How to prep a USB stick for booting and which formats to use for best performance?
Posted 26 March 2011 - 06:50 PM
Anyway, in terms of performance, what format should be used for flash drives (FAT, FAT32, NTFS)? (and does it matter whether I use Win7 diskpart, HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool, or some other utility to do the formatting?)
Does the number of partitions matter? (e.g. would be a good idea to create a separate boot partition on the flash drive?)
Is it better to transfer the WinPE or Windows files directly onto the flash drive, or to load it from a VHD, IMG or some other file placed on the USB stick? (What about using WinToFlash or similar utility?)
Does the choice of master boot code (nt52, nt60, grub or something else) impact the performance of systems loaded from VHD or similar files?
In the case of my Win7-VHD boot attempt from USB, I updated the USB stick's MBR to nt52 and copied WinXP boot files to it (ntldr, boot.ini, and additionally grub4dos and vboot files that could be accessed from boot.ini). That was the easiest (most familiar) way for me because that's how I have it set up on my local hard disk (WinXP). But I was wondering if that was a bad way to do it? I could have used nt60 instead or grub directly I suppose? Compatibility issues aside, what's best in terms of USB performance and speed?
Posted 06 April 2011 - 08:09 AM
Here's the setup I used to get this far:
Flash drive: 16 GB Kingston DataTraveler R500 (with advertised read/write speeds of 30/20 MB/s)
Format: NTFS (active primary partition) using win7's diskpart
Source: 32-bit Windows 7 Ultimate installed on a 10 GB VHD and compacted with IMG_XP onto the flash drive (the original install to 10 GB VHD was done using vboot, but I removed the vboot driver before using VHD_W7_Compact to avoid conflict)
Boot code: I copied bootmgr and boot folder from the source to the flash drive and then edited its BCD with EasyBCD (I deleted the old boot entry, then Add New Entry -> Virtual Disk -> NeoSmart VHD Image entry with Win7-1.VHD selected from the flash drive and force portability option checked).
Note: You probably shouldn't need EasyBCD in addition to IMG_XP, but I had some trouble getting the compacted image to boot:
Edited by pajenn, 06 April 2011 - 08:10 AM.
Posted 06 April 2011 - 01:44 PM
Entry #2 is how it looks right after I've added it. Entry #1 is how it looks once I've booted with it and run EasyBCD from the 2 GB Windows 7.
Edited by pajenn, 06 April 2011 - 01:45 PM.
Posted 06 April 2011 - 03:45 PM
1) Start with external USB hard drive; partition a smallish (30-40GB) primary/active (NTFS) and partition the remainder for backup.
2) Use Acronis, Macrium Reflect, Drive Image, Ghost etc. to restore your favorite backup image to the primary partition of the USB (formatting/partitioning can be done on the fly if supported by your imaging SW). The source image needs to be created on real hardware with a matching architecture to the machines you want to boot but otherwise, no special setup is required (other than the following patch).
3) After restoring image to USB (from PE or regular windows), apply PWBoot patch from here http://reboot.pro/6851/ and boot to the USB drive. That's it!
You could use SysPrep or other for a more 'universal' image but I prefer to just keep a few images to restore as needed (32/64bit, XP/W7 etc.) for faster/easier setup time. Tested successfully on a variety of hardware, below is full Win7x64sp1 booting on different hardware than created. There is also a variety of PE's (LiveXP, Win7PE_SE, Rescue Media etc.) available at boot menu if needed because they were there (on the source machine) at image creation so no additional/special setup needed on USB drive and performance is virtually indistinguishable from internal boot.
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