James O'Neill's Blog

December 31, 2006

Bootable USB keys

Filed under: Windows 2003 Server,Windows Vista,Windows XP — jamesone111 @ 3:38 pm

Since I raised the subject I’ve had a mail from a couple of people on the subject of making a bootable key.

I described the steps making a USB key bootable using the Vista / Windows PE version of Diskpart. Here are the commands

  • select disk 1 {or the number of your USB key, be careful !}
  • clean  {Like I said, be careful ! This erases the disk}
  • create partition primary
  • select partition 1
  • active
  • format fs=fat32
  • assign
  • exit

Now at this point you have a disk which will try to boot using BootMgr in the style of Windows PE/Vista/Longhorn server. Several people have asked about making a key which boots in the style of Server 2003/XP/Windows 2000/Windows NT. I can’t make the Vista/PE version of disk part run on Windows XP, and the older version won’t prepare a USB key. So you need to do this from Vista or the Vista build of Windows PE. Once the drive is formatted it has a Vista Boot sector – this won’t boot NT / 200x / XP operating systems. You need to use the BootSect utility:
Boosect /nt52 E:
stamps a Window 2003 Server boot sector (one which uses boot.ini) onto drive E:. I haven’t tried it but you should be able copy NTLDR, BOOT.INI and NTDETECT.COM onto a USB key as a way of starting a machine which with a corrupt boot environment.

For now, as far as I can tell, there’s no way to set-up such a device under XP/Server 2003. I’d welcome any correction on this.


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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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