Tuesday, 25 April 2017

SysInfo2.hta - an hta Windows script to quickly collect System Information

Some years ago I developed a .hta script in VBScript to collect system information. This was used on thousands of systems by field engineers and customers alike, so that they could quickly send a report back to the office techs for further diagnosis and investigation.

You can run the hta file on any Windows system that allows .hta files to be run.

If you download and unzip it, make sure the Properties - UnBlock is ticked or Windows may prevent you from running it.

I have slightly revised it now for Windows 8 and 10 and also tweaked the email facility so that you can send the report by gmail to anyone else.



RMPrepUSB v2.1.737 for Windows 10 Creator now available


If you tick the RMPrepUSB option Boot as HDD (C: 2PTNS) then RMPartUSB will create a second 31.5KB partition at the end of the drive. The type is 21hex which no previous OS has recognised.

This 2nd partition is only present because some BIOSes will boot a single-partition Removable USB drive as a floppy disk instead of a 'hard disk' and thus you just get a 'black screen - flashing cursor' when you try to boot from the drive. The presence of a 2nd primary partition ensure that even these BIOSes will boot the Removable USB drive as a 'hard disk'.

Under all previous versions of Windows, this 2nd partition was not detected by Windows and was not given a drive letter.

However, in recent versions of Windows 10, Microsoft has changed the way Windows detects primary partitions on Removable drives such as Flash Memory devices (and without actually telling anyone!). Now we can have multiple partitions on USB flash drives - we can even boot Windows 10 Creator version from a flat-file (non-VHD) Removable flash drive now!

The means that now, if you use RMPrepUSB or RMPartUSB to format a drive with the Boot as HDD option ticked, the new Windows 10 will now 'see' the 2nd partition as an unformatted volume and prompt the user to format it!

v2.1.737 now formats the 2nd partition as a small FAT12 volume. Windows will give it a drive letter and you can store files on it (though it is only 11.5KB in size after formatting!).

The download page is here.

Please report any issues ASAP.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Easy2Boot v1.92b available

E2B v1.92b BETA is now available from OneDrive here.

Changes from v1.91B are (changes from 1.92a in bold):

  • Ukrainian language added (thanks 'ruffian')
  • small bugfix to XPWINNT.g4b to allow SVR2016 folder to be selected
  • new Make_E2B to add Ukrainian lang, 
  • check added in Make_E2B_USB_DRIVE.cmd to check Windows find command is working, 
  • revised English F1.cfg help file, 
  • new RMPartUSB to format the 2nd small hidden partition to prevent Win10 Format pop-up dialogue box
  • bugfix for XP DPMS2 sometime getting wrong PCI ID and hence using the wrong driver
An E2B user contacted me to say that XP installs from ISO did not detect his internal hard disk on his HP G62 AMD notebook. I bought a G62 notebook from eBay, found the issue and fixed it.

If anyone in the UK wants a silver HP G62-a17SA, Win 10 Home 64-bit, AMD Athlon II P320 2.10GHz, 320 GB 7,200 rpm HDD, 4GB RAM, HDMI, Enet, webcam, WiFi, DVD R/W, USB 2.0 x 3, good battery, with WPS Office, very nice and clean, very few scuffs (looks almost unused), for £150 ono - let me know!


You can update your current E2B DPMS USB drives using this new Beta version.


The next BETA will include the latest version of grub4dos which hopefully has all the niggly bugs fixed now.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Install Windows 7 from USB using a USB 3.0 port

Windows 7 does not contain USB 3.0 drivers, so when you boot from a modern USB 3.0 port, it will not be able to access the USB drive and you will get a 'Missing CD\DVD drive device driver' message box.

However, by combining a Windows 10 boot.wim with Windows 7 install.wim, it is possible to install Windows 7 from a USB drive connected to a modern USB 2.0 or 3.0 port.

I have written a short 'Tutorial #139' describing how to do it.

This method means that all types of USB controllers should work (as Win10 contains USB 3.0 drivers) and you don't have to mess about adding USB drivers to the Windows 7 boot.wim file.

However, you will have to add the USB 3 drivers to the Windows 7 OS once you have booted to Windows 7, but by then you should have web access and can download them (if available). Otherwise, you can always boot to the Win10 boot.wim and use XCOPY to copy the driver folder from your USB drive onto the Win7 hard disk.

You can use the same Win7+Win10 procedure to modify an ISO and add it to E2B, or you can use MakePartImage to convert a working USB Flash drive to a .imgPTN file and add that to E2B.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

System Rescue CD 2017-04-12 released

The systemrescuecd-x86-4.9.6.iso has been updated recently.

Description: SystemRescueCd is a Linux system rescue disk available as a bootable CD-ROM or USB stick for administrating or repairing your system and data after a crash. It aims to provide an easy way to carry out admin tasks on your computer, such as creating and editing the hard disk partitions. It comes with a lot of Linux system utilities such as GParted, fsarchiver, filesystem tools and basic tools (editors, midnight commander, network tools). It can be used for both Linux and windows computers, and on desktops as well as servers. This rescue system requires no installation as it can be booted from a CD/DVD drive or USB stick, but it can be installed on the hard disk if you wish. The kernel supports all important file systems (ext3/ext4, xfs, btrfs, reiserfs, jfs, vfat, ntfs), as well as network filesystems such as Samba and NFS.



If you add it to E2B it will 'just work'.

If you want to use the persistence feature ('backstore'), refer to my previous blog post here.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

StarTech S2510BU3ISO Hard Disk Enclosure with ISO (DVD) Emulation for $20

The StarTech S2510BU3ISO Hard Disk enclosure is similar to the Zalman and IODD enclosures in that it can emulate a USB DVD drive by loading an ISO file.

Press the MODE button and the LED changes from HDD to ISO1,
 then press again for ISO2 then again for ISO3 and then back to HDD.

Friday, 14 April 2017

E2B v1.92a with Ukrainian language now available

'Ruffian' has sent me the language files for the Ukrainian language and this has been added into v1.92a which is available on OneDrive.

If you are from Ukraine Ви можете, як це, так? ;-)

Ukrainian Menu

Add Fedora with persistence to E2B

The sample menu provided in the E2B \_ISO\docs\Sample Mnu Files folder for Fedora only works if you have a FAT32 E2B USB drive - Fedora does not like NTFS volumes when booting (and it's only the year 2017!).

Here is a way to add Fedora+persistence to an NTFS E2B USB drive (MBR and UEFI).

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

E2B v1.91A and B released

I did not notice that the latest grub4dos causes E2B to display a 'WARNING: gub4dos 0.4.5' message to appear as soon as E2B starts to load.

v1.91A fixes this issue.

P.S. There are also usb driver bugs in v1.91 new grub4dos, so please use v1.91B which has the old grub4dos!

It is available on the OneDrive Alternate Download Area and soon on the E2B website.

Unfortunately, Google Drive seems to have taken a dislike of E2B v1.91 and 1.91A. As soon as I upload it, it blocks it (marks it with a flag icon). I am not sure why! Even if I zip it up with a password-encrypted zip file, Google Drive still blocks it. Grrrr.

P.S. If you are on the Developer's Insider Preview programme for Win10, note that recent developer versions of Win 10 actually break RMPartUSB and Rufus (format fails)!

If you have tried v1.91A and had no problems - please tick the 'funny' Reactions box below.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Easy2Boot v1.91 released

E2B v1.91 is available now from the Alternate Download Areas.
E2B v1.91 will be available from www.easy2boot.com in a few days.

Note: due to bugs in the new grub4dos in 1.91 - please use v1.91B which uses the older (unbuggy) version of grub4dos!

Changes from v1.90

  • Fix 'WARNING: WinBuilder ISOs must have .iso file extension' message being shown even when not a WinBuilder ISO
  • Latest grub4dos version (\grldr 2017-02-04 )
  • Sample .mnu files added for 'blacklist' example (see previous blog post)
  • Latest version of RMPartUSB
  • Latest version of Make_E2B.exe
  • New SCROLL LOCK feature (auto-suggest is turned on if SCROLL LOCK is on)
  • New TSUG variable to control auto-suggest feature better
  • Default delay for auto-suggest now 6 sec
  • Reduce Main Menu messages if redir set
  • Can now use redir + TSUG variables so get reduced enumeration message but still get auto-suggest prompt
  • New \_ISO\docs\Make_E2B_USB_Drive\CheckForUpdate.cmd added to show latest stable version and latest Beta version
  • Warn user if \sources folder is present on the E2B drive (causes error when using Windows install from ISO) 
  • Hold down SHIFT key before boot to automatically load grub4dos fast rd/wr USB 2.0 driver

Let me know ASAP if you spot a problem.

Add Clear Linux to your E2B USB drive


Clear Linux is provided as a UEFI-bootable only image.
Clear Linux OS for Intel Architecture is focused on the Cloud. Our aim was not to make yet another general-purpose Linux distribution; sometimes lean-and-fast is better than big-and-universal.
There is a Live version and an Installer version (see here) provided as compressed xxxx.img.xz download files.
Inside each xxxx.img.xz file is a larger .img file (e.g. clear-1440-installer.img). You will need to extract this .img file (e.g. using 7Zip).
Inside this .img file (which is usually dd'd onto a USB drive), we have two images for two primary partitions (as shown by 7Zip)...



Here is how to add these to your E2B drive so we can UEFI-boot (MBR-booting is not supported).

Thursday, 6 April 2017

GrannyOS and how to add a remote image backup/restore capability to Windows

I have two ageing relatives (one over 80 and the other is nearly 100) and I wanted to set up a notebook for each of them where I could use Skype and video-conferencing to chat with them and help them with such things as email, internet banking, internet shopping, etc.

Neither of them know how to use a computer or a smart phone, but these days you really need to use the internet for pretty much everything.

It is a shame that the aged and infirm are the ones that would benefit the most from the internet, and yet they are the ones that are excluded from it because, as the saying goes, 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks'.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

About Windows 10 Installs from ISOs and how to activate using Win7/8 Product Keys

When you use Easy2Boot to install Windows 8/10/SVR2016 directly from an ISO file, E2B will ask you to specify an XML file which contains a Win 10 Product Key (or you can pick a Product Key which E2B will then patch into the XML file for you).

You can use one of the generic installation Product Keys listed by the E2B menu system or you can specify a genuine Microsoft activation key of your own.

Some versions of Windows 8/10 will just stop with a 'license error' if you don't specify a Product Key (or use an incorrect Product Key) in the XML file. If I MBR-boot from a Win 10 Home+Pro install ISO on my IdeaPad 300 (which previously had an activated UEFI-installation of Win 10 Home), then Setup only gives me the option to install Win 10 Home when using an XML file with no Product Key inside - the Win 10 Pro option is not offered at all even though the ISO contains both Pro and Home!

If I use a Win 10 Pro generic Product Key in an XML file with the same ISO, it installs Win 10 Pro.

I presume that the keys must contain encoded information which includes:
  • Type: Retail, OEM, Volume Licence MAK or KMS
  • ID: A unique ID number
  • Edition: Pro, Home, etc.
  • Version: Win10, Win7, Win8, etc.
So you need to install Windows 10 using a Win10 Product Key.

Now because Windows 7 and Windows 8 systems can still be upgraded for free to Windows 10, you can activate with a Windows 7 or Windows 8 Product Keys after you install a new Windows 10 OS, but you can't use a Win7/8 key as an installation key.

EXAMPLE: Win 10 Pro for less than £3!

For instance...

Monday, 3 April 2017

Easy2Boot v1.91g available

This 1.91g BETA has a new version of grub4dos at \grldr.

Let me know if you find any problems. To confirm that a particular problem is caused by the new version of grub4dos, simply use a \grldr file from an earlier version of E2B.

Changes to grub4dos include:

  • When using ls command on an empty folder, it now returns false on all filesystems (bugfix)
  • ls command now highlights folder names in the output text
  • grub4dos USB2 driver improved
  • Volume label read and write function (vol) improved
  • UUID write function added

Note: As much as possible, E2B does not rely on new features. This means that older versions of grub4dos can be still used (e.g. 4.0.5c) which is useful for regression testing, etc.

Another small change is that the SCROLL LOCK = ON state will now always force the auto-suggest prompt to be displayed (even if running a xxxx.isodefault file).

Also, SCROLL LOCK will always be turned off whenever QRUN.g4b is run. This is because if SCROLL LOCK is on when isolinux/syslinux runs, it boots to the command shell instead of the isolinux/syslinux menu.

Please report any problems or queries.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Windows 10 Creators Edition brings major change for Removable USB drives!

As recently mentioned by Akeo (Rufus author) on reboot.pro here, The new Windows 10 Creators Edition seems to have changed the way it handles Removable USB drives!

Previously, Windows XP/7/8/10 would only mount one partition on a Removable USB drive. However, now it seems to treat a Removable USB drive almost the same as a Fixed-Disk drive and you can assign drive letters to multiple partitions (if they exist) on a Removable USB drive!

This is a big change, so this may well cause problems with all sorts of USB-friendly apps!

Tip: To see what version of Windows you have, use the WINDOWS+R key chord and type WINVER in the Run box...

Easy2Boot goes commercial - April Fool!

All versions of Easy2Boot produced for over a year now, have contained some embedded code which will check the BIOS date. If the BIOS date is more than 30 days from today, then certain functions (e.g. automatic menu building, QRUN feature, WIM and VHD booting, etc.) will no longer work unless a licence is found.

Switch_E2B.exe, MakePartImage and UEFI-booting from .imgPTN files will not check for a licence however and will work as before.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Easy2Boot 1.91f available

E2B v1.91f
  • Fix 'WARNING: WinBuilder ISOs must have .iso file extension' message being shown even when not a WinBuilder ISO
  • Latest grub4dos version \grldr 2017-02-04 
  • 'blacklist' sample .mnu files (see previous blog post)
  • Latest version of RMPartUSB
  • New version of Make_E2B.exe (1.91c)
  • New SCROLL LOCK feature (1.91c)
  • New TSUG variable to control auto-suggest feature better (1.91d)
  • Default delay for auto-suggest now 6 sec
  • Reduce Main Menu messages if redir set
  • Can now use redir + TSUG so get reduced enumeration message but still get auto-suggest prompt
  • New \_ISO\docs\Make_E2B_USB_Drive\CheckForUpdate.cmd added to show latest stable version and latest Beta version.
CheckForUpdate.cmd reports latest stable version and latest Beta version
Using options 1, 2 or 3 should open up the appropriate web browser page.

Betas are available from the Alternate Download Areas as usual.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Add Paragon Rescue Kit 14 64-bit .imgPTN file to Easy2Boot (MBR+UEFI)

If you have the Paragon Rescue Kit 14 x64 ISO, you can add it to E2B in the normal way as an ISO file or convert it to a FAT32 .imgPTN file for UEFI-booting. The 32-bit versions does not support UEFI-booting.



Tip: Download the RTK14_free.exe free trial version and then use 7zip to open it and find the iso file.


However, the .imgPTN file will only UEFI-boot - it will not successfully MBR-boot to Paragon Rescue.

MPI Tool Kit v0.073 available (with bugfix for Windows 10 v. 1607)

I was unable to find a way to work around the vbscript problem which Windows 10 v1607 and 1703 seem to have now have (due to a recent KB update!), so I wrote a small vb6  MakeLinkAdmin.exe utility instead!

If your Desktop Shortcut links for the MPI Tool Kit appear to be bad, please try the new MPI Tool Kit and let me know if you still have any problems.

Copy the new MPI folder to your Desktop and then run the CreateDesktopShortcuts.cmd file to create the new Desktop shortcuts.

The download is in the Alternate Download Areas.

Latest Windows 1607 update (KB4015438) breaks MPI Tool Kit (and VBScript)!

If you use the MPI Tool Kit CreateDesktopShortcuts.cmd file with Windows 1607 or later, it no longer creates valid Desktop shortcuts!

I updated to 14303.3.969 from 14303.3.0 using KB4015438 and now the same vbscript fails!
So KB4015438 has broken vbscript!!!


The problem appears to be in the VBScript file. Microsoft seem to have broken something!

The code that is not working reads the .lnk shortcut file on the Desktop, changes one byte (for 'run as Admin') and then writes back the .lnk file. This code now does not seem to work and causes the file contents to be corrupted!

I have tried alternative methods but so far have not found a solution.

StopPress: I couldn't find a fix in vbscript, so I have worked around it another way! This issue should be fixed in MPI v0.073.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Convert Windows MBR-partioned disks to GPT using MBR2GPT

FYI: MBR2GPT is now available in Windows 10 version 1703 (Windows 10 Creator's Update) and later versions. The tool is available in both the full OS environment and in Windows PE.

If apparently will convert an offline Windows MBR disk to a GPT disk.

Video here.

Perhaps, useful if you want to transfer your OS to a larger 3 or 4TB Hard Disk. Once you have transferred the image to the new disk, you should be able to convert the new disk to GPT and then increase the size of the partitions or create a new partition to use the remainder of the drive.

I have not tested this myself yet...

Saturday, 25 March 2017

E2B Grub2 v0.08 Beta available

Thanks to an email from a user, I have now discovered that the 'openSUSE' menu heading comes from the English language translation file at \boot\grub\locale\en.mo.

For some reason the Windows Find&Replace utility FNR.exe which I used, did not find any strings inside this file which is why I missed it!

Anyway, Beta 8 now has a GRUBHEAD variable in the \menu.lst file inside the UEFI_GRUB2_PTN2_Beta8.imgPTNLBAa23 partition image. This allows me to change the grub2 heading to anything I like by using grub4dos to patch the en.mo file.

I also increased the length of the en.mo file to accommodate longer headings.

The grub2 menu heading can be changed by editing \menu.lst

GRUB2 Beta 7 now available for Easy2Boot (bugfix for Beta 6)

The Grub2 Beta 6 release had a bug and you may find some 64-bit payload files (e.g. ubuntu.iso) were not listed in the menu.

This was due to the code which detects a 64-bit CPU having a bug in main.cfg - the BIT64 variable was never set! For example, \_ISO\MAINMENU\ubuntu.iso would not be displayed in the menu.

This is now fixed in Beta 7.

To update your Easy2Boot drive, download the new Beta 7 zip file and replace the UEFI_GRUB2_PTN2_Beta6.imgPTNLBAa23 file with the new UEFI_GRUB2_PTN2_Beta7.imgPTNLBAa23.

Sorry if this caused you any frustration!

P.S. Beta 8 is also available which now allows the grub2 menu heading to be changed to whatever we want!

Monday, 20 March 2017

Feedback from E2B users wanted on the QRUN 'auto-suggest' feature

For E2B v1.91, I am thinking of changing the default action (i.e. when you do not press any key and let it time-out or you press the ENTER key) for the E2B QRUN 'auto-suggest' prompt from 'No' (do not use suggested file extension) as shown below...

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Beware when downloading files via a USB WiFi dongle !!!

Whenever I am using a WiFi USB dongle to download files, I always check the CRC/MD5 hash value of the file using the free Windows utility HashTab. This is a really handy utility which integrates nicely with the standard Windows - Properties feature to give an extra File Hashes tab...



The reason for checking the hash value of the downloaded file (even though it appears to be the correct size and it downloaded without error) is that external interference can cause the file to be corrupt!

Yes, honestly! I have tested this myself and proved that electromagnetic interference caused a perfectly good .ZIP file to be successfully downloaded from t'internet BUT it often was corrupt and 7Zip would tell me so when I tried to unzip it!

In this case, the interference was caused by a room-light dimmer switch (hence file corruption
occurred only at night!) - see my previous blog for more details here.

I don't know if the data corruption occurred in the USB data transfer or the WiFi-to-data decoding, but it was repeatable and reproducible!

So if strange things start to happen with downloaded files, always check that the file was downloaded without any data corruption by checking it's CRC\MD5\SHA-1 hash value!

Tip: As long as the last 4 characters are correct, then the chances are extremely remote that the other characters in the hash value are not also correct. So I just compare the last 4 characters.

P.S. I also know that USB 3 can interfere with Bluetooth/wireless mouse transmission, so you need to keep USB 3 devices well away from 2.4GHz dongles (see here for more details).

Friday, 17 March 2017

Split_WinISO utility by Chandra v1.0.8

Chandra's new Split-WinISO utility now will automatically add the missing bootx64.efi boot file to MS Windows 7 x64 ISOs when it makes a .imgPTN file to allow it to UEFI-boot.


Source Files: ISO or Folder  (most Windows Install and AIO ISOs should work)
Output File: .ISO or .imgPTN file

Split_WinISO will split large .wim, .esd files into smaller .swm split-wim files for you automatically.

It will even add the winpeshl.ini and mysetup.cmd files into the boot .wim for you and add an example \auto.cmd file plus XML files too (optional)! This allows you to UEFI-boot and then pick from a range of XML files to install different Windows versions or configurations. See here for more details.

To follow the development and get the download, see reboot.pro.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Easy2Boot v1.91c is available

E2B v1.91c/d
  • Fix 'WARNING: WinBuilder ISOs must have .iso file extension' message being shown even when not a WinBuilder ISO
  • Latest grub4dos version \grldr 2017-02-04 
  • 'blacklist' sample .mnu files (see previous blog post)
  • Latest version of RMPartUSB
  • New version of Make_E2B.exe (1.91c)
  • New SCROLL LOCK feature (1.91c)
  • New TSUG variable to control auto-suggest feature better (1.91d)

If you are bothered by the 'WARNING: WinBuilder ISOs must have a .ISO file extension!' message followed by a 5 second delay in v1.90, this bug is fixed in v1.91.

The new Make_E2B.exe now enables the QEMU button after you have made a new E2B USB drive.

The new SCROLL LOCK feature is added into QRUN.g4b. If SCROLL LOCK is on (press the Scroll Lock key once), then redir, redirp and NOSUG will be removed/cleared. This allows you to see all E2B messages when a payload is executed. This is useful if, for instance, you have used one or more of these settings in your MyE2B.cfg file but now wish to see the E2B messages when running a new payload file. (E2B v1.91+).

Only payloads that are run using QRUN.g4b are affected - the E2B messages displayed during menu file enumeration, etc. are not affected by the SCROLL LOCK key state.

If SCROLL LOCK is ON, then QRUN will show all messages.

P.S. It is no longer necessary to set the value of redir and redirp to exactly '> nul', you can now set any value and they will work (e.g. set redir=1).

I have also added a new page to the E2B website about how to reduce the number of E2B text messages here.


Stop Press: UK Mymemory Half-Price Offer on Lexar S75 128GB USB 3.0 (150MB/s read / 60MB/s write) for only £25. Not as good as a SanDisk Extreme 128GB (245/190MB/s) but much cheaper.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Official Windows ISO and Office download web page

A recent ghacks.net article has identified a new website which allows you to easily download various official MS Windows ISOs and Office installation files.

The downloads come from the Microsoft servers, similar to the sources used by the Windows Download app. but there is now no need to download the latest version of the download application first (as long as the new site page is kept up to date).

A direct link is here.

Note:
'Single Language' ISOs = Home\Core only (does not include Pro)
'English' = English USA only
'English International' = English UK plus other English-speaking countries

The rest of the rg-adguard.net site seems to contain various (Russian\English) Windows AIO ISOs and some invasive advert pop-ups appear if you try to download them, so browse/download the rest of the site at your own risk!

Monday, 13 March 2017

Instant BSOD when running WinContig (Acronis True Image issue)!

During testing of Acronis True Image 2017 NG, I noticed that as soon as I ran WinContig to make the files on my Easy2Boot USB drive contiguous, my Windows 10 64-bit system instantly gave a Blue Screen of Death! There was not even enough time to see the WinContig form appear!

I repeated this several times and it always gave an instant BSOD.

As WinContig has always been stable in the past, I suspected that the problem was with the trial version of True Image that I had just installed (downloaded from the Acronis website). So I uninstalled True Image and lo and behold, WinContig now launches and runs just fine again!

After a spot of Googling, I noticed many other users reporting BSODs with various versions of Acronis products, so I decided to report the issue to their technical department who confirmed that there were known BSOD issues...


P.S. True Image also prevented Switch_E2B.exe from working because it blocked writes to the USB MBR!