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I'd like to have a bootable USB drive that contains a boot loader that can prompt to select an ISO image to continue booting from.

In this question I've already provided an answer containing a tool that allows to write multiple bootable images and to select the one to boot from. The problem is that this approach involves writing all the images at once upon which it also compiles and hard-codes the boot selection menu in, so any modifications whatsoever require to burn the whole thing again, which is tedious and hard on the low endurance flash memory.

So I am looking for a solution that allows seamless adding and removing of ISO images without having to do any other modifications, instead of having the boot selection menu choices hard-coded in the USB bootloader, it should list the available images for selection.

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  • essentially setting up a PXE type environment on the USB to boot from? or to install to a designated location? Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 19:42
  • Just to boot from. Installation outta be handled by the ISO images, if they are installers rather than maintenance tools.
    – dtech
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 19:43
  • I don't know if you've messed much with PXE boot setup, but it sounds like it would do exactly what you are looking for. The only catch would be if you would be able to execute the PXE without the pre-requisite being network boot. Essentially trick PXE into letting you use its format but for your own application. I would say its worth some research! Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 19:48
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    Well, it would be quite handy to have a single drive "swiss army knife" with several different versions of windows and linux installers, plus some backup and diagnostic tools, rather than carrying around a bunch of drives.
    – dtech
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 20:13

2 Answers 2

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(Windows user, but Linux is possible) grub4Dos or easy2boot spring to mind. You first of all prepare the device (e.g. with RMPrepUSB in Windows), and then add one or more ISOs. I use it with Knoppix Live CD, Macrium rescue disk, Gparted, Hiren, etc. You can add and remove them. An editable plain text config file called menu.lst sets appearance choices, shows the user a menu of ISO and other choices (halt, reboot, etc). Example menu.lst entry:

title Gparted 0.18.0-1-i486 live
find --set-root /gparted-live-0.18.0-1-i486.iso
map /gparted-live-0.18.0-1-i486.iso (0xff) || map --mem /gparted-live-0.18.0-1-i486.iso (0xff)
map --hook
root (0xff)
kernel /live/vmlinuz  boot=live config union=aufs noswap noprompt vga=788 ip=frommedia findiso=/gparted-live-0.18.0-1-i486.iso toram=filesystem.squashfs
initrd /live/initrd.img

Sometimes you need to make an ISO image contiguous on the device; Sysinternals contig tool is useful for this.

RMPrepUSB Blog

Grub4DOS tutorial (at RMPrepUSB blog)

Grub4DOS (GitHub)

SysInternals Contig

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  • I will give that a shot. Editing a config file is only a minor nuisance.
    – dtech
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 23:35
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@Michael Harvey's answer is great and detailed, but I think it is unnecessarily - albeit minor - bother. I would suggest trying something more polished for an end-user.

I have been using YUMI – Multiboot USB Creator for a long time to manage my do-it-all bootable USB. It is simple to use, has a long list of officially supported OS/Bootable-tools (with links to the download if needed) that it has the proper boot settings for, and you can also add any ISO.

A simpler option is XBoot which has a drag-and-drop interface for ISOs, but still has some options if you want to.


YUMI Application Window:
enter image description here
YUMI Boot Window:
enter image description here
XBoot Application Window:
enter image description here
XBoot Boot Window (in QEMU which XBoot includes to let you actually test boot the bootable USB in a virtual machine):
enter image description here

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