Sunday 31 July 2016

Easy2Boot v1.82g Beta available

This v1.82g Beta includes SDI_CHOCO and the new grub4dos (beta) version which fixes the "E2B.cfg missing" error which a handful of users have experienced on certain systems containing certain partitions.

I have also renamed the E2B Win8 and Win10 XML files. When you perform an E2B Update, it will delete the old v1.81 XML files and add the new ones. If you have previously installed an SDI_CHOCO beta, I suggest you first delete all the old .XML files (that are E2B ones) and then do an Update.

As usual the download is available in the Alternate Download Areas.

Any feedback welcome.

Saturday 30 July 2016

Has the free Windows 10 upgrade really finished?

According to a Martin Brinkman blog post here, you can still get the free Win10 upgrade.
If this is true, can you also do a clean install of Win10 and use a Win7 or Win8 Product Key? Presumably the same activation process will still work as before and the trick of simply booting from a USB drive to Win10 will still work.

P.S. 2016-08-05 I booted to Win10 TH2 Pro on a Windows 7 Ultimate system today and used the Windows 7 Ult key to activate it - it worked fine!

grub4dos - good news, very good news and not so good news!

YaYa has fixed two bugs in grub4dos 0.4.6a
  1. Issue #122 - Replacing strings in a file using cat --locate=xxx --replace=yyy sometimes didn't work
  2. Issue #119 - grub4dos crashes when it access certain partitions (this is the “\_ISO\e2b\grub\E2B.cfg is MISSING!” issue)
Bug #122 has a workaround and this has been added into E2B v1.82 so that we can use older versions of grub4dos if we need to (useful for testing different versions, etc.). The bug was only found due to the new SDI_CHOCO feature in v1.82 and so did not affect previous versions of E2B.

Bug #119 is great news. Many people have helped in investigating this bug but a special thanks to Norbert who spent a lot of time to prepare a Virtual Machine in VBox which allowed the developer (YaYa) to see the problem and enabled him to fix it!

The not so good news, is that I discovered a new bug to do with certain types (joliet?) of XP ISOs crashing when accessed (e.g. using a cat command on a file inside the ISO). The bug report is Issue #123 and affects grub4dos 0.4.6a versions after 2016-04-10 (so does affect E2B v1.81 which used 2016-07-04 and E2B v1.80 which used 2016-04-26, but not E2B v1.79 which used 2016-03-26). A genuine MS XP3 ISO does not seem to be affected though and it only seems to happen with some ISOs on some systems (TBD). Hopefully, YaYa can find the problem and fix it. Then we will have a new version of grub4dos with all the major outstanding bugs fixed.

2016-08-04 - YaYa has fixed the bug. Next version should have all fixes!

Friday 29 July 2016

Wednesday 27 July 2016

SDI_CHOCO page now added to E2B website

The SDI_CHOCO feature allows you to fully automate a Windows install + install drivers + applications + Windows updates completely unattended.

Once you have it set up, when a new version of Windows is released, just copy the new Windows Install ISO onto your E2B USB drive and use that instead of the old ISO! No need to change anything else.

See here for details.

You can have multiple configurations for different systems or configurations. You can install your own custom drivers or applications too.

For instance, a full Windows 10 installation with drivers and a few applications can take about 12 minutes from first boot to the E2B USB drive to the final user Desktop (watch the video).

Hope it is not too confusing!

P.S. If you found this useful, please tick one of the Reactions boxes below.

Tuesday 26 July 2016

How to activate Windows 8/10 automatically

You can use the following cmd script to get the OEM key which has been programmed into the BIOS by the manufacturer and then activate Windows with it automatically. Of course, the OS must match the OEM key (e.g. Windows Home OS <> Windows Home Product Key).

AutoActivate.cmd  (run as admin)

@echo off
pushd "%~dp0"
set PKEY=
get_win8key.exe > WINKEY.txt
set /p PKEY=<WINKEY.txt
if not "%PKEY%"=="" (
echo Activating using key %PKEY%
cscript //NoLogo %systemroot%\system32\slmgr.vbs /ipk %PKEY% > act.log
cscript //NoLogo %systemroot%\system32\slmgr.vbs /ato >> act.log
type act.log

get_win8key.exe can be obtained from here. It also works on Windows 10 systems.

P.S. after downloading get_win8key.exe - right-click on the file - Properties - and tick UnBlock. Otherwise Windows Powershell may refuse to run it.

How to automate the installation of Windows and Lenovo drivers using SDI_CHOCO

Here is how I modified SDI_CHOCO on my E2B drive so that instead of using Snappy to install generic drivers, it installs all the correct official Lenovo drivers and applications.

New user files are created by the end user to modify the install behaviour, so updating E2B to the latest version will not delete these new files because only the original E2B files are updated.

If you have several different models of PCs and Notebooks to install, then the XML file and SDI_CHOCO folder structure should be duplicated, renamed and modified accordingly, for each different model.

Monday 25 July 2016

Easy2Boot v1.82SDIf Beta now available

Version 1.82f does not install any choco applications by default now (i.e. Google Chrome and TeamViewer are not installed by default).

I think that v1.82 is getting good enough for release now, so please test and provide feedback.
I am still waiting for a grub4dos bugfix though.

Sunday 24 July 2016

E2B v1.82SDIe Beta with WSUS Offline Update support

This new version includes support for the WSUS Offline Update utility.

You can download and extract WSUS Offline Update to the \_ISO\WINDOWS\INSTALLS\wsusoffline folder of your USB drive and then run updategenerator.exe - pick the OS's you want to support - e.g. Win 8.1 x86 & x64, Win 10 x86 and x64 - and then download the updates (this may take quite a while!).

Easy2Boot v1.82SDId Beta available

The v1.82d Beta version has a few new XML files added for Windows 8 and 10 ISO installs:

  • Win10_Choose_a_key_SDI_CHOCO.xml
  • Win8_Choose_a_key_SDI_CHOCO.xml
These allow you to do a manual install of any Win8/10 ISO and choose the Product Key that you want to use (i.e. the same as the default Option 0 choice, but it also runs the SDI_CHOCO install, so it will install drivers and applications). These two new XML files do not contain any other configuration settings and are not 'automated'.

There is also a new E2B feature for Windows 8 and Windows 10 (and 2016) installs from an ISO. 

Saturday 23 July 2016

E2B v1.82SDIc Beta now available

This new version just has a few changes to improve the SDI_CHOCO.cmd script if you want to use WiFi instead of Ethernet to connect to the internet during installation.

If anyone has tried the new Snappy+Chocolatey XML files yet, please let me know how you got on!

Have you discovered the surprise yet (clue: you will need to test using a notebook or PC with speakers!)?

Friday 22 July 2016

E2B 1.82 SDI Beta b version now available (Snappy+Chocolatey)

This is a new, slightly tweaked version of the previous SDI+Choco version. It is available in the Alternate Downloads Areas as usual. Read the previous blog post for how to get it working.

It now includes sample XML files for Win 8.1 Pro, Win 8.1 Home, Win 10 Pro and Win 10 Home for both USA and English International versions of the ISOs.

  • For 'English' ISOs use the 'US' XML file
  • For 'English International' ISOs use the 'UK' XML file

You can remove the E2B USB drive when you see the CAPS LOCK and SCROLL LOCK LEDs lit.
I have added better logging and tidied up the cmd scripts a bit.

There is a little surprise added too - leave a comment when you find out what it is!

Note: If you have modified any of the original E2B files in the \_ISO\WINDOWS\INSTALL folder (naughty, naughty!), then when you update E2B with this new version, it will obviously overwrite your modified files. So rename any folders you want to keep first. if you have some Driverpack downloads in the SNAPPY folder, they will not be affected when you update.

Thursday 21 July 2016

E2B is Snappy and Chocolatey!

E2B v1.82SDIa_Beta is available for download in the Alternate Download Areas.

Once you have downloaded and added the driverpacks, you will be able to perform a fully automated install of Windows with all drivers and any apps you want too, using an unmodified MS ISO and one of the xxxxxxx_CHOCO_SDI.XMl files on your E2B USB drive.

Wednesday 20 July 2016

E2B progress report

I recently received a nearly new pre-owned Lenovo 300 IdeaPad i5 2TB 8GB notebook. It was a refurbished laptop which I won on eBay (exdemolaptops if you are interested). One of the main requirements for me was a bottom hatch that allows me to quickly swap the hard disk and of course, USB ports!
It has one USB 3 port and two USB 2 ports. I swapped over the 1TB spinny-thing for a 120GB SSD so that I could do Windows Installs as quickly as possible for testing the new Snappy+Choco version of E2B. A completely automated Win10Pro install, including installing 19 drivers and 2 applications takes under 15 minutes.

Thankfully, CSM and UEFI-booting are easily selectable (via Fn+F12) and booting to E2B is really fast on the USB 3 port too!

Sunday 17 July 2016

Automatically install drivers with Snappy Driver Installer

Today I discovered Snappy Driver Installer (SDI). It has been around for a while but I had not heard of it before.

If you don't have all the DriverPacks it needs, SDI will download them via torrents, but it can take a while...

You can download this utility to a USB drive and just run it from any Windows system (XP->Win10, 32-bit or 64-bit). It will look at your hardware and current Windows drivers and then search for a better driver within it's Driverpacks and then install it. The downloads are in 'Driver Packs'. A full download will take 13GB of drive space if you want all the driver packs, or it can be asked to download just the ones you need.

The nice thing about SDI is that you can also run it from the command line and it can be automated.

So using SDI and a few scripts, I added some new folders to my Easy2Boot USB drive.

The folder structure on the E2B USB drive is currently:

      \APPS - contains installers and scripts to execute them
      \DRIVERS\904HA\WIN1032 - contains scripts and special drivers to copy to HDD
      \SNAPPY    - contains the SDI files
      \CONFIGS - contains main .cmd file specified in RunOnce portion of XML file

Thursday 14 July 2016

Add post-install files to a Windows Install (using an unaltered MS ISO)

I have added a bottom section to my previous blog here, detailing how you can inject files and folders automatically into a Windows Install (7/8/10) by using an entry in an XML file. The .iso file is not modified at all. All files are copied from the E2B USB drive.

This means that as well as a fully automated install using an unattend.xml file, we can also cause it to transfer over any files we like (e.g. drivers, apps, registry tweaks, etc.) from the E2B Removable USB drive, without needing to modify the original MS ISO in any way.

It also allows us to add in a \Windows\Setup\Scripts\SetupComplete.cmd file, if required and even run a StartUp.cmd file for first user logon.

The next version of E2B will include a test sample XML file (\_ISO\WINDOWS\WIN10\Auto_WipeDisk0_Win10ProUK_setupcomplete_demo.xml), with some dummy .cmd files which happen to be in \_ISO\e2b\firadisk, so you can test and modify it for yourself if you wish.

This means you can use the same ISO to install different models of PCs with different drivers and applications just be selecting the correct XML file. Your E2B drive can contain folders for machine-specific drivers and different folders for applications, so that you can copy over only those folders that you need.

Of course, how you install the drivers and apps from a cmd file is usually the tricky part, but I leave this up to you!

Add Gentoo + Persistence to E2B

Here is how to boot from a Gentoo ISO file with persistence.

I used the livedvd-x86-amd64-32ul-20140826_gentoo.iso download.

The cheat code needed is in the form aufs=/dev/sdX3  where X is the USB drive.

Since the USB drive number will vary from system to system, we have to try to guess what Gentoo will assign the USB drive as!


Tuesday 12 July 2016

Bug in E2B v1.81 - Please update to v1.81A (bugfix in MAKE_E2B_USB_DRIVE (run as admin).cmd script)

A bug was reported in the v1.81 MAKE_E2B_USB_DRIVE (run as admin).cmd script which causes it to prematurely abort if  C:\bootmgr is not found. After copying over the files, the script checks the size of bootmgr and then copies it to the E2B drive if it is a compatible version - unfortunately if C:\bootmgr does not exist then the script just aborts, and so it does not install grub4dos, leaving you with an unbootable E2B USB drive ('bootmgr is missing' error).

This is now fixed in E2B v1.81A.

The E2B menu will still display "v1.81" because only the make script is affected.

Sunday 10 July 2016

Easy2Boot v1.81 is now released

QR code contains the URL of 'List of tested payload' page on E2B website.

Version 1.81 contains 3 bugfixes (in bold) and a few tweaks...

As always, just download and extract E2B to an empty folder and run the \UPDATE_E2B_DRIVE.cmd file to update all your E2B drives.

v1.81 2016-07-09
  • New grub4dos \grld 0.4.6a 2016-07-04 (grub4dos USB driver may now work better?)
  • $$AddWin2Main.mnu bugfixes for direct booting of Windows Install ISOs from Main menu. 
  • Bugfix for .isope path problems and + make work if iso on 2nd partition (note: .isoPExxx extensions only work correctly on Removable Flash drives, otherwise convert to .imgPTN files). 
  • SWITCH_E2B.exe v1.0.12 bugfix for syslinux booting (also supports .imgptn*2* as well as .imgptn*23* extension for special users - .imgptn*2* is NOT supported by E2B though!).

Saturday 9 July 2016

Which USB 3.0 SATA disk drive enclosure is best for E2B (six enclosure shoot-out)?

USB 3.0 controllers are designed to operate at fast speeds, so it makes sense to buy a USB 3.0 drive enclosure, even if you are going to connect it to a USB 2.0 port. Because I do a lot of work with USB drives, I mostly use a USB 3.0 drive caddy containing an SSD hard disk for maximum speed. I also use a UASP HDD enclosure to get the best possible speed with an SSD drive under Windows.

However, for booting a wide range of systems with E2B, a UASP HDD drive may not be the most compatible option...

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Creating fully unattended XML answer files for Windows 10 Install ISOs for E2B

I detailed in a previous blog here, how to create and modify an XML file to fully automate the installation of Windows 7 and 8.

The process is identical for Windows 10. You need to specify a Product Key in the XML file (same as Win8), although not all ISOs may need it (e.g. some MSDN or Volume Licence ISOs).

The process is:

Sunday 3 July 2016

Adding 'multiboot' WinPE ISOs (such as GeekSquad MRI_5_10_2.ISO) to E2B

If you have an ISO file which contains bootmgr and boots to WinPE, then you can use it with E2B by renaming the file extension to .isoPE or .isoPE01. This only works if you have a Removable E2B USB drive (you should convert the ISO file to a .imgPTN file if your E2B USB drive is of the 'fixed disk' type).

Note: There was a bug in previous E2B versions when using .isoPE and .isoPE01 file extensions (the blue LOADISOPE.cmd console window stopped with an error and the ISO was not loaded). You will need a recent version - e.g.  E2B v1.81 Beta from the Alternate Download Areas (see side bar).

However, if you use the .isoPE file extension, it will cause E2B to immediately load and run bootmgr and so the ISO will boot straight to WinPE and you won't see the non-Windows boot menu, if one was present inside the ISO.

Friday 1 July 2016

Make a basic Easy2Boot MyE2B.cfg configuration file.

If you already have an E2B USB drive, you can easily update it by downloading the latest version of E2B and then run the UPDATE_E2B_DRIVE.cmd script.

Newer versions of E2B have a new version of the MAKE_E2B_USB_DRIVE (run as admin).cmd script, so that when you make a new E2B USB drive, it also asks you some questions about how you want to configure E2B - e.g. language, keyboard, if you want the file extension to be displayed in the menus and if you want the rotating E2B logo to be displayed (with Boiler Plate or QR code).

If you have already made your E2B USB drive, you can run the same script to create a new \_ISO\MyE2B.cfg file by running the \_ISO\docs\Make_E2B_USB_Drive\Make_MyE2B.cfg.cmd script. It will ask you to select a USB drive and then will run through the same questions that MAKE_E2B_USB_DRIVE (run as admin).cmd asks.

QR code in E2B v1.81f

E2B v1.81f will allow you to add a QR code 'STAMP' to the menu wallpaper when you run \MAKE_E2B_USB_DRIVE (run as admin).cmd to make a new E2B drive.

The QR code contains the URL for the E2B website's 'List of tested ISOs/payloads' page, so you can use your mobile phone's QR reader to quickly look up the recommended way to add any payload to your E2B drive if your first attempt did not work!

If your mobile phone does not already have a QR reader, there are many free apps that support QR code scanning. Try it out on the screenshot below now...