Over the previous six months, I had made three different attempts to install multiple bootable operating systems on a single USB flash (a/k/a thumb, jump) drive. It was time to give that another try. In this writeup, I hoped to use those previous writeups to produce a relatively brief and solid setup on a single 32GB USB thumb drive. It did not turn out quite that way, as shown below — my learning curve continued to climb — but the result was still acceptable. (Update: another post provides a more refined answer on some of these issues.)
Installing ISOs on the USB Drive with YUMI
I began by downloading the latest version of YUMI. I ran YUMI, a portable program; pointed it to drive G (the USB drive); clicked the Format box; and simultaneously told it to install Precise Puppy Linux, the version of Puppy that seemed most on-target for normal usage. I had already downloaded the ISO (and had learned not to confuse YUMI by renaming ISOs). I chose Puppy because its hardware friendliness seemed to be the reason why it had managed to boot from a multiboot USB drive, in one previous try, on a machine that wasn’t appreciating most other versions. Anyway, in YUMI, I selected Precise Puppy, browsed to the place where I had saved the ISO, and clicked Create. That did its thing in a few minutes, and I told YUMI that I wanted to add more distributions to my USB drive.
This time around, I decided not to install many different versions of Linux. I hadn’t used them. It seemed like Puppy and 32-bit Ubuntu 12.10 (the latest version) would be good enough. Then I thought, well, I did use Knoppix on rare occasions. It had a reputation for getting along well with various kinds of hardware. So I added that too. I hadn’t realized that Knoppix was such a versatile troubleshooting tool. I was also curious about its “Maxi” version, a 3.8GB download or mail purchase that apparently contained over 8GB worth of programs when decompressed. It was not clear what software it might include; but since my 32GB USB drive seemed likely to accommodate it, I went ahead and downloaded it via BitTorrent and added it to the list.
I saved these ISOs with others, in a folder that contained everything I would ordinarily install on a multiboot USB drive. That way, I wouldn’t have to reread this or other posts when setting up new YUMI drives (unless I ran into complications); I could just run YUMI and start installing ISOs on the USB drive. At first, I didn’t use YUMI’s “Download the ISO” option. I felt that it would have been useful if I wanted the very latest version of a program during some later installation, but it would have involved a lot of re-downloading of some really large ISOs.
After Puppy, Ubuntu, and Knoppix, I turned to YUMI’s lists of non-Linux programs. The first such list, Antivirus Tools, contained a number of options. I compared that list against Wikipedia’s List of Antivirus Software and also against a few lists of the best bootable antivirus downloads. AV Comparatives seemed to indicate that, as of December 2011, its tests found Kapersky to be the best antivirus program of that year. (The 2012 awards were not yet available at this writing.) AV Comparatives also named Avira, Bitdefender, ESET, and F-Secure as “top-rated.” Vishal seemed to indicate that most if not all of these companies offered free download rescue CD ISOs that I would be able to include on my USB drive. YUMI listed all of these five except ESET. It also sounded like most of these programs would auto-update their virus definitions while running from a bootable CD or USB drive, if an Internet connection was available. I could not really see myself running more than one or two virus scanners, so I went with Kaspersky and Bitdefender.
It appeared that multipurpose USB tools like UBCD4WIN also contained antivirus programs, but that running them from the standalone installation (e.g., using the Kaspersky ISO, as I was now attempting) might yield better results than running the versions of these programs that were packaged within those multipurpose tools. So I adopted a convention by which I would hopefully remember to try a standalone version of a utility on the multiboot drive, before trying a version incorporated into a multipurpose tool like UBCD4WIN. In this case, I wasn’t sure how much this mattered, since I had rarely if ever actually used a bootable antivirus program anyway. But now I thought I might go ahead and install potentially duplicate copies of some utilities, just because so many programs had not worked properly on YUMI, last time around. It made sense to have a standalone version available, just in case.
After using YUMI to install Kaspersky and Bitdefender, I proceeded to the next list in YUMI: System Tools. Among these, I chose several partition editors (i.e., GParted, Minitool’s Partition Wizard, PING, and Parted Magic, below), because I had encountered one or two situations where nothing seemed to be working well with my partitions. In addition, I chose three different drive backup/imaging programs: Acronis True Image (below), Easeus Disk Copy, and Clonezilla. (To install Easeus, I had to download and run an EXE and use that to export an ISO.) I also added two different programs designed to give me a secure way to start and use a computer without permitting access to its files (e.g., to do some web browsing without leaving a trace on, or exposing data to potential viruses, on that computer): Webconverger and U.S. DOD LPS (below). System rescue and recovery programs included Trinity Rescue Kit, Redo Backup and Recovery, and Rescatux. With these, departing from the previous attempt, I did not seem to need Super Grub Disk or Super Grub2 Disk.
Others in the YUMI System Tools list included Balder10 (i.e., FreeDOS), DBAN, and Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD). It belatedly occurred to me that perhaps I should have used YUMI to download the ISOs to be installed, so as to make sure that I had exactly the version that the YUMI people had already found compatible with YUMI. So I used YUMI to download as well as install versions of Parted Magic, PING, HDT (Hardware Detection Tool), MemTest86+, and Ophcrack. I also tried YUMI’s Windows XP Installer option for a WinXP SP3 ISO that hadn’t worked as an unlisted ISO on the previous try. I didn’t use YUMI’s Windows 7 Installer option because I had several different Win7 things I wanted to add, and I wanted them to all be together in the menu.
Having thus installed many of the programs already listed in YUMI, I proceeded to the bottom of YUMI’s list and began to install Unlisted ISOs. I did not set any of these to run from RAM rather than from disk: I wanted the USB drive to be maximally capable in unexpected hardware situations, without assuming that enough RAM would be available on the machine in question. I began this part of the installation by searching for (and this time finding) a place to download Hiren’s Boot CD 15.2; Hiren’s supposed homepage apparently sought to play games with people searching for it. Unfortunately, two tries at this version 15.2 site failed to yield a usable copy. I tried at an alternative offering a “15.1 restored edition v. 2.0.” That seemed to install successfully, so I didn’t explore another source offering version 15.1.
I did wish that YUMI would have allowed me to create my own subcategories of programs (e.g., partition editors) in its menu system. There was probably a way to edit its files to achieve that, but I did not research that question at this point. So now I proceeded to install unlisted programs that I would have put into different subcategories. One was Acronis True Image Home 2011, in the drive backup and imaging subgroup. I had a working CD for Acronis already, so for this purpose I used an ISO that I made from that CD, using ImgBurn. In the rescue category, I installed other programs noted in the previous post: hard drive diagnostics for Samsung, Hitachi, Western Digital, and Seagate drives; Microsoft Windows Memory Diagnostic; U.S. DOD LPS; and MHDD. I also installed UBCD4Win on the USB drive after installing it on the computer and using that installation to create an ISO. The UBCD4Win installation process took me through those steps automatically, without a need to consult the instructions (though they did make part of the process faster). I also installed 32- and 64-bit Windows 7 system repair CDs and a full Windows 7 installation DVD, all in ISO form.
This time around, I added some more programs to the foregoing list. One was TestDisk. I probably already had that in several places (e.g., UBCD), but I thought I could make sure by adding BootMed to what would ideally be the category of multifunction live CDs (along with Hiren’s, UBCD, and others). Unfortunately, I got “copy failed” error messages when I tried. The solution to that problem was still in process at this point; I did not have an answer for it.
That concluded the installations. Altogether, these ISOs required 18GB on the source drive and 14.1 GB on the target USB drive. The next step was to see if they worked better than last time.
Using the USB Drive on a Netbook Computer
I plugged the multibook USB jump drive into an ASUS Eee PC netbook computer and booted it. I hit Esc during bootup to bring up the boot selection menu, chose the USB drive to run the YUMI list, and then selected these programs from that list, one at a time. In most cases, I had to reboot after running a program; they generally did not put me back at the YUMI menu after running. Some of these programs rebooted with a mere Ctrl-Alt-Del; others required a cold shutdown (i.e., holding down the computer’s power button) to close. Some programs temporarily disabled the boot selection menu, requiring me to do a cold reboot in order to recover the option of booting from the USB drive.
The programs that seemed to run in a fully successful mode included Puppy Linux, Ubuntu Linux, Knoppix Linux, Bitdefender, Kaspersky, DBAN, Balder DOS, GParted, HDT (type ? to get a menu), Memtest86+, Parted Magic, Partition Wizard, Trinity Rescue Kit, UBCD, PING, Easeus, Acronis, Ophcrack, Redo, Rescatux, Hiren’s, most of the hard drive diagnostic programs (Hitachi, Seagate, and Western Digital, but not the old Samsung), Windows Memory Diagnostic, US DOD LPS, and the Windows 7 32- and 64-bit system repair and full installation options. Generally, I did not attempt to run each of those programs; I just made sure that I got what appeared to be the intended starting menu or desktop in each of them.
Some programs seemed ugly or confused at the start. Bitdefender seemed to freeze at its flash screen. Clonezilla looked like it had crashed at the start, and was not very user-friendly thereafter. The Windows XP setup produced three different options in YUMI: Begin Install, Continue Install, and Boot Windows XP. I only tested the first one, and only partway through the process; I didn’t want it to start formatting my hard drive or something. In UBCD4Win, as on the previous try, I got to the point of being potentially able to run the top-level programs, but when I selected the core UBCD4Win option, I got a BSOD, just as had happened in the previous setup.
I had not used US DOD LPS, and thus did not anticipate much need for Webconverger. But for the record, that appeared to be the only ISO that looked like it was being installed successfully, but that YUMI’s menus did not reflect. I tried several times without any improvement. There may have been some simple problem that I could have resolved if I had read the documentation, and I would have done that if I had needed the program. The point here is just that it did not work straightforwardly as these others did.
Cloning the USB Drive
It had obviously been a lot of work to set up this USB drive. I wondered whether I could use one of these nice programs to clone the drive over to another USB drive. I thought perhaps I could keep the latter just sitting around; and if I lost the one that I would be carrying around with me, or if it got screwed up somehow, perhaps I could just copy the backup to a new one. There had also been a few times when I could have used two of them at the same time.
So I started Easeus with both the YUMI multiboot USB jump drive (32GB capacity) and an empty 16GB jump drive plugged into the netbook computer. Easeus’s instructions were a bit screwed up: on the screen labeled “Select source partition,” it said, “Please choose a disk to copy the source partition to.” I think it meant “Please choose a source partition.” I got worried that Easeus might just ease me right out of my hours of work by formatting the wrong partition. So I pulled the YUMI drive out, right there in the middle of the Easeus process; made a backup of the whole drive, using WinRar (hoping it would work for this purpose); and then returned it to the netbook and continued the Easeus process. Unfortunately, Easeus would not copy a larger drive into a smaller one, even if the larger one was half-empty.
As a second-best, I started Ubuntu from the YUMI drive and used it to copy everything from the one USB drive to the other. But that didn’t work either, because for some reason Ubuntu didn’t see my 32GB (Patriot) USB drive. This seemed to be an opportunity to find out whether Knoppix really was much better at recognizing hardware, so I rebooted and tried that. I went into Accessories > File Manager but, no, same thing there.
Trying again with Puppy Linux, we had liftoff. It was able to see both USB drives — and, may I just say, I liked the feel of Puppy, which I hadn’t really used previously. I did run into a momentary delay when trying to figure out how to paste files, but ultimately came to see that I could just select and drag, and it would ask whether I meant to copy or move. Once the copying process was done, I rebooted using only the target, copied-to flash drive and … no. Failure. The approach of copying files in Puppy had not produced a YUMI-bootable drive.
So, OK, a different approach. To avoid having to install all of those ISOs on my target USB drive (a 16GB HP drive), could I use YUMI just to format that drive and install one little program — say, Puppy Linux — and then copy everything over to that appropriately formatted drive? Back on the desktop computer, I told YUMI to do exactly that, making sure to check the format box, and then used Windows Explorer to copy all files over from the 32GB Patriot drive. But the YUMI formatting failed, possibly because I already had a drive (i.e., the Patriot USB drive) plugged into the computer, with the name of MULTIBOOT. I hit Start > Run > diskmgmt.msc > right-click > Properties and renamed. For some reason, that hadn’t worked from Explorer++, but it did work there in Disk Management. I tried again with the YUMI reformatting, this time installing the smallish GParted ISO. It still didn’t wipe out the prior contents of the HP drive. Something was just not working there. Once again, I copied files over from the Patriot to the HP. But still, a boot error when booting from the HP, and not from the Patriot.
OK, yet another approach. Using GParted, I partitioned the part of the Patriot used by YUMI into the smallest possible space, and then I imaged that using Acronis, and restored the image onto the HP. (I was able to use the Patriot drive and YUMI to run GParted and Acronis for these tasks. To speed things up, I saved the image onto the netbook’s hard drive, not onto the new second partition on the Patriot.) The Patriot (32GB) was too big for the HP (16GB) (see above), but the resized partition on the Patriot (14GB) was small enough to create an image that Acronis could restore to the HP. (These steps might not have been necessary in some cloning programs, but I was familiar with Acronis and let this run while doing other things, so for my purposes this was efficient enough.) Shrinking the partition on the Patriot to the smallest size Acronis was willing to give it did not use up space that YUMI needed to run: these programs did run despite the shrinkage. Sadly, Acronis did not see the USB drives. I tried again with Easeus. It copied successfully and — woo hoo! — the HP drive was now bootable.
To summarize this part of the process, it appeared that cloning a finished YUMI USB drive might first benefit from using YUMI to format the target drive; but once that was done (if, indeed, it was necessary), Easeus (or possibly Acronis, in the right configuration) could produce a working copy of the source multiboot drive.
This post describes my use of YUMI and provides information about the process by which I chose, installed, and tested various ISOs (downloaded or converted from working CDs) on a multiboot USB jump drive. In the final section, this post describes a successful use of Easeus (a program on the multiboot drive) to copy the working YUMI multiboot drive to a second jump drive that I planned to hold in reserve. There were still some rough spots in this process, but my own growing experience with YUMI and some apparent improvements in YUMI itself produced a drive on which more (but still not all) installed programs appeared to be working. One particular area of concern had to do with those programs (e.g., UBCD4Win and probably Hiren’s Boot CD and BartPE) that relied upon Windows XP program files to function; there were indications that those were still not working in this iteration. Further development of this work continues in another post.