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Universal HDD Image files for XP and Windows 7

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#51 wimb

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Posted 09 June 2010 - 11:37 AM

Fair enough, but in this case, please could you explain a bit more what the purpose of IMG_XP_Create is when "install RAMBOOT image" is not ticked ? I thought it was doing the very same job, except, as it says on the tin, it does not create an IMG, and simply happens to copy the WINDOWS source directory (with a few registry tweaks on top, etc...)

Of course I understand that you have NOT enough RAM to boot from FiraDisk RAMDISK.
But just following the described procedure would have Created the XPRAM_1.img file
which you would have Restored on USB by using IMG_XP_Restore.exe

But again, what did you do to get the Windows directory on USB ?
IMG_XP_Create does NOT do that, it will create an Image File XPRAM_1.img

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#52 Doodoo

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Posted 09 June 2010 - 11:44 AM

But just following the described procedure would have Created the XPRAM_1.img file which you would have Restored on USB by using IMG_XP_Restore.exe
But again, what did you do to get the Windows directory on USB ?

Sorry, wimb, I've just realised I made a confusion... :)

Instead of using IMG_XP_Create to generate XPRAM_1.img then using IMG_XP_Restore, I have directly used IMG_XP_Restore pointing it to the WINDOWS source directory (not to the image). Is that supposed to do the same thing in one go ? (at least, that's what I thought)

#53 MedEvil

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Posted 09 June 2010 - 11:48 AM

I don't recall if IMG_XP_Create sets the needed USB drivers to boot start. Essentially, you can accomplish it by setting the following drivers' Start value to 0 (meaning boot-time):

* usbccgp
* usbehci
* usbhub
* usbstor
* usbuhci

If i remember right, this isn't enough. One also has to change the Group to System Bus Extender.

:)

#54 wimb

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Posted 09 June 2010 - 12:01 PM

Sorry, wimb, I've just realised I made a confusion... :)

Instead of using IMG_XP_Create to generate XPRAM_1.img then using IMG_XP_Restore, I have directly used IMG_XP_Restore pointing it to the WINDOWS source directory (not to the image). Is that supposed to do the same thing in one go ? (at least, that's what I thought)

OK.

Yes IMG_XP_Restore can do it in one go, but then for XP it is NOT Universal.
The USB registry tweaks will have been made correctly.

For Windows 7 you can do it in one go,
but for XP you need to boot first from FiraDisk RAMDISK with XPRAM_1.img
(so for XP you need Create + Update + Restore)

Get more RAM in your computer solves your problem.

#55 Doodoo

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Posted 09 June 2010 - 12:13 PM

Yes IMG_XP_Restore can do it in one go, but then for XP it is NOT Universal.

Many thanks for this clarification, wimb ! You're going to think I'm a bit thick, but can I ask a few more details ?

for XP you need to boot first from FiraDisk RAMDISK with XPRAM_1.img
(so for XP you need Create + Update + Restore)

As I said, booting from FiraDisk RAMDISK is not an option for me... Is Create + Restore (or possibly Restore alone) going to create a XP (on USB stick) bootable on any hardware ? (I understand this is not what you mean by "universal", right ?)

Because I have installed the EWF filter, the learning process is naturally going to take place step by step every time I disable the EWF and commit the changes to the USB stick. Does it make sense ?

#56 wimb

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Posted 09 June 2010 - 12:24 PM

Many thanks for this clarification, wimb ! You're going to think I'm a bit thick, but can I ask a few more details ?


As I said, booting from FiraDisk RAMDISK is not an option for me... Is Create + Restore (or possibly Restore alone) going to create a XP (on USB stick) bootable on any hardware ? (I understand this is not what you mean by "universal", right ?)

Because I have installed the EWF filter, the learning process is naturally going to take place step by step every time I disable the EWF and commit the changes to the USB stick. Does it make sense ?

Get more RAM in your computer allows you to boot from FiraDisk RAMDISK.

Why EWF filter ?
USB-stick is rather slow to boot and work with full XP from USB.

Better is to use USB-harddisk for this purpose (much faster).

#57 Doodoo

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Posted 09 June 2010 - 01:22 PM

Get more RAM in your computer allows you to boot from FiraDisk RAMDISK.

Well it's not as simple as that... Anyway my comp does not support USB 2.0 at boot time so it would take ages to load a 2 Gb image into RAM. Plus when you need to make changes or launch a virus sweep on any old computer around, you can't always start by adding more RAM.

Why EWF filter ?

Because it would quicly kill my USB stick without it (after approximately 100.000 writing-processes)

USB-stick is rather slow to boot and work with full XP from USB. Better is to use USB-harddisk for this purpose (much faster).

Yes but a USB stick could also be a micro-SD card... Just a lot more convenient to carry around than a HDD. Plus you can even put the micro-SD in your digital camera and it will kill 2 birds with one stone.

Please could you explictly address this question(s) ?

Is Create + Restore (or possibly Restore alone) going to create a XP (on USB stick) bootable on any hardware ? (I understand this is not what you mean by "universal", right ?)



#58 wimb

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Posted 09 June 2010 - 05:22 PM

Well it's not as simple as that... Anyway my comp does not support USB 2.0 at boot time so it would take ages to load a 2 Gb image into RAM. Plus when you need to make changes or launch a virus sweep on any old computer around, you can't always start by adding more RAM.

It is your own computer on which you want to prepare your Image that needs more RAM.
In that case you can use grub4dos menu on your HDD instead of USB to boot very fast XPRAM_1.img Image from FiraDisk RAMDISK.
So you don't launch the Image from USB and don't need fast boot from USB.
Simply use BOOT_IMG.exe to Install XPRAM_1.img as boot option in grub4dos menu on your HDD.

In using full XP booting from USB on other computers you don't need that amount of RAM.

I have the feeling that you don't need full XP booting from USB at all.
If you are interested in a handy Service solution,
then boot with LiveXP BootSDI.img or with Portable Windows 7 PE pe3_x86.iso Boot Image File from grub4dos menu.
Those Image files are 120-220 MB and provide a perfect PE environment from which you are able to do your Service work.
http://www.911cd.net...o...21883&st=35

Yes but a USB stick could also be a micro-SD card... Just a lot more convenient to carry around than a HDD. Plus you can even put the micro-SD in your digital camera and it will kill 2 birds with one stone.

The portable 2.5 Inch USB-HDD of 320 GB is easy to carry (no power supply needed) .....

Create + Restore will make USB-HDD bootable only on that (type) machine.
Universal means that you want it to be bootable on various types of hardware (e.g. Intel and AMD)
Therefore you need to boot XP from FiraDisk RAMDISK on those machines.
For each type of machine the registry is then learning how to boot
and you will Update the image file with registry settings and the extra installed drivers.
After this learning you have a Universal image which can be Restored on USB-HDD.

Then you are able to boot with XP from USB-HDD on a lot of machines.

#59 Doodoo

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 10:04 AM

Many thanks for your time, wimb, and for all the detailed information you provide. I have spent an awfull lot of time reading many threads, and I have to say it's quite tricky for a novice to digest all the information and understand how it all ties up.

Anyway, just a few more comments below.

In that case you can use grub4dos menu on your HDD instead of USB to boot very fast XPRAM_1.img Image from FiraDisk RAMDISK.
So you don't launch the Image from USB and don't need fast boot from USB.

Fair enough:
  • In order to solve the speed problem, XPRAM_1.img can be booted from from HDD instead of USB (I have tried PLOP to boot from USB, with no sucess).
  • In order to solve the RAM problem, I can report sucess on booting XPRAM_1.img with WinVBlock and a file-backed disk instead of FiraDisk and a RAM-disk (the IMG still residing on HDD - Can't get it to work for now when it resides on USB - Even with USB 1.1 at boot-time, speed isn't a problem as the whole image is not loaded upfront).
Presumably if an IMG on USB can be booted with WinVBlock and a file-backed disk, this would make IMG_XP_Update obsolete, as the IMG would be transparently updated on every machine the USB device is connected to ?

If you are interested in a handy Service solution, then boot with LiveXP BootSDI.img or with Portable Windows 7 PE pe3_x86.iso Boot Image File from grub4dos menu.

I don't have Windows 7 and don't intend to purchase it... Plus my current hardware would never cope with it so I would have to buy a whole new PC actually. LiveXP is an option but Winbuilder takes 2 hours to execute on my current hardware, and I have to say there are just too many settings for my liking... When something goes wrong, you just don't know where to look if you're not an expert.

Create + Restore will make USB-HDD bootable only on that (type) machine.

OK I suppose this is a very important statement. What you're saying is that:
  • Create alone will produce an IMG that can be booted (from RAM-disk or from a file-backed disk) on any hardware
  • But Create + Restore (or Restore alone) will make a HDD only bootable on specific hardware (presumably the hardware where Restore is used)

After this learning you have a Universal image which can be Restored on USB-HDD. Then you are able to boot with XP from USB-HDD on a lot of machines.

If my understanding is correct
  • when the image is "universal" because the registry and drivers can cope with many types of hardware,
  • then a USB-HDD can be restored and booted [with all drivers installed] on many machines,
  • but each individual USB-HDD is hardware specific (a USB-HDD restored on machine A wouldn't boot if attached to machine :)


#60 wimb

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 01:49 PM

If my understanding is correct

  • when the image is "universal" because the registry and drivers can cope with many types of hardware,
  • then a USB-HDD can be restored and booted [with all drivers installed] on many machines,
  • but each individual USB-HDD is hardware specific (a USB-HDD restored on machine A wouldn't boot if attached to machine :)

If the Image File is made Universal (contains registry info + drivers for various hardware)
then after Restore on USB-HDD it will be bootable with XP from USB on a lot of machines,
so it is no longer hardware specific (so your last statement was too narrow).

Also you can Restore direct the Universal Image file on primary partition of HDD in computer with any hardware.

#61 Doodoo

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 02:06 PM

Thanks wimb !
One more attempt to draw a conclusion:

  • Create will produce an IMG that can be booted (from RAM-disk or from a file-backed disk) on absolutely any hardware [well... as long as the mass storage drivers are there, at least]
  • Restore will only allow to boot from hardwares which have already been encountered during the learning process [or for which drivers were already there in the first place]


#62 MedEvil

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 03:39 PM

Could someone tell my, why this learning process? Why not doing it the PE way and installing all Mass Sorage Drivers by default?

:D

#63 Sha0

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 04:05 PM

A RAM disk is the only guaranteed disk for Windows on any hardware (other than hardware lacking enough RAM). A couple of nice things about using a "learning process":
  • If you work for an organization with a finite number of models to support, and the IT department receives development time with new models, your Registry will contain only what is needed for your hardware pool
  • By booting to a RAM disk, you have the opportunity to install all other devices on the hardware platform, beyond the storage adapter. Thus, you've prepped the image to boot on the hardware again some day. Including just the storage system drivers means the image will boot, but you will still need to install devices anyway


#64 Doodoo

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 04:15 PM

A RAM disk is the only guaranteed disk for Windows on any hardware (other than hardware lacking enough RAM)

Is a file-backed disk just as "universally recognised" ? Or does it merely solve the RAM problem ?

#65 Sha0

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 04:43 PM

No, a sector-mapped disk requires that the backing disk and its storage adapter are available. A file-backed disk requires that the backing filesystem is available, which for disk filesystems, also requires that the backing disk and its storage adapter are available. Booting from a file thus has the same requirements as a "normal" Windows, whereas a RAM disk boot doesn't require anything beyond a CPU and RAM (roughly). The nice thing about an image file is its portability, though.

#66 Doodoo

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 04:57 PM

:D Sorry for the naive question, but what I don't really understand, is that in order to load an image file into RAM, you need to have some understanding of the file system used to store the image anyway ? So why is it different ? :)

#67 MedEvil

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 05:38 PM

The initial loading of the OS is done by BIOS only later the OS switches to own drivers. (When the WinXP logo shows up)
In case of a Ramdisk boot. The whole ramdisk is loaded into ram by the BIOS. Hence the OS does not need to have any drivers, but the ones for the ramdisk to continue.

:D

#68 MedEvil

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 05:59 PM

If you work for an organization with a finite number of models to support, and the IT department receives development time with new models, your Registry will contain only what is needed for your hardware pool

If you know beforehand what drivers are needed, only those drivers can be included right from the start without learning.
That's how my personal PE works. It has all mass storage drivers, but for everything else only drivers for devices i own.

Having a LiveOS, which works only on some, instead of all computers, sounds rather like a disadvantage than an advantage.

By booting to a RAM disk, you have the opportunity to install all other devices on the hardware platform, beyond the storage adapter. Thus, you've prepped the image to boot on the hardware again some day. Including just the storage system drivers means the image will boot, but you will still need to install devices anyway

Seeing that people appearantly have the time to load a multi GB Ramdisk, i would guess they also have the 30 seconds to install the drivers on the fly.

Still i think, all your points are valid and surely some people will like it. I just fail to see the advantage, that would justify the additional time and work.

btw. How does this system handle computer with different nForce chipsets?


:D

#69 maanu

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 06:52 AM

just on a side note , Wimb i was thinking the other day , will it be possible for you to borrow the Joakim's idea of booting the .wim images ?

http://www.sanbarrow...opic.php?t=1695

i mean instead of .img files ? the .wim files are known to peform better even on lesser ram .at least thats what i have seen in PE .

#70 Sha0

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 07:22 AM

If you know beforehand what drivers are needed, only those drivers can be included right from the start without learning.
That's how my personal PE works. It has all mass storage drivers, but for everything else only drivers for devices i own.

How do you know what drivers are needed for the target hardware? That is to ask, how do you identify what to put in your PE?

Having a LiveOS, which works only on some, instead of all computers, sounds rather like a disadvantage than an advantage.

If you have a HAL and kernel choice in your BOOT.INI and choose appropriately, a RAM disk-based image will work on all computers (that the OS can possibly run on), will it not?

Seeing that people appearantly have the time to load a multi GB Ramdisk, i would guess they also have the 30 seconds to install the drivers on the fly.

The need to install the other devices present on the target hardware platform is common for both approaches.

Still i think, all your points are valid and surely some people will like it. I just fail to see the advantage, that would justify the additional time and work.

My impression is that wimb's UI is intended to alleviate the "additional time and work."

btw. How does this system handle computer with different nForce chipsets?

nForce isn't the only case where installing a device for one hadware platform will cause problems on another hardware platform. Luckily, we have Windows' built-in support for Hardware Profiles, which can be put to good use.

#71 wimb

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 08:08 AM

@maanu
Booting with .wim images is certainly interesting.
At the moment I am focused at booting with Portable Windows 7 PE with pe3_x86.iso boot image of about 200 MB.

@MedEvil
The full XP Image files are not meant to be used as Service OS.
In that case I would prefer to boot with a small ISO (100-200 MB) and from RAMDISK like done with LiveXP or Portable Windows 7 PE.
Universal full XP Image files are interesting for fast (5 min) Restore of Image with XP + PRGS on any computer.
Or they are also interesting to be used e.g. as XP boot option next to Windows 7 on a laptop,
where you don't want to change the partioning and simply install the Image in grub4dos menu and boot from FiraDisk RAMDISK.

@Shao
I agree with all your statements and thank you for your interest in my work.

#72 maanu

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 09:17 AM

ok no problem . take your time.

#73 Doodoo

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 09:49 AM

A RAM disk is the only guaranteed disk for Windows on any hardware

No, a sector-mapped disk requires that the backing disk and its storage adapter are available.

just on a side note , Wimb i was thinking the other day , will it be possible for you to borrow the Joakim's idea of booting the .wim images ?

Is this the silver bullet ? The best of both worlds ? Based on a RAM disk so garanteed on any hardware but the bulk of the files remain on a file backed disk ?

#74 MedEvil

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 11:36 AM

How do you know what drivers are needed for the target hardware? That is to ask, how do you identify what to put in your PE?

If you bought a ready made computer, all drivers for it are on the Service-CD.
If you build the computer yourself, you should know, what components you've put in.
In a company, there exists a audit certificate for each computer, listing the installed hard- and software.

If you have a HAL and kernel choice in your BOOT.INI and choose appropriately, a RAM disk-based image will work on all computers (that the OS can possibly run on), will it not?

It will boot up. How useful it is without access to the HDD depends on it's intended usage.
btw. HAL and Kernel do not even need to be switched for that, as PE show.

The need to install the other devices present on the target hardware platform is common for both approaches.

Sure, but with the PE approach, i can save myself the trouble of fitting the right drivers for the computers, i can just throw in all drivers and let the install on the fly do the sorting out.

nForce isn't the only case where installing a device for one hadware platform will cause problems on another hardware platform. Luckily, we have Windows' built-in support for Hardware Profiles, which can be put to good use.

A hardware profile doesn't help in that case, since the drivers have identical names.
They would need to get renamed, if more than one is to be installed at the same time, i guess. A problem the install on the fly approach does not have.


:)

#75 MedEvil

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 11:45 AM

@MedEvil
The full XP Image files are not meant to be used as Service OS.
Universal full XP Image files are interesting for fast (5 min) Restore of Image with XP + PRGS on any computer.

Ok, a bit different use than i thought.
Still i would think, that installing drivers on the fly from a second image, would be the more universal approach.


:)





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