Tuesday 31 May 2016

E2B $$AddWin2Main.mnu bugfix!

If you want to directly run a Windows 8 or 10 Install ISO from the Main Menu and specify an XML file, you may find that it does not work!

Nikki reported that when using the $$AddWin2Main.mnu with a Win10 ISO and when setting the XML variable, a "Windows could not parse or process unattend answer file [D:\autonattend.xml]. The answer file is invalid" error was produced.

It turns out that the $$AddWin2Main.mnu file example was incorrect!

For Vista\Win7, you need to specify the XML variable with the full path of the XML file, but for Win8\10, you should only specify the XML filename (not the full path)!

The new $$AddWin2Main.mnu file is here.

I am very sorry if anyone has been tearing their hair out trying to get this to work for Win8/10!

I have also updated the web page documentation here and E2B v1.81 will work with the XML variable containing either a full path or just the XML file name for both Win7 and Win8/10 and also will now work if using a USB Helper Flash drive + E2B HDD USB drive too.

Thursday 19 May 2016

Two new E2B themes from Frettt (English and German)

I have uploaded two new themes provided by Frettt (thanks!) to the Alternate Download Areas - Themes folder and also added some screenshots to the Gallery page of E2B. There is a German and English MyE2B.cfg file for each wallpaper.

Wednesday 18 May 2016

UEFI Grub2 PTN2 menu system - Beta 3 now available (Release Candidate?)

Beta 3 is now in the 'Other Files' folder in the 'Alternate Downloads' areas.
Full documentation is here.
Just in case you are new to this grub2 menu system, it's main purpose is that it allows you to boot some ISOs via UEFI that will not-UEFI boot using .imgPTN files because those ISOs do not contain EFI boot files (grub2 gets around this).
  • Over 60 ISOs supported
  • fix AVG booting in MBR mode
  • systemrescuecd can now UEFI-boot (but startx may not work in EFI64)
  • archassault menu bugfix - now works on NTFS 64-bit, but not on FAT32 for some reason!
  • blackarchlinux x64 now works on NTFS (ISO too big for FAT32)
  • opensuse (4.5GB) works on NTFS
  • Excel spreadsheet updated
  • All xxx_extracted.grub2 menu files have been removed from the menu folders and placed in the \_ISO\docs\Sample mnu Files folder on partition 2. This speeds up the grub2 Main menu loading. Anyone who wants these 'extracted' menus will need to copy the correct .grub2 file to the correct menu folder.
  • Some menu bugfixes
  • Some .cmd scripts improved/updated

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Fedora + persistence using grub2

In Tutorial #67 on the RMPrepUSB.com website, I describe how to get Fedora booting as a flat-file configuration with persistence.

I decided to try this using the new grub2 menu system, and here is the final menu:

Sunday 15 May 2016

New grub2 menu system, UEFI_GRUB2_PTN2 Beta2 Tool Kit now available

This Beta 2 toolkit allows you to UEFI-boot and then directly boot from a range of ISO files (and some .img and EFI files) by selecting any of the payloads from a grub2 menu system. The files do not need to be contiguous and you can add your own grub2 menus and files too.

The .xls spreadsheet showing all the payloads that have currently been tested is here (also in download).
[Edit] Forgot to include Kaspersky in the spreadsheet, You can EFI and MBR boot using the extracted files (see readme.txt in \rescue folder). You can also have persistent updates if you re-make the .imgPTNLBAa23 file as a 400MB file.

Note: It is possible, using this system, to UEFI-boot from many linux ISOs, even if they do not contain any UEFI boot files (e.g. UEFI-boot to Zorin, Kaspersky, etc.)!

In Beta2, 95%+ listed payloads have been tested on FAT32 and are working.


Follow the instructions on the E2B page here (full details are also on this page). Screenshots, etc. are in my previous blog post here.

1. Download the .7z file here and extract it to an empty folder on your Windows system
2. Create a 2nd Primary FAT32 partition on your E2B USB HDD
3. Copy the xxxx.imgPTNLBAa23 file to your E2B drive's first partition at \_ISO\MAINMENU
4. Copy the contents of the PTN2 folder to the root of the second partition (you should see a \_ISO folder at the root of the second partition)
5. Add your ISOs, etc. to the second partition (see .XLS spreadsheet for details of what name you need to use for each file)
6. If you want to be able to run the same ISOs from the E2B menu, copy the five .mnu files provided to the \_ISO\MAINMENU folder on the first partition of your E2B drive.
7. Now boot to E2B and select the new .imgPTNLBAa23 Beta 2 file and have fun!

If you already have Beta 1, I suggest you delete all *.grub2 files from the second partition, and then run the .\PTN2\COPY_ALL_GRUB2_FILES_TO_USB_DRIVE.cmd script which will copy all the .grub2 files over. If you have purposefully deleted any of the .grub2 files on the second partition (for faster booting), then use the UPDATE_GRUB2_FILES_ON_USB_DRIVE.cmd script.

Most of the payloads should work with a NTFS partition on partition 2 but I have not tested many of them on NTFS yet. FAT32 is more compatible, but you cannot boot from ISOs that are over 4GB.

The grub2 menu system does not need the ISOs to be contiguous, but the E2B grub4dos menu system does.

There are probably at least two more Betas to release before I can think about a full release yet, but it is getting there. if you see any ISOs missing from the spreadsheet that you need, please let me know.

Please feedback any comments, suggestions or problems!

Saturday 14 May 2016

A lesson for us all - why bigger is not always better (or diagnosing a 'non-booting' system)!

If you read my blog regularly, you will know that 2 years ago I built my own system. That previous blog post described how I went about it.

Now over the last few months, I have noticed that this Z87 PC did not always boot when I switched it on. In fact, although the fans whirred a bit, I did not get the familiar 'beep' from the mainboard on these occasions. When this happened, I would just turn it off at the PSU mains rocker switch, wait a minute or so and then turn it on again and it would usually work. That is, until this afternoon,,,

This afternoon, I shut down the PC in order to do a clean boot from a USB HDD (as I have done literally hundreds of times before) and I got the 'no display, no beep' symptom yet again. But this time there was no persuading my Haswell Z87 PC to boot!

Diagnosing a 'dead' system

Now the Asus Z87 mainboard is fitted with a number of diagnostic LEDs soldered to the PCB. These include:

New Gandalf WinPE x64 Win10 TH2 with SysWow

Friday 13 May 2016

How To's and Gotchas in grub2 menus

These are my notes below, which may be of interest to those of you writing grub2 (or even grub4dos) menus.

Most of these are concerned with directly booting from a linux ISO file using 'cheat codes'.

If that does not interest you, then don't read any more.

Note: I have been learning and experimenting with grub2 for a week now, so I am by no means an expert!

Thursday 12 May 2016

Easy2Boot website now routed via ezoic

I have now signed up with ezoic.com who will re-format the easy2boot.com pages and place ads on the pages for me automatically.

You may experience some very weird page layouts on the E2B site in the next few weeks! Ezoic will trial lots of different formats until it finds the 'best' ones - this may take several months!

Note that a cookie is saved on your first visit which determines what layout you see after that. If you delete the site cookie, you may (randomly) get a different layout on refresh (Ctrl+F5).

Ezoic is also used on the www.rmprepusb.com website. I am hoping it doesn't screw-up the easy2boot site as much as it does the rmprepusb site!

E2B v1.80 available

I have released E2B v1.80j as the release version 1.80 today.

Links on the website will still point to 1.79 for  a few days, but 1.80 is available on the Alternate Download sites (Google Drive and OneDrive).

grub2 menu system testing continues (pre-Beta2)!

I have been testing, reviewing and fixing a lot of menus in the grub2 menu system.

Here is a spreadsheet of the testing so far.

x = does not work
(blank) = not yet tested

click to enlarge
Beta2 should be coming in a day or so...

As you can see, every payload needs to be tested on 4 different VMs and on two types of partitions (NTFS and FAT32)!

Booting Dr.Web LiveDisk ISO with persistence from grub2

A DrWeb_Persistent.imgPTN23 file can be found here. It was made as follows:
1. Make a 800MB FAT32 partition on a USB drive
2. Download and run the DrWeb USB creator utility drweb-livedisk-900-usb.exe
3. Run it to extract the files to the USB drive
4. Boot the USB drive on a real system - this prepares it
5. Refresh the updates - reboot and check updates are persistent
6. Drag-and-drop the USB drive letter onto the MPI_FAT32 Desktop icon to make a .imgPTN23 file (syslinux 603, auto-convert). I modified the \syslinux\txt.cfg and the \boot\grub\grub.cfg files to add nomodeset vga=ask ignore_uuid. 
Note: Updates are not persistent even on their own flash drive!  So it obviously has a bug!

Booting from ISO

The Dr.Web ISO boots fine in MBR mode from E2B and can be booted from the ISO with persistence by adding a .mnu file.

However, during testing of the new GRUB2 menu system for E2B, I tried the Dr.Web LiveDisk ISO (drweb-livedisk-900-cd.iso - free), but it did not boot using the grub2 menu that I 'borrowed' from the 'Multiboot USB Flash drive' project here (I got a 'squashfs not found' type error).

After many attempts to get it booting from an ISO using the cheat code 'iso-scan/filename=', I finally looked at the 'casper' linux shell script file located inside the initrd file in the scripts folder (using 7Zip), and found this code...

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Grub2 menu system for E2B - early Beta available

The first Beta (Beta1  v0.01) is available for testing!

Please contact me if you want a copy to test. You will need a E2B USB HDD with a second partition.

It is possible to use this system on a Removable flash drive (but it is complicated because Windows cannot access the 2nd partition!).

Details are now published (in an early form) on the easy2boot website at http://www.easy2boot.com/uefi-grub2-ptn2/

Note that most of the linux menu items have been tested, but many of the other menus have not been tested with any payload at all yet.

MBR Main Menu

Sunday 8 May 2016

Grub2 support in E2B - progress report...

I have been spending quite a while thinking about the grub2 menu structure and it seems some people put E2B on the 2nd partition of their USB drive instead of the first partition. I don't advise this because of the 137GB BIOS bug, but as long as the 2nd partition ends before 137GB, it should work OK.

For payload files to be detected by the grub2 menu system, they must have specific lower-case names (e.g. avg.iso, konbootx64.efi). Files with names such as avg_arl_cdi_all_120_150814a10442.iso or "AVG AntiVirus.iso" will NOT be detected by the default grub2 menu system.

So there will be a large list of specific payload file names which I will document at a later date. As a consequence, you can only have one version of any ISO (though you can add your own uniquely-named payloadfiles and add your own grub2 menu for it).

Friday 6 May 2016

Coming soon! grub2 UEFI-booting from linux ISO files using E2B

Currently you cannot directly boot from an ISO file via UEFI using Easy2Boot - you have to convert the ISO to a .imgPTN file first.

However, grub2 can UEFI-boot and can run linux ISOs (some of which will run even if the ISOs do not support UEFI-booting and do not contain an \EFI folder!).

The reason E2B does not use this mechanism is that some UEFI systems will only UEFI-boot from a USB disk containing both MBR and UEFI boot files - even if the system is set to boot from Legacy/BIOS devices.

This means that if you had grub2 UEFI boot files on your FAT32 E2B drive, then you can never boot to the E2B menu on these systems!

Monday 2 May 2016

E2B not booting on GA-73PVM-S2H PC

Samir contacted me about a problem he had with his GA-73PVM-S2H PC.

He could boot from this PC to a USB drive prepared using Rufus (to Elemetary OS, for example), but not if it contained E2B.

The symptom was that the PC would just hang with no keyboard response or boot messages of any kind, as soon as he tried to boot from the E2B USB drive...