Thursday 25 October 2012

New QEMU options added to RMPrepUSB

v2.1.651 now has two new options under the File menu tab.

Boot from ISO file using QEMU Emulator Ctrl+F11 - User can select an ISO file and optionally create a virtual hard disk and then boot QEMU from the ISO (for instance you can install XP to a virtual hard disk using this option)
Boot from Virtual HDD image using QEMU emulator Shift+F11 - Boot from a previously installed virtual hard disk image (for instance, you can install linux to a virtual hard disk using Ctrl+F11 and then boot to the hard disk at any time later using Shift+F11)

For instance, if you hit Ctrl+F11, you can select an XP install ISO, choose to create a new virtual hard disk image of any size and then choose how much memory to allocate to QEMU. The ISO will then boot and you can install Phase 1 (textmode) XP to the virtual hard disk. When the XP setup phase 1 reboots, it will reboot to the ISO file again but this time do NOT press a key to boot from the 'CD'. The QEMU BIOS will then boot from the hard disk and the ISO will be attached as the CD and the 2nd Phase (GUI Mode) of the XP install will continue to completion successfully. Note: Because QEMU is verrrry slow, this can take 4-6 hours!

You now have a virtual hard disk which is installed with XP. You can now run this at any time using Shift+F11. Again verrry slow to boot!

This allows you to quickly test boot an ISO to see what it looks like, without needing to set up QEMU Manager or use a different virtual machine.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

CloneZilla Windows Backup/Restore partition Tutorial added (Tut89)

Whilst discussing how to make a grub4dos menu.lst file show only one 'boot to Windows' option, a solution was posted by ndog37 on here for how to add CloneZilla to an existing Windows system. With this solution added, you can quickly backup your copy of Windows at any time and then later restore any of the previous Windows backup images. An XP backup takes approximately 5 minutes. Restoring an XP image takes approximately 1 to 5 minutes. The backup is made on the hard disk, so it is not suitable for off-line backups.

See YouTube vidoes here and here.

See also here for UEFI or here for MBR Tutorials.

You just need to add the files to your backup partition and then install grub4dos (I provide a script file in the download to do this with just one click) and then hide the files to protect them from accidental deletion (again using a script provided in just one click).
This makes it very quick to install onto any simple Windows PC or notebook (e.g. your grannies PC) so that they can quickly restore a working image if their Windows installation gets infected or becomes SNAFU'd.

Monday 22 October 2012

Avira Rescue, ImDisk and RockRidge!

Recently, I was asked to look at making Avira Rescue ISO boot from a bootable grub4dos USB drive (see Tutorial here). It turns out that most of the Avira Rescue iso's content actually needs to be in 'flat file' form (i.e. exist as files and folders on the USB drive) and so I needed to extract the contents of the iso file to the USB drive.

Now my favourite tool for this is ImDisk to mount the iso as a virtual drive volume and then copy over the files and folders that I think (guess!) that Avira might need. However, when I did this I found a problem - the resulting Avira linux boot pen did not fully boot to the Avira GUI desktop and stopped at ' Press Alt+F7 to return to the graphical User Interface '.

After much head-scratching, I found that the problem was caused by the case of the files. All of the files appeared in the ImDisk virtual drive as upper-case file names and folder names, yet when the Avira iso file contents were displayed by the 7Zip GUI, most of the files were lower-case. If I extracted all the files from the Avira ISO using 7Zip and copied them to the USB stick, it booted fine, up to the full GUI.

I realised that this must be due the ISO standard that the Avira ISO file was made with and an interesting discussion evolved on my favourite boot forum (see here).

It turns out that we just can't trust the Windows CD filesystem as it does not support the RockRidge enhancements used by *nix OS's. This means that utilities like ImDisk and SlySoft Virtual CloneDrive may shows filenames as all uppercase if a non-Joliet (i.e. RockRidge only) ISO is mounted under Windows.

Windows 8 supports the mounting of ISO files natively, no utility is needed - but it still does not support RockRidge! (come on MS - this is 2012!).

The moral of this story is, if you are extracting files from a linux ISO file, don't use a virtual drive to mount the ISO because the filenames 'case' cannot be trusted - instead use an extraction utility like 7Zip which will detect that the ISO is a RockRidge ISO and use the correct case for the files and folders.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

v2.1.650 new feature for multi-partition flash drives

If you have a flash drive with more than one primary partition on it, then Windows Explorer will only allow access to the first partition defined in the partition table. The new option allows you to re-order the table so that any one of the four primary partitions will be instantly accessible under Windows.
To create a multi-partition USB flash drive, I recommend the free Easeus Partition Master Home Edition.
RMPrepUSB version2.1.650 now has a new option in the Drive menu tab which allows you to make any one of 4 primary partitions on a USB or removable media drive visible to Windows. You do not need to remove the USB drive - the change is instant. So now you can quickly change the contents on each partition using Windows Explorer.