had no internal or external CD drive to try it with.  I could have tried a single-purpose USB drive containing only Windows XP, but at this moment I had insufficient time and interest to play with that.  My operating conclusion for the moment was that WinXP (therefore BartPE) did not work with this Multiboot USB drive on this machine.

Moving on, I looked to see if UBCD4Windows might have a defragger.  I noticed, in passing, that UBCD4Win contained a copy of DBAN (as did, I think, UBCD), so (if it worked) apparently I did not need to put a separate DBAN install on the USB drive.  UBCD4Win also had FreeDOS.  These options were available from its initial menu, and it appeared that I could add more.  I went into its menu option that would load UBCD4Win per se; I noticed, once again, that it relied on WinXP; and once again I got a BSOD.   As with BartPE, the STOP code was 7B.  A quick look at one troubleshooting guide seemed to indicate that WinXP and these other programs that used it (i.e., BartPE and UBCD4Win) might be failing to load updated drivers for the hard drive controller.  Another thread suggested going into the laptop's BIOS during bootup (F2 on my machine; DEL on some others) and changing the SATA setting from AHCI to Compatibility Mode.  I didn't seem to have exactly that option.  I did have one that was set as IDE->AHCI; I tried changing that to Native IDE.  It occurred to me, as I was doing that, that possibly I wouldn't be having this problem if I weren't trying to boot with the external USB hard drive connected; I had noticed that doing so tended to stall bootup on one of my desktop computers too.  Anyway, the AHCI change didn't help, and neither did booting with the external USB hard drive disconnected.  End of troubleshooting attempt.

I hadn't thought to verify whether the Windows 7 System Repair CD had a defragger.  I tried that now.  "DIR /S DEFRAG*.*" led to C:\Windows\System32\defrag.exe.  I tried it as "DEFRAG /C /H /M /U /X," but that didn't work.  It worked without the /M.  Apparently there was no "background" in the system repair mode.  (For details, type "DEFRAG /?")  So, OK, I did have an NTFS defragger on the Multiboot USB drive after all.  Only later would it occur to me that, by using the /C option, I might be asking the program to defrag the USB drive as well.  That concern faded, however, as the defragmentation went on . . . and on . . . and on.  Granted, defragmenting a fragmented 2TB drive can take a while.  And it did.  It took days.  I was not sure whether a Windows-based defragger would have taken just as long.  I had observed some pretty leisurely defragging operations from time to time.  But this was really a slow boat to China.

When the defragging was done, I decided to try running hard drive diagnostics.  The external USB hard drive was a Samsung.  When I tried to run the Samsung diagnostics that I had added to the Multiboot USB drive, however, I got the same "find --set-root" error as quoted above, except in this case it was referring to the Samsung HDD Diagnostics ISO, not the Windows XP ISO.  Basically, though, by this point it seemed that a lot of problems would be solved if they, or I, or someone could work through all the steps needed to make a Windows XP CD work on this USB drive.

And that's where I left it for now.  I had much of what I needed for the laptop on this one USB drive.  Until they improved Yumi and/or until I was able to troubleshoot the problems, I could perhaps get other ISOs to run from single-purpose USB flash drives apart from this multiboot one.  Despite the imperfections, these little devices had come a long way.



DBAN was among the programs that did not work with this multiboot USB drive, either directly or as part of the Universal Boot CD. DBAN did work, however, when I installed it as a standalone bootable program on a different USB drive, following instructions provided by So apparently at least some of the problems I was experiencing were not due to DBAN or to the specific computer, but were rather due to YUMI and/or to the 16GB USB drive.


An attempt to boot a desktop machine with the YUMI drive, choosing Ubuntu 12.04 as the distribution, resulted in a freeze at the line that said "[3.966201] Freeing initrd memory: 14528K freed." At this writing, a search led to nothing from that. A retry, choosing Ubuntu 10.10, froze at the line that said "[2.923510] NET: Registered protocol family 1." A search in that case likewise seemed to lead nowhere. This was not a problem with just the YUMI USB drive, however. An attempt to boot Ubuntu from a single-purpose USB drive likewise froze at the "Freeing initrd memory" line. This machine was also not booting from the DVD drive.


Further comments related to the immediately preceding comment appear in a separate post.


A later post updates this one.