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Is it safe to say that most newer (x64 2010+) desktop BIOS from major manufacturers can be configured for USB boot?

I'd like to be able to boot from USB for GParted 10, Windows 7 pro, and Ghost 2003+ ideally on a small form factor stateless disk drive like desktop with no built in CD/DVD ROM. Can anybody recommend good tiny HW and boot/iso SW for this?

Any technical reason/limitation why BIOS firmware do not already come with some form of BOOT FROM USB ISO like feature built in where you do not need a DVD rom or even a boot formated USB drive? How cool would it be that you could boot to bootloader that prompts you for an ISO on a USB or Local file mount?

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migrated from serverfault.com Nov 30 '11 at 13:01

This question came from our site for professional system and network administrators.

    
'safe to say' - yes, i've been phasing out some older Windows 2000 desktops at work, fairly standard specs used for basic desktop applications. Most are Foxconn and MSI motherboards, pre-SATA and only have 2 USB ports - yet they all support 'boot from USB' :) –  HaydnWVN Nov 30 '11 at 13:14
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3 Answers

You can assume that they are USB-Boot ready. But no guarantee though.

Recommendations are off-topic.

What the heck is an "boot from usb iso?" Either USB or CD-ROM. For other scenarios the solution is PXE.

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just wondering if there might be something out there that would allow me to boot from an ISO on a USB drive without having to format the USB drive or flash for booting. –  cyberpine Nov 30 '11 at 12:46
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No, You have to extract the ISO to the USB along with a bootloader. There's no way (AFAIK) to a bootloader-kick-off an ISO. Plus it would be very slow. –  tombull89 Nov 30 '11 at 13:07
    
@tombull89, memdisk is what you're looking for. Bootloader loads memdisk, memdisk loads the entire ISO into memory, and then it transfers execution to the code on the ISO. And from that moment on it's like booting from any normal ISO. Take a look at ultimatebootcd.com/customize.html under the 'Adding ISO images' section for the configuration. –  Marcin Nov 30 '11 at 14:17
    
Ah so it is possible. I expect the machine must need a certain amount of RAM for this to work though? –  tombull89 Nov 30 '11 at 14:24
    
Yes, it is not a very memory efficient method, it's not something you want to run from (unless you got gobs of memory and don't care). The more normal PXE booting methods usually release the downloaded images upon executing them. Linux kernel's bzImage/initrd combos also release memory of the image after executing. Probably the best way would be to load a SquashFS image into ram, and use that as your rootfs as the OS is aware of 'this stuff is running in RAM anyway, no need to cache or load into memory' problems. –  Marcin Nov 30 '11 at 15:40
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Windows 7 (and Vista, and Server 2008) can be set up on a USB stick to have a bootable, installable, USB using the Windows Live CD/USB Download Tool. This extracts the disk .iso (needs to be a legit .iso, not a "Tiny7" or non-windows iso, or so I have found) to the USB drive (must be 4GB+) and that USB can be booted from.

For other things like GParted, Ubuntu, or Mint I use uNetBootIn. Not sure how it would work with Ghost.

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You could try Yumi Multiboot USB Creator. It appears to allow you to boot to a USB drive, and then select the ISO you want in a menu.

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