I have written articles previously comparing SARDU and YUMI. I also included a couple of lines about Easy2boot (easy2boot.com). I have now been using, and enjoying easy2boot as my sole multiboot utility for some years and realize that it deserves an article all it's own.
Why use a multiboot utility to begin with?
The real question is why not? With a multiboot USB, you can carry virtually everything you may ever need with you. If you are anything like me, you may get many requests for different problems everyday. These requests may involve new software installs, OS installs, malware problems, or the "I don't want to turn my computer on because ..." requests. With a multiboot USB, you are ready for any of these, whether they are initiated by Windows, MAC or Linux users.
I made a partial list of the items on my E2B multiboot 128gb USB, for a friend. His first reaction was, "WOW!" Here is the list:
Acronis Antinalware Scan
Comodo Rescue CD
DE Cleaner RettungsCD 351
Dr. Web live Disk 900
ESET sysrescue 1090
KAV rescue 10
MRT UBUNTU v1-2
Rescue System Common
Rescue CD 3.16.63801
Acronis True Image 11
Acronis True Image Echo
CrashPlan x64 3.6.4 (windows)
Paragon 14 (windows)
Paragon 15 (windows)
Paragon 16 (windows)
Paragon Retention Mamager
Adobe Creative Cloud
Panda AV/ AntiRootKit (PAVARK)
Zotero setup for windows
CENTOS 7.0 1406 x86/x64
Damn Small Linux
Fedora Live Robotics
Fedora Live SoaS
Kali Linux 1.1.0a
Kali linux 2017.1
KNOPPIX v7.0.5 boot only 2012-12-21
LINUXMINT 14 Mate (x32)
LUBUNTU 15.10 desktop
Makulu Linux 10-Aero
pS-Toolkit 4.0.1 Centos7 fullinstall 2017 08 15
puppy precise 5.4.2
StartOS 5.1 liveCD
TAILS i386 0.17.2
Bootrepair disk for 32 bit machines
Bootrepair disk for 64 bit machines
Clonezilla Saucy Live 20140114
Clonezilla live 1.2.12-67-i686-pae
Clonezilla live 2.2.2-37-i486
Clonezilla Live 2.2.2-37-i686-pae
Dariks Boot and Nuke v228
Easeus Disk Copy
Ghost 4 Linux
GParted Live 486
GParted Live 586
GParted Live 686
GParted Live AMD 64
Inside Security Rescue Toolkit
Ophtcrack for Vista
Ophtcrack for XP
Partition Magic i686
Partition Wizard 7
Power Suite Golden Full
System Rescue Cd x86
Trinity Rescue Kit 3.4
UFSX Boot Cd
Ultimate Boot CD 4 Windows
Ultimate Boot CD 511
Win7Rescue (Spotmau 2012)
Windows 98 SE
ZGRUB USB 046
Windows server 2003 disk 1
Windows server 2003 disk 2
||Server 2008 R2
Why Use E2B
There are many multiboot utilities out there, so one would think that the end products would be about the same, they aren't. More importantly, making and using the utilities are vastly different. Whether it is ease of use you are looking for, or functionality, easy2boot fits the bill! Adding items to a basic install of easy2boot is as simple as dragging the image/payload file (ISOs are generally easiest) into the correct directory, using the utilities provided for creating a new menu item and it is done. I have gone further in using the utility provided to create text files describing each image (otherwise they appear in the boot menu as just the image name (e.g. "avg_arl_cdi_all_120_140203a7055.iso" instead of "AVG Anti Malware boot Disk"). I prefer the more readable version. This becomes especially important when you have images with similar or the same name. It was also especially important for my images of paragon software ISOs. the ISOs have names like Paragon-233-BSE_WinInstallSNU_10.1.19.16299_000. This happens to be a fairly old version of Paragon Hard Disk Manager (2014), so the text file that goes along with it reads that the title of the image is "Paragon HDM 14."
How to install
Installing E2B is fairly easy to do and there is a great guide on the easy2boot website. The basics are download the software, run the utility on a relatively fast USB that is no more than 137gb (I use 128gb sticks). Once installed to the USB, copy the image/payload files to the correct directories (you can make your own directories as well using the utility that somes with the software to create "Submenus"). There are 2 main files in the root directory that will make the USB contiguous for you and boot to the device almost as if you had booted from it directly.
Creating menu items
As mentioned this is fairly easy. to create menu items for established submenus, like Windows, put the image/payload file in the windows directory, use the E2B MNU maker.cmd file in the ./_ISO/docs/E2B utilities directory. Simply drag your images onto this file and answer the questions, the utility will create a .mnu item for each of the items you do this with. In the same directory there is a Submenu maker and a TXT maker file. Drag each item onto the txt maker to create appropriate text files for them. To create I submenus, I find it easiest to create the folder first, with the files I want in it, and then drag that folder onto the submenu maker file and answer the questions.
Editing the menu
Although the website has excellent instructions, some things I have found.
1. It is fairly easy to use the menu editor that comes with the software in the _ISO\docs directory called E2B_editor.exe. The default menu looks like this:
I updated the background so it looks like this:
This image is what E2B actually looks like when you boot to it (at least mine does). I apologize for the skew.
This is what the emulated main menu looks like:
The emulated Linux submenu displays like this:
If I actually boot to the stick there are close to 40 choices in this menu (19 per page).
Probably the best part of this utility is the ease with which you can update it. Want to put a new image on it, update the text for an old one, create a new submenu? No problem! Drag the new fileinto the directory and perform the steps to make it a menu item (see above). Drag the old item to the txt creator (or just edit the text file in notepad) and you are done. or create a new folder and then drag it to the submenu creator utility (see above).
But what if the software is updated (think a new version of E2B)? in the main directory there is a utility called UPDATE_E2B_DRIVE.cmd. It is easy to run and may even fix problems on your stick. It is probably best to run this whenever you make changes.
I decided to test the update instructions for the most recent version of E2B myself by updating the stick with a more recent version of UBUNTU (17.xx). I did this by:
- downloading the ISO from the UBUNTU page
- copying the ISO to the LINUX directory on the stick
- using the E2B MNU maker.cmd file in the ./_ISO/docs/E2B utilities directory (see creating menu items section above)
- using the UPDATE_E2B_DRIVE.cmd flel as indicated above
When I now use the stick's QEMU_MENU_TEST (run as admin).cmd I still don't see the updated file in the list (it is not one of the first 15 items), but if I boot to the USB stick, it is there.
Ability to see end product without booting to the stick
One of the nice things about Easy2Boot, is that you can run the QEMU_MENU_TEST (run as admin).cmd file and it will show you a pretty close approximation of what you will see if you boot from the stick. It is only close because some images won't perform exactly in the same way, or may not even boot when run in this mode. Sometimes the stick will generate this message:
Not to worry, I have seen this and then booted to the device without a problem. Sometimes either running the update script, or simply rebooting your machine will solve this issue. The image of my E2B above was taken after I received this message on my Windows 10 Creators edition machine, then just rebooted another machine with the same USB as the boot device.
I hope I have convinced you that using a multiboot USB is a boon. It has been a godsend to me. I carry to USB sticks with me at all times, the multiboot USB and another USB with virtually everything I use when I don't need to reboot a computer (pretty much everything on the multiboot USB along with various other installs that don't need to be separately booted).
This is really a decision between USB multiboot utilities or purchasing the external drives which do most of this for you just by copying an ISO file onto the drive. I like the control of the former.
UPDATE: After writing this article, Something out of the ordinary happened. Usually, I use this stick infrequently, although it always comes in handy. Then, out of the blue, one of my colleagues asked if I could help with a user's home computer hard drive that was not booting. I helped him out by attaching the drive in question to extra machine I had and using my easy2boot USB stick to boot. After running one of the utility images I had one the USB, the disk become bootable again.
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