Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


Multi-Boot for UEFI
by Alan German

In a previous article (Yumi - A Workhorse of a Different Colour), I discussed the creation of a bootable USB drive that would provide a platform from which to boot multiple operating systems. This makes efficient use of today’s high capacity drives since several Linux distros and utilities can be loaded and run from a single USB flash drive. However, one problem with Yumi is that it doesn't support UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) so, if you have a relatively new computer, creating multi-boot USB drives may not be possible for you. At least, it won't be possible unless you are prepared to switch horses and use some different software. This is where Easy2Boot comes in!

The setup procedures for Easy2Boot are a little convoluted but, once the software is configured, loading multiple Linux distros and utilities onto the bootable USB flash drive is pretty simple – albeit with one final twist in the tail! The required steps are outlined in the following text.

You will need three things – (1) a large capacity (let’s say 8 GB or bigger) USB flash drive, (2) the Easy2Boot software (download Easy2Boot_v1.64DPMS.zip from
http://www.easy2boot.com/), and (3) the installer for the RMPrepUSB software (download Install_RMPrepUSB_Full_v2.1.725.zip from http://www.rmprepusb.com/).

Unpack the RMPrepUSB zip file and install the software on your computer. This program is used to prepare the USB flash drive for use with Easy2Boot. However, you don’t need to run RMPrepUSB program manually since the drive preparation process is part of a batch file that first calls up RMPrepUSB, and then runs Easy2Boot, to create the bootable USB drive.

Now unpack the Easy2Boot zip file into a new folder on your hard disk. Let’s name this folder Easy2Boot. This time, no software installation is required. The batch file to create a bootable USB drive will be run directly from your Easy2Boot folder.

However, just before we go ahead with this, note that any files on the USB drive will be lost in the initial formatting process so make sure that either the drive is empty or you have nothing on the drive that you wish to keep.

Navigate to Easy2Boot\_ISO\docs\Make_E2B_USB_Drive. Right-click on the file MAKE_E2B_USB_DRIVE.cmd and select Run as administrator. The make window will display a list of available USB drives. The target disk is likely to be listed as DRIVE 1. If so, in response to the prompt, enter 1 as the drive number that you wish to erase and format. A warning that any information (partitions) on the selected drive will be destroyed will now be displayed. Enter Y to authorize the disk format.

The choice is now to format the USB drive as NTFS (for boot files over 4 GB), or FAT32 (for smaller boot files). Entering F (for FAT32) will usually be sufficient. Press OK in response to the final option to continue the disk format. The batch file will format the drive and then indicate that the Easy2Boot files are being copied. This latter process can take some time, so be patient.

We now need to set up Easy2Boot’s configuration file with choices for language and keyboard type. The defaults are for English (US) which will normally be desired so simply press Return for the various prompts in order to accept the default values. The next option asks if we wish to show file name extensions in the menus. Press Y to allow this.

Finally, we are asked if we wish to write the configuration file (MyE2B.cfg). Enter Y to this prompt also. The make window’s background changes to green – success! Press any key to close the batch file.

We now have a bootable USB drive. To test the system, let’s see if we can set up Ubuntu Linux to boot from the USB. The instructions say to load Linux ISO files into the _ISO\LINUX folder. However, what they don’t tell you is that you should rename such files with a .isodefault extension rather than the original .iso extension. (If this step is not taken, the boot process will stall briefly and require that you type Y to authorize the use of the isodefault extension.)

So, for our current purposes we will copy the (previously-downloaded) file ubuntu-14.04.2-desktop-amd64.iso, a 64-bit Ubuntu distro, to the folder _ISO\LINUX on the bootable USB drive, and rename this file to ubuntu-14.04.2-desktop-amd64.isodefault. Finally, we are ready to boot into Ubuntu from the USB flash drive.

Rebooting the machine and selecting the option to use the USB flash drive (using F12 = Boot Options in my case) leads to the display of Easy2Boot’s main menu. We now select Option 4 - the LINUX menu. A sub-menu is displayed with the first option – numbered as 0 – showing ubuntu-14.04.2-desktop-amd64.isodefault. Selecting this option boots the machine into the live-USB version of Ubuntu 14.04.

Providing other Linux distros as optional boot targets is as simple as copying the distro files (ISO’s) into the _ISO\LINUX folder of the bootable USB drive (and renaming them with a .isodefault extension). Similarly, including bootable utilities, such as Gparted and Clonezilla, is achieved by copying their ISO files into the _ISO\UTILITIES folder of the bootable USB drive. The individual Linux distros may be selected from the LINUX option of Easy2Boot’s main menu, while the utility programs may be similarly selected from the UTILITIES option.

So, there you have it, a somewhat complex setup process, but a decidedly simple means of booting one of a number of Linux distros or utilities from a single USB drive on a modern computer system.


Bottom Line:

Easy2Boot (Freeware)
Version 1.71
Steve Si
http://www.easy2boot.com/

RMPrepUSB (Freeware)
Version 2.1.728
Steve Si
http://www.rmprepusb.com/


Click here to view the full OPCUG website with frames.

Copyright and Usage
Ottawa Personal Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON  K2G 1S6

The opinions expressed in these reviews do not necessarily
represent the views of the OPCUG or its members.

Send comments or suggestions to the .