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Booting XP/Vista into RAM - have I got this at all right?


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#1 yvonne

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Posted 21 September 2007 - 07:10 AM

Hi all great to be here...
I'm a relentless geek and a bit newbie-ish, actually compared to the gurus here i would be considered clueless.
I've successfully gotten my 1 gig flash to boot from USB into RAM though only with BartPE.
Here's what I wanna do.

And, IS ANYTHING [other than Number 1] below POSSIBLE?!?



1) boot XP [or vista if slicker-smarter-easier] FROM my USB stick INTO ram.

2) Be able to install programs to the running in ram booted OS or to the USB OS files themselves?

3) Or, is the only way to create a hard drive just the way I want it with drivers and programs and THEN create an image from it that boots into ram.


There's like about 20 questions I have from reading so much cool stuff here. Basically though, I think there a handful of BEST ways to go about things.


MY GOAL: have my OS running totally in ram [paging file off] with my nvidia drivers, a few other drivers and a few programs that need to actually be installed that I can't virtualize. I wanna use this RAM running OS as my primary day to day operating system.
It doesn't need to change much as most all of my apps are portable and/or virtualized and on another drive [not boot drive]

Stock BartPE isn't what I'm needing.

I really enjoyed reading here and around for days on end... and am ready to get really into it.

Can anyone help me with the way to get my flash drive booting XP [or Vista] with exactly what I need on there and having it be my primary OS?

I guess i'd actually be fine with just booting off my flash drive and writing back to it to start with.... as long as it runs just like a hard drive ... also, if i HAVE to create an image from my hard drive which is setup just the way I want it that's OK too...

I don't mind how much hassle it is...
Just wanna be able to find out exactly what is possible ...

huge thanks for any Guru comments.... obviously.

#2 MedEvil

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Posted 21 September 2007 - 10:43 AM

I'm not sure i understand, what you're exactly looking for.

- Do you wann put a full featured XP/Vista on your drive or a slimmed down but feature reduced version like a PE?
- Do you wanna use a USB-Stck or a flash drive? Do you already have it or think about getting one?

If i wanted to have a HDD-less PC i would simply use a 'Compact Flash' memory card and a ide adapter. Then add some trickery to stop/reduce the writes to it, like FWBF, EWF or Ramboot and be set.

:loleverybody:

#3 Oleg_II

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Posted 21 September 2007 - 11:09 AM

There is MobileOS project for WinBuilder :loleverybody: In my opinion it's easy to make such installation manually (especially if you don't mind). The procedure was discribed on this site and on 911cd.net.

#4 yvonne

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 01:14 AM

Hi Oleg_II, MedEvil and everyone...

Just back, wish I coulda written sooner.
So yeah... have read a bit about mobileOS and a lotta other stuff.
Just really need to find the coolest way [if possible] to have a fully functioning XP install as my main OS running from a USB key.
So yes, it should work like a regular XP install mostly.

I'll read some more based on your post thanks...
I am pretty fuzzy on the may ways to do stuff.

Like, do I create a hard drive with my drivers and stuff on it and the few programs I need to install then create an image from that?
And IF I wanted to ADD drivers or programs to it could I update the image... or maybe it can write back to the hard drive image? or the USB drive when I shut down? There's been a lot of clues though I'm not sure what's possible..
I'd even be ok with just running my OS off the flash drive and not in ram. [fat32 and with the driver to lessen the writes and stuff]

Then there's the question about the image can only be 500 meg. and also that supposedly you can have more than one image on two flash drives... and on and on it goes...
I figure I've basically touched on all the best threads on the main forums by now... I would like to get busy and try to run an nLite'd XP from the flash drive.

Gonna do some more reading now.

it's grub4dos also I think that's best..?

If you have any comments that would be cool. I'm kinda late though on writing. sorry about that.

#5 Oleg_II

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 02:32 AM

yvonne
If you want it FULL (don't want to reduce files and components) and want to change things in your system from time to time (like adding drivers or install updates), the simplest way would be installing OS to USB. There are a couple of solutions: first and second.

You can also use boot in RAM solution with XP but some work required (like turning off pagefile and some other system functions). You can place about 1GB of files on a compressed disk image in RAM with SETUPLDR.BIN and RAMDISK.SYS files (described here). For saving place on disk image the programs may be ran from other medea (like running them from the same USB).

And if you don't mind of some time spending :cheers: you may try to reduce your system (remove not needed components and files) and even move some system files to other location (like to virtual disk in MobileOS).

#6 ktp

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 06:20 AM

The second solution mentioned (usboot.org) has an incomplete Quickstart.txt documentation.
In phase1 after opening the cmd console, I guess one must type usboot.exe to start the process.

#7 yvonne

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 10:45 PM

Cool, i'll be able to re-read and hunt around 'more smarter' thank to the comments ...
I guess the ultimate goal is to have the OS running in ram.... so that means I HAVE to create an image?

Also, even though I don't mind killing my USB flash for the purpose of experimenting I guess I'll need a USB hard drive.
Or, an IDE drive which I guess would be faster though it would be harder to remove I guess.

So.. now I'm wondering is there any way to have the OS running and upgradeable/changeable from USB AND running in ram....without creating an image...
OR,,,, if I have to create an image file is there some slick way to install stuff while the OS is running in ram and then have that saved to the image...?

I don't mind even if I have to have an install just like the USB image on a hard drive and then do installs to the hard drive and re-create the image.... this would have to be easy enough to make sense of doing it every week or few days even maybe...

Any comments on the above appreciated....obviously!

ADDED NOTE: I have a 20 gig USB2 external 2.5 inch 4800 rpm hard drive i'm hoping to try stuff wth.

#8 MedEvil

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 01:08 AM

I know this doesn't really fit this topic, but fiddeling with the text setup part of XP, i noticed something.
Xp setup is not ment to be able to be run from USB. (Wrong driver installtion on boot up.)
But the installation for Firewire seemed fine for booting. :cheers:

Has anyone ever heared about a computer that can boot from a Firewire drive and has not Mac in the name?

:cheers:

#9 Oleg_II

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 06:53 AM

yvonne
You shouldn't have any problem installing application when running system in RAM. The problem may be in saving changes.
NIKZZZZ created a tool - Image Creator - that can save your running image. Look for it in Development section. It may help (I didn't tried it for this purpose yet).

#10 yvonne

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 07:11 AM

Yes Oleg_II! I had heard about that though didn't know IF or what I read for sure... that wil be very helpful...thank you.

I wil soon be trying www.usboot.org [www. seems to be need to get to site] system first as it seems he has taken Dietmar's system and made some scripts and stuff. Then I will try dietmar's tutorial 3 and tutorial 5 system.... I don't yet know if they are both needed or if 3 and 5 are 2 different ways to do it.

I think that neither of these boot a full XP into RAM... so, I'm now wondering what I will need to remember of find out to get the USB drive's install booting into ram AND how BEST to do it...

Then there's you tip about writing back the ram contents to an image...

So:

1) www.usboot.org system

2) Dietmar's tutorial 3 AND? 5

3) find out BEST way to create image for ram running... AND, if it HAS to be an image AND if it has to be under 500 meg generally. I already had a stock bartPE running in ram with the 2003 server usb ram .sys file thing.

4) Then if it's necessary [I think it is:)] I'll look into getting geeky-good at the ram to image writing program you told me about...!

umm.... I've gotten quite far thanks to everyone!!!

So... the above stuff is now still being pondered...


cool...!

#11 niche99

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Posted 21 October 2007 - 08:43 PM

I wil soon be trying www.usboot.org [www. seems to be need to get to site] system first as it seems he has taken Dietmar's system and made some scripts and stuff. Then I will try dietmar's tutorial 3 and tutorial 5 system.... I don't yet know if they are both needed or if 3 and 5 are 2 different ways to do it.

I think that neither of these boot a full XP into RAM... so, I'm now wondering what I will need to remember of find out to get the USB drive's install booting into ram AND how BEST to do it...


Hi yvonne,

I have successfully used the method from www.usboot.org to create a bootable External USB drive that boots a Windows XP Professional OS on motherboards capable of booting USB devices. Since this is pretty much as fast as a normal IDE drive I have no need to boot this system into RAM. For motherboards that cannot boot USB Devices, I have created a basic Winbuilder OS in RAM CD (currently about 74MB) that junctions %ProgramFiles% to the External USB drive, so all non system files are run from the External USB Drive. The Winbuilder ISO in RAM is possible through the use of the great BootSDI script found on these forums. I must admit to being a little confused as to the advantages of having a full OS running in RAM, unless one had huge amounts of RAM.

niche99

#12 Melekai

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Posted 06 November 2007 - 02:52 AM

Hi yvonne,

I have successfully used the method from www.usboot.org to create a bootable External USB drive that boots a Windows XP Professional OS on motherboards capable of booting USB devices. Since this is pretty much as fast as a normal IDE drive I have no need to boot this system into RAM. For motherboards that cannot boot USB Devices, I have created a basic Winbuilder OS in RAM CD (currently about 74MB) that junctions %ProgramFiles% to the External USB drive, so all non system files are run from the External USB Drive. The Winbuilder ISO in RAM is possible through the use of the great BootSDI script found on these forums. I must admit to being a little confused as to the advantages of having a full OS running in RAM, unless one had huge amounts of RAM.

niche99


Hey guys. i just joined these forums to join in on these chats.
heres what im looking for:
A method to RUN XP/VISTA from ram. (the install can take place on the original harddrive. the idea is that a local harddrive(or image) has the core system files ie. installed drivers, registry etc and can be updated if so chosen. perhaps even by using somethign similar to norton ghost? then run the OS directly from ram. along with a small ramdrive for swapfile (windows never has worked weill with swap turned off from my experiments.)
Why? becuase i want to. :cheers: ill be a getting a pc with 8 gig of ram. and im looking into new ways of benchmarking :cheers:

I'm a bit of an XP modder. not much i suppose. just into Nlite and slipstreaming. moving the software and userfolders around. etc. i also tend to remove lots of unneeded components. my last install lies at 1.6 gig windows directory after install of all programs. though thats with tons of drivers etc. I'm sure i can make it smaller and more efficiant than that.

im just not really sure where to start. im gonna check some of the links out here. but im not sure if what i want is possible. (somtimes i contemplate getting a I-ram. just to get it installed on that :cheers: they are a tiny bit too expensive though. and too small to fit vista anyway).

#13 ktp

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 04:54 PM

Just to share my experience using usboot.org method of booting XP from external USB HDD.

It works well for me. Before phase-III I use BartPE to copy the necessary directories/files from IDE disk to USB,
this avoids the need for freshly formatted HDD as required by the program. Otherwise you can also use any kind of disk image
restore. The quickstart documentation is not very clear, at start phase-III you must plug the USB HDD, and run 'usboot phase-III'
command. This will ask for target USB disk to prepare. Afterwards you can boot on USB HDD.

It is really interesting from backup and rescue point of view by having a fully, same operational XP (no need for plug-in etc..). It does not replace
a multiboot USB key with BartPE though since the latter could be booted in any system, while the USB HDD can only be booted
on your personalized one (different chipset, hardware...).

#14 niche99

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 06:16 PM

It is really interesting from backup and rescue point of view by having a fully, same operational XP (no need for plug-in etc..). It does not replace
a multiboot USB key with BartPE though since the latter could be booted in any system, while the USB HDD can only be booted
on your personalized one (different chipset, hardware...).


This is not the case. I have used my USB hard drive to boot a variety of PCs and Laptops, not just my own PC. The only restriction I have found is whether the motherboard can boot USB devices. As for chipsets, all you need to do is extract the DriverPacks to your USB Hard drive, then modify the DevicePath to point to the extracted Driverpacks in the USB hard Drive registry, use a tool called sysprep wizard to generate the DevicePath. Windows will then find any drivers needed. Just make sure you have a clean image of your USB hard drive to rollback to after you work on another PC or laptop.
If I can't boot the USB drive, I use a WinBuilder RAM CD which reads all other data from the USB Hard Drive.

niche99

#15 ktp

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 06:41 PM

@niche99

Wow, it sounds very interesting, and all new for me. Could you post some links, references, how to get them about :
- Driver packs
- sysprep wizard
So the driver packs will handle any specific hardware like video, sound, network card, pcmcia, webcam, TV card etc... ?
It we can boot any USB-boot capable system, with full personalized settings/applications as main PC/laptop, then BartPE/WinPE are no longer needed ?

Questions :
1- image to rollback: so each time after you booted on a different system you have to restore the "referenced" disk image to the disk ? This would take time and not practical ?
2- WinBuilder RAM CD : I do not know this, but is there any advantage against a BartPE/WinPE/VistaPE CD ?

#16 ktp

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 07:36 PM

OK after some searching I got some related information on chipset/hardware problems:
http://www.usboot.or...ight=driverpack

The "driver pack" seems to be the so called BTS Driver packs.
http://ubertechnique...TS_Driver_Packs

#17 niche99

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 09:53 PM

Question 1:
Setup your USB Hard Drive as you want it to be. Then take an image of it using DriveImage XML or TrueImage etc.
Then use it to rescue other PCs or laptops, which will probably install drivers during your rescue. After rescue is complete, restore the USB Hard Drive to it's clean state using the image.

Question 2:
If you have an older PC or laptop that does not boot USB Devices you still need BartPE or WinBuilder. I use a WinBuilder bootable CD that boots into RAM. Look for the native_EX project on these forums. This project aims to create a minimal functional bootable XP environment that can be booted from a CD. Currently my WinBuilder Bootable RAM CD uses about 80MB of RAM to boot. I have then junctioned the Program Files folder on the CD to my USB Hard Drive. So, registry entries for all my rescue programs are loaded into RAM but the data files and program files are stored and used from my USB Hard Drive. This keeps the size of the RAM bootable CD small.

DriverPacks here:
http://driverpacks.net/

SysPrep Driver Scanner here:
http://www.vernalex....ols/index.shtml

niche99

#18 ktp

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Posted 16 November 2007 - 05:04 AM

@niche99
Thank you very much for the information. I will try the BTS Driver packs/Sysprep method.
For point 1), I am wondering whether using a previous XP restore point could be possible instead of imaging back.

#19 niche99

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Posted 16 November 2007 - 06:14 AM

@niche99
Thank you very much for the information. I will try the BTS Driver packs/Sysprep method.
For point 1), I am wondering whether using a previous XP restore point could be possible instead of imaging back.


As far as I am aware, System Restore only takes a snapshot of the registry and some system files that may include drivers. If you want to be absolutely sure that your USB hard drive reverts to a clean known state after rescuing an unknown or untrusted PC, I would use disk imaging software. I use DriveImageXML, it's free and works well. On an XP installation with around 3GB of data it only takes on average 15 mins to image and less time to restore the image, not long at all.

niche99

#20 ktp

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Posted 16 November 2007 - 07:04 AM

@niche99

OK, I agree that imaging back is the surest solution. For your information, DriveImage XML is free but is a little slow. I use DriveSnapshot, and got backup rate of about 1200 MB/mn, about 12 mn to backup 14 GB of data in C:.

#21 ktp

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Posted 16 November 2007 - 07:39 AM

@niche99

I have a question about BTS Driver Pack: it contain a Base pack with an utility to slipstream all the BTS driver pack to an existing XP installation (i386 directory).
Could it be used ? If yes, why then do we need sysprep wizard ?

Edit: I find the answer myself. sysprep wizard is much simpler in this case, and the c:\sysprep\drivers can be updated easily. When a needed driver is
required, they are searched.

By the way, unfortunately (deception !) when I take my 'usbooted' USB HDD to boot on other PC, XP hang at logo screen (animated progression bar stopped).
I have to try to prepare another usbooted hdd to check. If it works, at least it will be useful, although it could not be used as an universal XP boot. In this case,
plain old BartPE/VistaPE is needed, but with less bells and whistles as full-blown XP (like running VMware etc...).

#22 ktp

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Posted 16 November 2007 - 11:03 AM

On the laptop that hangs upon boot from a 'usbooted' HDD, I prepare the usbboot procedure on this laptop.
At end of phase-I, a reboot is necessary. Upon reboot, hang at XP logo screen, no way to back to previous good configuration.
I did not even try safe mode. Thank to my disk image made immediately before the experimentation, I am back in
business in less than 20 minutes.

So usboot seems to work only on some systems. So now I abandon usboot, and wil try the other method ( http://www.ngine.de/...jsp?pageid=4176 )
which seems to be much safer since documented, change only in install XP .inf files. One cannot convert an existing XP installation though, but needs to
install from scratch. Afterwards, if this is OK I will try to add the sysprep/BTS driver packs method.

#23 niche99

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Posted 16 November 2007 - 12:47 PM

I have tried many methods of preparing a USB Hard Drive to boot Windows XP. usboot.org is the only method I have found to work so far.

This is how I got it to work.
1. Create a Virtual machine in VMWare big enough to hold a fresh XP installation.
2. Install Windows XP in the Virtual Machine.
3. After XP is installed, mount the Virtual Machine as a drive letter in explorer.
4. Use this drive letter as the source that phase III uses.

Because the Virtual Machine uses very generic chipsets, few driver problems should result when the USB Hard Drive is used to boot another PC or laptop.

Good Luck,
niche99

#24 ktp

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Posted 16 November 2007 - 01:17 PM

3. After XP is installed, mount the Virtual Machine as a drive letter in explorer.
4. Use this drive letter as the source that phase III uses.

Because the Virtual Machine uses very generic chipsets, few driver problems should result when the USB Hard Drive is used to boot another PC or laptop.

Good Luck,
niche99

OK thank niche99 for the update.

3) Now strangely I cannot mount the VM disk, although I already disabled snap shot. I have *.vmdk files, -s001.vmdk, -s005.vmdk files, no files
are accepted to be mounted. I did shut down the VM machine. Very strange ? VMware said: Error reading volume information.
4) source? let's say the mounted drive is X:, so I have x:\usboot\usboot.exe.
So under XP (that is not prepared at all), I type x:\usboot\usboot.exe phase-III . Is it?
then I will answer the target drive the letter F: (drive letter assigned to plugged USB HDD).
Could you confirm this ?

#25 niche99

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Posted 16 November 2007 - 02:00 PM

You will need to download the VMWare Mount tool from VMware.

Have a look at this site for some useful VMware mount GUI tools:
http://petruska.star...are/VMware.html

Point 4 sounds right to me, can't remember exactly.
I do know that
1. Your normal XP installation on your laptop or PC should remain untouched.
2. The XP installation on the Virtual Machine should be modified by USBOOT and the result should be copied to your USB Hard Drive.
I remember that I elected to install USB Boot driver guard also as part of the USBOOT process, can't remember what stage this is configured. If I remember correctly it took me a couple of tries to get it right, but it does work, for me at least.
If I have the time or inclination, I may try it again and document my findings.

niche99




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