Sunday 5 May 2024

How to improve your Ventoy USB drive!

Ventoy is a very good multiboot solution but it lacks some features and has some legacy compatibility issues. A common problem is that Linux distros keep changing and they break Ventoy compatibility and so you find that you cannot boot to the latest Linux ISO any more and have to wait for a Ventoy update. Using E2B or grubfm can often solve this issue.

Here is how to enhance your Ventoy USB drive and make it much more compatible and reliable. E2B and grubfm use a more compatible and universal method to boot Linux ISOs (but it requires the ISO to be contiguous and USB partition 4 must be unused).

Step 1 - Make the USB drive
Make a Ventoy USB drive using MBR partitions.
Format the large first partition (1) as NTFS for better Windows VHD compatibility.
The Ventoy Secure Boot option can be chosen if required.
The Ventoy download also includes utilities such as ventoyplugson.exe which launches a web-based GUI useful for configuring the ventoy.json file. You may want to copy this to the \ventoy folder too.

Step 2 - add plugins
Download the Ventoy Windows VHD  plugin and copy it to a \ventoy folder on the USB drive.
Add Wimboot plugin files if required.

Step 3 - add E2B files
Add Easy2Boot to the USB drive - see here for details.
Note that E2B requires most ISOs to be contiguous (Run 'Make this file contiguous.cmd' in the root of the USB drive).
Easy2Boot adds a lot of functionality, especially when in legacy mode.
  • Boot DOS images
  • Boot and install XP from ISO with Mass Storage Drivers
  • Install Win98/Win2K
  • Generic method of legacy-booting Linux ISOs which Ventoy may not support
  • Use SDI_CHOCO to automate Legacy Windows 7/8/10/11 installs with drivers and apps
  • Run PassPass to bypass Windows User Account passwords (legacy Windows)
  • Access a password protected Windows account using UtilMan automated method
Note: E2B Partition images (.imgPTN) and some other E2B features are NOT supported and will not work unless you make a standard E2B USB drive (which also includes Ventoy and agFM). This is unfortunate because imgPTN files allows us to UEFI secure boot any OS without needing MOK Manager or Keys or Certificates - i.e no Secure Boot issues! An E2B USB drive includes 'Ventoy for Easy2Boot v1.0.97' and grubfm (agFM) and also supports .imgPTN files as well as Ventoy image files so you can always transform the USB drive into a Ventoy drive which is the latest version whenever you wish.

Step 4 - add grubfm
Download and add the grubfm_multiarch.iso file - see here for details.
This may allow you to legacy and UEFI-boot some ISOs, etc. which Ventoy has problems with. Particularly if you try the 'partnew\E2B' boot option when prompted. This uses the same boot method employed by E2B and requires the ISO file to be contiguous - it may successfully boot a Linux ISO that Ventoy cannot.

Step 5 - add Medicat files
Medicat is actually based on Ventoy and contains lots of useful ISOs, etc. You can extract the contents of the large Medicat download file directly onto your Ventoy USB drive.

Note that it may contain older versions of some Ventoy plugins and it also contains a \ventoy\ventoy.json file which you may need to merge with your own ventoy.json if you already have made one. It also has a Medicat theme, but you can change this using ventoyplugson.exe so that it uses the default Ventoy one instead if you wish.

Step 6 - change the theme

You can change the theme. I like the '20 menu entries per page Seven-of-Nine' theme here because it lists more ISOs on the screen.

You can get more information from my eBooks including an eBook on Ventoy + various exercises and theme downloads, etc. :-). It also has loads of hints and tips and tells you how to make your own themes, etc.

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