Tuesday, 25 April 2017

SysInfo2.hta - an hta Windows script to quickly collect System Information

Some years ago I developed a .hta script in VBScript to collect system information. This was used on thousands of systems by field engineers and customers alike, so that they could quickly send a report back to the office techs for further diagnosis and investigation.

You can run the hta file on any Windows system that allows .hta files to be run.

If you download and unzip it, make sure the Properties - UnBlock is ticked or Windows may prevent you from running it.

I have slightly revised it now for Windows 8 and 10 and also tweaked the email facility so that you can send the report by gmail to anyone else.

RMPrepUSB v2.1.737 for Windows 10 Creator now available

If you tick the RMPrepUSB option Boot as HDD (C: 2PTNS) then RMPartUSB will create a second 31.5KB partition at the end of the drive. The type is 21hex which no previous OS has recognised.

This 2nd partition is only present because some BIOSes will boot a single-partition Removable USB drive as a floppy disk instead of a 'hard disk' and thus you just get a 'black screen - flashing cursor' when you try to boot from the drive. The presence of a 2nd primary partition ensure that even these BIOSes will boot the Removable USB drive as a 'hard disk'.

Under all previous versions of Windows, this 2nd partition was not detected by Windows and was not given a drive letter.

However, in recent versions of Windows 10, Microsoft has changed the way Windows detects primary partitions on Removable drives such as Flash Memory devices (and without actually telling anyone!). Now we can have multiple partitions on USB flash drives - we can even boot Windows 10 Creator version from a flat-file (non-VHD) Removable flash drive now!

The means that now, if you use RMPrepUSB or RMPartUSB to format a drive with the Boot as HDD option ticked, the new Windows 10 will now 'see' the 2nd partition as an unformatted volume and prompt the user to format it!

v2.1.737 now formats the 2nd partition as a small FAT12 volume. Windows will give it a drive letter and you can store files on it (though it is only 11.5KB in size after formatting!).

The download page is here.

Please report any issues ASAP.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Easy2Boot v1.92b available

E2B v1.92b BETA is now available from OneDrive here.

Changes from v1.91B are (changes from 1.92a in bold):

  • Ukrainian language added (thanks 'ruffian')
  • small bugfix to XPWINNT.g4b to allow SVR2016 folder to be selected
  • new Make_E2B to add Ukrainian lang, 
  • check added in Make_E2B_USB_DRIVE.cmd to check Windows find command is working, 
  • revised English F1.cfg help file, 
  • new RMPartUSB to format the 2nd small hidden partition to prevent Win10 Format pop-up dialogue box
  • bugfix for XP DPMS2 sometime getting wrong PCI ID and hence using the wrong driver
An E2B user contacted me to say that XP installs from ISO did not detect his internal hard disk on his HP G62 AMD notebook. I bought a G62 notebook from eBay, found the issue and fixed it.

If anyone in the UK wants a silver HP G62-a17SA, Win 10 Home 64-bit, AMD Athlon II P320 2.10GHz, 320 GB 7,200 rpm HDD, 4GB RAM, HDMI, Enet, webcam, WiFi, DVD R/W, USB 2.0 x 3, good battery, with WPS Office, very nice and clean, very few scuffs (looks almost unused), for £150 ono - let me know!

You can update your current E2B DPMS USB drives using this new Beta version.

The next BETA will include the latest version of grub4dos which hopefully has all the niggly bugs fixed now.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Install Windows 7 from USB using a USB 3.0 port

Windows 7 does not contain USB 3.0 drivers, so when you boot from a modern USB 3.0 port, it will not be able to access the USB drive and you will get a 'Missing CD\DVD drive device driver' message box.

However, by combining a Windows 10 boot.wim with Windows 7 install.wim, it is possible to install Windows 7 from a USB drive connected to a modern USB 2.0 or 3.0 port.

I have written a short 'Tutorial #139' describing how to do it.

This method means that all types of USB controllers should work (as Win10 contains USB 3.0 drivers) and you don't have to mess about adding USB drivers to the Windows 7 boot.wim file.

However, you will have to add the USB 3 drivers to the Windows 7 OS once you have booted to Windows 7, but by then you should have web access and can download them (if available). Otherwise, you can always boot to the Win10 boot.wim and use XCOPY to copy the driver folder from your USB drive onto the Win7 hard disk.

You can use the same Win7+Win10 procedure to modify an ISO and add it to E2B, or you can use MakePartImage to convert a working USB Flash drive to a .imgPTN file and add that to E2B.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

System Rescue CD 2017-04-12 released

The systemrescuecd-x86-4.9.6.iso has been updated recently.

Description: SystemRescueCd is a Linux system rescue disk available as a bootable CD-ROM or USB stick for administrating or repairing your system and data after a crash. It aims to provide an easy way to carry out admin tasks on your computer, such as creating and editing the hard disk partitions. It comes with a lot of Linux system utilities such as GParted, fsarchiver, filesystem tools and basic tools (editors, midnight commander, network tools). It can be used for both Linux and windows computers, and on desktops as well as servers. This rescue system requires no installation as it can be booted from a CD/DVD drive or USB stick, but it can be installed on the hard disk if you wish. The kernel supports all important file systems (ext3/ext4, xfs, btrfs, reiserfs, jfs, vfat, ntfs), as well as network filesystems such as Samba and NFS.

If you add it to E2B it will 'just work'.

If you want to use the persistence feature ('backstore'), refer to my previous blog post here.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

StarTech S2510BU3ISO Hard Disk Enclosure with ISO (DVD) Emulation for $20

The StarTech S2510BU3ISO Hard Disk enclosure is similar to the Zalman and IODD enclosures in that it can emulate a USB DVD drive by loading an ISO file.

Press the MODE button and the LED changes from HDD to ISO1,
 then press again for ISO2 then again for ISO3 and then back to HDD.

Friday, 14 April 2017

E2B v1.92a with Ukrainian language now available

'Ruffian' has sent me the language files for the Ukrainian language and this has been added into v1.92a which is available on OneDrive.

If you are from Ukraine Ви можете, як це, так? ;-)

Ukrainian Menu

Add Fedora with persistence to E2B

The sample menu provided in the E2B \_ISO\docs\Sample Mnu Files folder for Fedora only works if you have a FAT32 E2B USB drive - Fedora does not like NTFS volumes when booting (and it's only the year 2017!).

Here is a way to add Fedora+persistence to an NTFS E2B USB drive (MBR and UEFI).

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

E2B v1.91A and B released

I did not notice that the latest grub4dos causes E2B to display a 'WARNING: gub4dos 0.4.5' message to appear as soon as E2B starts to load.

v1.91A fixes this issue.

P.S. There are also usb driver bugs in v1.91 new grub4dos, so please use v1.91B which has the old grub4dos!

It is available on the OneDrive Alternate Download Area and soon on the E2B website.

Unfortunately, Google Drive seems to have taken a dislike of E2B v1.91 and 1.91A. As soon as I upload it, it blocks it (marks it with a flag icon). I am not sure why! Even if I zip it up with a password-encrypted zip file, Google Drive still blocks it. Grrrr.

P.S. If you are on the Developer's Insider Preview programme for Win10, note that recent developer versions of Win 10 actually break RMPartUSB and Rufus (format fails)!

If you have tried v1.91A and had no problems - please tick the 'funny' Reactions box below.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Easy2Boot v1.91 released

E2B v1.91 is available now from the Alternate Download Areas.
E2B v1.91 will be available from www.easy2boot.com in a few days.

Note: due to bugs in the new grub4dos in 1.91 - please use v1.91B which uses the older (unbuggy) version of grub4dos!

Changes from v1.90

  • Fix 'WARNING: WinBuilder ISOs must have .iso file extension' message being shown even when not a WinBuilder ISO
  • Latest grub4dos version (\grldr 2017-02-04 )
  • Sample .mnu files added for 'blacklist' example (see previous blog post)
  • Latest version of RMPartUSB
  • Latest version of Make_E2B.exe
  • New SCROLL LOCK feature (auto-suggest is turned on if SCROLL LOCK is on)
  • New TSUG variable to control auto-suggest feature better
  • Default delay for auto-suggest now 6 sec
  • Reduce Main Menu messages if redir set
  • Can now use redir + TSUG variables so get reduced enumeration message but still get auto-suggest prompt
  • New \_ISO\docs\Make_E2B_USB_Drive\CheckForUpdate.cmd added to show latest stable version and latest Beta version
  • Warn user if \sources folder is present on the E2B drive (causes error when using Windows install from ISO) 
  • Hold down SHIFT key before boot to automatically load grub4dos fast rd/wr USB 2.0 driver

Let me know ASAP if you spot a problem.

Add Clear Linux to your E2B USB drive

Clear Linux is provided as a UEFI-bootable only image.
Clear Linux OS for Intel Architecture is focused on the Cloud. Our aim was not to make yet another general-purpose Linux distribution; sometimes lean-and-fast is better than big-and-universal.
There is a Live version and an Installer version (see here) provided as compressed xxxx.img.xz download files.
Inside each xxxx.img.xz file is a larger .img file (e.g. clear-1440-installer.img). You will need to extract this .img file (e.g. using 7Zip).
Inside this .img file (which is usually dd'd onto a USB drive), we have two images for two primary partitions (as shown by 7Zip)...

Here is how to add these to your E2B drive so we can UEFI-boot (MBR-booting is not supported).

Thursday, 6 April 2017

GrannyOS and how to add a remote image backup/restore capability to Windows

I have two ageing relatives (one over 80 and the other is nearly 100) and I wanted to set up a notebook for each of them where I could use Skype and video-conferencing to chat with them and help them with such things as email, internet banking, internet shopping, etc.

Neither of them know how to use a computer or a smart phone, but these days you really need to use the internet for pretty much everything.

It is a shame that the aged and infirm are the ones that would benefit the most from the internet, and yet they are the ones that are excluded from it because, as the saying goes, 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks'.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

About Windows 10 Installs from ISOs and how to activate using Win7/8 Product Keys

When you use Easy2Boot to install Windows 8/10/SVR2016 directly from an ISO file, E2B will ask you to specify an XML file which contains a Win 10 Product Key (or you can pick a Product Key which E2B will then patch into the XML file for you).

You can use one of the generic installation Product Keys listed by the E2B menu system or you can specify a genuine Microsoft activation key of your own.

Some versions of Windows 8/10 will just stop with a 'license error' if you don't specify a Product Key (or use an incorrect Product Key) in the XML file. If I MBR-boot from a Win 10 Home+Pro install ISO on my IdeaPad 300 (which previously had an activated UEFI-installation of Win 10 Home), then Setup only gives me the option to install Win 10 Home when using an XML file with no Product Key inside - the Win 10 Pro option is not offered at all even though the ISO contains both Pro and Home!

If I use a Win 10 Pro generic Product Key in an XML file with the same ISO, it installs Win 10 Pro.

I presume that the keys must contain encoded information which includes:
  • Type: Retail, OEM, Volume Licence MAK or KMS
  • ID: A unique ID number
  • Edition: Pro, Home, etc.
  • Version: Win10, Win7, Win8, etc.
So you need to install Windows 10 using a Win10 Product Key.

Now because Windows 7 and Windows 8 systems can still be upgraded for free to Windows 10, you can activate with a Windows 7 or Windows 8 Product Keys after you install a new Windows 10 OS, but you can't use a Win7/8 key as an installation key.

EXAMPLE: Win 10 Pro for less than £3!

For instance...

Monday, 3 April 2017

Easy2Boot v1.91g available

This 1.91g BETA has a new version of grub4dos at \grldr.

Let me know if you find any problems. To confirm that a particular problem is caused by the new version of grub4dos, simply use a \grldr file from an earlier version of E2B.

Changes to grub4dos include:

  • When using ls command on an empty folder, it now returns false on all filesystems (bugfix)
  • ls command now highlights folder names in the output text
  • grub4dos USB2 driver improved
  • Volume label read and write function (vol) improved
  • UUID write function added

Note: As much as possible, E2B does not rely on new features. This means that older versions of grub4dos can be still used (e.g. 4.0.5c) which is useful for regression testing, etc.

Another small change is that the SCROLL LOCK = ON state will now always force the auto-suggest prompt to be displayed (even if running a xxxx.isodefault file).

Also, SCROLL LOCK will always be turned off whenever QRUN.g4b is run. This is because if SCROLL LOCK is on when isolinux/syslinux runs, it boots to the command shell instead of the isolinux/syslinux menu.

Please report any problems or queries.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Windows 10 Creators Edition brings major change for Removable USB drives!

As recently mentioned by Akeo (Rufus author) on reboot.pro here, The new Windows 10 Creators Edition seems to have changed the way it handles Removable USB drives!

Previously, Windows XP/7/8/10 would only mount one partition on a Removable USB drive. However, now it seems to treat a Removable USB drive almost the same as a Fixed-Disk drive and you can assign drive letters to multiple partitions (if they exist) on a Removable USB drive!

This is a big change, so this may well cause problems with all sorts of USB-friendly apps!

Tip: To see what version of Windows you have, use the WINDOWS+R key chord and type WINVER in the Run box...

Easy2Boot goes commercial - April Fool!

All versions of Easy2Boot produced for over a year now, have contained some embedded code which will check the BIOS date. If the BIOS date is more than 30 days from today, then certain functions (e.g. automatic menu building, QRUN feature, WIM and VHD booting, etc.) will no longer work unless a licence is found.

Switch_E2B.exe, MakePartImage and UEFI-booting from .imgPTN files will not check for a licence however and will work as before.