Thanks for the replies @victor - unfortunately I can't read Chinese, but thanks for the effort! @wimb - thanks I will review that method you listed. It does seem that it would take longer to prepare the HDD, but would lead to the least problems. @jaclaz - thanks for the info. As you are a prolific poster here I just wanted to comment on a few things about your post. Please take all I say here as just an opinion, with the knowledge that I respect and appreciate your contributions to this site. First, I wholeheartedly disagree with the mentality of "You cannot have BOTH an automated "latest" method AND know what it does". This might be true if paying for some commercial software, but in the spirit of open source and sharing that these forums present (and indeed many others), I *personally* believe that the developers of these methods should also be providing detailed information about what their tools are doing and how they do it. I believe that if they don't they are either being lazy (which I can sometimes be accused of!), or they are trying to keep information from the community. Again, since this community is about sharing and not making a buck, I fail to see how it benefits anyone by not presenting detailed instructions and breakdowns as to what these tools do. I have developed tools and software before in communities like these and always make it a point to give very detailed instructions as to how to use the tools and what they do. I can of course sit down for a few hours and parse through all the batch files and research each tool included in pack and more than likely figure out everything that is being done...but not necessarily *why* it is all being done. For a developer to take the additional 30 minutes (after spending days to write the tools!) to clearly explain all the steps their tool takes and why seems to me a better use of everyone's time (obviously the end-user, but also less time in the long run that the developer saves from trying to explain things piecemeal). Second, just to comment on your comment of "The USB_Multiboot cmd is the direct evolution of that. (with a lot of added features that you don't like)." I'm not sure what to make of your emoticon, but it would seem to infer that in some way you think I am at best strange or at worst annoying that I would not want a tool like this to do all sorts of things hidden and under the hood. I didn't fully examine everything the USB_Multiboot did, but I did notice that it created a bunch of reg files which were (apparently) run during the cmdlines text part of XP install (again, I didn't look in detail, but it was something like this). Although I highly appreciate that someone went out of their way to write a tool like this, I don't want that person to dictate how I install XP, especially when it involves modifying the default installation behavior or configuration of the OS after it is installed (which is what those Reg entries seemed to do). Now, of course, I can spend the time picking through all of this stuff do discover what else was added that is non-standard, but by the time I do that it would have probably been just as quick to manually set things up instead of using the tool. That then goes back to the first comment about not just providing the tool, but actually explaining exactly what it is doing. And last, just to tie those all together - And this is not directed at you or anyone in particular - but to expect any new comer to actually wade through all this information which is full of errors (naturally, as development will be when you are...developing), full of cross-posts and out-of-date information, is a lot to expect. The amount of posts I have seen from you alone where the same questions are answered by linking to a dozen more posts which don't directly answer a question but often move around in circles is staggering! In forums like these there are usually a couple of FAQ worthy topics that really should be documented and presented in great detail to prevent the amount of confusion (agreeable often from newbies to the forum like myself). Unfortunately (or fortunately) this task is often best left to the forum moderators or elders (like yourself) to compile - I can all but guarantee that someone like yourself can probably assemble a pretty cohesive history and strategy presented plainly in just a few hours. I would also be pretty sure that the time spent doing that would be much less then all the posts you refer to because that doesn't exist! Again, I'm not saying that you (or anyone else) SHOULD do this. And once again I want to acknowledge all the work everyone here has put into this forum. I am just expressing some observations from an outsider that is coming in based on similar experiences and how I have seen them resolved at other forums I have participated in. I would love to take the red pill and devote some time to helping out here, but in the near future at least I cannot volunteer to do any of that as this was just a small project I was planning on working on and not something else to become a full time hobby. That doesn't mean that I don't think users like me shouldn't put any effort into learning, the process just works better (and grows the collective knowledge) when those in the know clearly present their knowledge. I will of course post as some point when I have compiled my toolkit based on my experience to hopefully add to the information already here. Thanks again for all your help, I will let you know how it goes.
I apologize if the post is a little lengthy, the meat of the question is following the text in red below. Hello all, First thank you for having me here at MSFN. I have spent about a day trying to learn how to create a bootable USB flash drive that will enable me to carry with me most of the tools I need on any given sunday to deal with the situation I am in. Through the help of MSFN, google, and a few other sites I have learned quite a bit. Of course, the more I learn, the more there is to learn and my questions keep getting more and more. I think I have wasted a lot of time reading some older posts (as that is what Google led me to) and now finding some more up to date info, I wanted to now reach out for some guidance on the best way to tackle the situation. Basically my goal will be to created a USB stick that can do the following: 1) Boot BartPE 2) Install XP, Vista, Linux Distros 3) Hold additional data (just so I can plug it into any machine and have a drive with my tools). 4) And possibly boot to other CD based tools like EBCD, WinPE, and various Linux Live distros. Of course this is what alot of people here are probably trying to do (or some subset of them)! I have successfully done #1 already with the infamous PEtoUSB I have done the Linux part of #2 using unetbootin I have done #3 as it is really easy (just put files on the drive!) I have tested parts of #4 through various methods (grub, boot.ini loading) - but only tinkered here. It definitely seems that the most complicated one of all of these is installing XP (and maybe Vista? although it seems pretty easy for vista) My first attempt at loading XP from USB was using a method similar to this here although when XP setup went into the "Loading Windows Setup" phase I would get the dreaded 0x0000007B error. Since I have read this method may not work well for larger ISOs, I decided to abandon it (although it does seem like the easiest way if it worked!). After a few other attempts at using some deprecated software, I then found wimb's USB_MultiBoot_10 utility and used that to make a usb drive to install XP. I had some issues there as well with 0x0000007B errors on some systems, replacing with the hacked NTDETECT.COM and ensuring that ATA mode and not AHCI was set in the BIOS got XP installed or at least until the corrupt HAL.DLL came up. After spending a day working on this, I have decided to pull in the reigns here... There are obviously alot of knowledgeable people here at MSFN, unfortunately many of the tools made available have so many settings and options that unless you have been involved with this project from the beginning, it is difficult to know what they do. In addition many of these tools do other things, further complicating what exactly it is that you need. Like some other posters on the forum here I am the type that likes to boil it down to essentials, and I also like to know everything that is going on. For a tool to put in additional command and options that affect my XP installation is not what I am looking for. In other words, I would rather spend 2 hours assembling the files and setting them up myself rather than have a tool automate it in 10 minutes. Of course the big problem is knowing what to do, what to add, what to change....the automated tools may work for the majority of people out there, but they give the man a fish instead of teaching him how to fish! I know most of the knowledge is out in these forums, but there are sooooo many posts and as a new comer I am sure your realize how daunting and convoluted (posts linked back to themselves!) the search can be. So, at this point, since it seems the most difficult task I would like to try an conquer this XP from USB install. Of the two options - Installing directly from USB boot vs. Booting to BartPE and then installing - it seems that booting to BartPE first is both the easiest to setup and can cause the least amount of issues. However reading through some of the posts (without actually doing all the steps in this method) it seems like many of these are also convoluted, need multiple reboots, manual formatting of the drives and copying of files. I am not sure if this is still the best method? In short, I would like to be pointed to the most complete and up-to-date method to install XP from USB. I am looking to use a method that has the highest probably of working the first time on the largest number of devices out there. If I need to do a few extra manual tasks (like manually partition the drive) then I would prefer to do that rather than waste time troubleshooting a more fully automated method. I would prefer that someone does not direct me to a tool that automates all this and hides everything going on, since these tools often add alot of extraneous things and don't really make clear how things are working. I would like this method to allow me to easily slipstream in drivers and updates using nLite (thus hold true to working on the largest number of devices) I am not afraid to read or learn or do, but after spending this much time already and still confused or unhappy with what "seems" to be the latest solutions, I hoped that someone here can give me some guidance as to what is current and what are still the limitations. I appreciate any help you can give!