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Build multi-boot USB keys with WinSetupFromUSB

06 May 2014, Mike Williams

WinSetupFromUSB is a free tool which creates bootable USB keys from ISO images, perfect for anyone who wants a faster and more convenient way to launch PC boot discs.

As you’ll guess from its name, the program started life as a way to prepare USB keys to install Windows. It still does that very well, too, for every version from Windows 2000 to 8.1.

WinSetupFromUSB now also works with many Linux-based ISOs, though – Debian, Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, CentOS and more – which also gets you support for many antivirus rescue disks.

The program can also work with PE and PE2-based images, Syslinux/ Isolinux-compatible discs, and anything else which can handle grub4dos CD emulation (Ultimate Boot CD, Acronis and Paragon boot disks and so on).

Just point the program at whatever ISO images you’d like to use

Best of all, WinSetupFromUSB can combine any of these images into a single environment, creating a USB key with a boot menu where you choose whatever you need.

Setting this up can be fairly straightforward. It’s really just a matter of choosing the type of ISO you’d like to add, then selecting those images, so you might be able to configure a combined Windows XP/ Vista/ 7/ 8 installation disc in just a few seconds.

This does become a little more complicated as you move away from Windows. You might want to add your own PC recovery disc, but should you choose the PE category, Linux/ Grub4dos, SysLinux/ IsoLinux? You’ll need to check the disc itself, or maybe browse WinSetupFromUSB’s online help for clues.

Even then, we experienced one or two issues while running the program. Our first attempts to create a bootable key failed with some error about the MBR, for instance, and instead of allowing us to tweak our settings and try again, WinSetupFromUSB just closed.

Still, for the most part WinSetupFromUSB worked very well. That’s no great surprise, as it uses some excellent free and open source tools to do much of the hard work (RMPrepUSB, BOOTICE, ImDisk, QEMU, FbinstTool and more). And if you take the time to explore everything they have to offer, you should be able to solve most ISO issues.

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