Booting from USB Devices is something that I’ve never really investigated fully. The idea of being able to boot from a keydisk that you carry with you is a nice one, but the PC you wish to boot from needs to support this in it’s BIOS and the reality for me is that many of my customers work with hardware that pre-dates USB Bootable supported BIOS’ – so I continue to carry a wallet of CD-ROM’s (and Floppy Disks!) with me on site visits.
Whilst going through the process of installing a new server (a Dell PowerEdge 830 – more to come on that soon…) here in the office, I had the need to update the servers BIOS to the latest version. Historically, that would have meant me reaching for a DOS boot disk – but as the server was new enough to support USB Booting in it’s existing BIOS, I chose to see how the USB Boot Disk process had matured since I last checked it out.
A quick Google shows that there are many well written documents describing how to create Bootable USB Keydisks – nearly all involving using the command line to create a Master Boot Record on the USB device and copying relevant Operating System or Utility files across.
But during my research I stumbled across a neat utility called Flashboot that simplies the whole process with a nice GUI interface (see below).
Once downloaded and installed, I popped a new Crucial 256MB USB Keydisk I had lying around into my Desktop PC, ran Flashboot, chose to create a Bootable Flash disk with minimal set of DOS system files (using the included FreeDOS) and watched as Flashboot did it’s thing for 30 seconds or so. I then ejected the keydisk from my Desktop PC, inserted into the server, made sure USB booting was enabled in the BIOS, rebooted – and voila, minutes later my server BIOS was updated and ready to roll.
The cost of Flashboot (after currency conversion) worked out at just over £12. Now I love resorting to the CLI as much as the next old-school hacker, but this is another one of those times when paying a few quid for a well written bit of software that simplifies what can be a complicated job into a few clicks seems a sensible investment to me!