USB drives are not expensive and you can have few USB drives containing different operating systems. In case you are a system administrator or you like to carry system rescue disk along with live operating system then a single multiboot USB drive makes a lot of sense. You can get your favorite free live rescue operating systems, system monitoring and security tools, live operating systems and create a multiboot USB drive containing all of these so that when you boot PC from that multiboot USB, it will have option to start with your choice or operating system or tool. Following are few tools that can help you create a USB containing many operating systems of your choice.
In my case I would prefer SystemRescueCd and Ubuntu in mu multiboot USB. You can use Ubuntu live, without installation or you can install Ubuntu from the same medium that runs it live. SystemRescueCD contains useful tools like TestDisk, GParted and more. But of course there is plenty of choice for live operating systems and live system rescue disks to choose from. [ List of Live CDs ]
Multiboot means that the tool allows installation of multiple operating systems on the USB drive and it also creates a bootloader on the USB to choose which operating system to load from, at boot time.
XBoot is Microsoft Windows based software, lot easier to use and is quite user friendly. Just add the ISO files and hit ‘Create USB’ button. You can also drag and drop ISO files. ISO files can be of operating systems or utilities and tools. XBoot will offer a choice to select USB device and bootloader. You can choose from bootloaders of Syslinux and Grub4dos to install. Syslinux bootloader is recommended if your USB is formatted to FAT32 filesytem. In case of NTFS USB, Grub4dos is recommended. XBoot is much efficient and does the job. XBoot has got a built in QEMU emulator that enables you to boot an ISO from within Windows.
RMPrepUSB is Microsoft Windows based software that allows you to create personalized multiboot USB drive containing bootable tools or operating systems. This tools also has got set of exclusive tools for the USB drive.
To create multiboot USB drive, format (NTFS filesystem) a USB drive using RMPrepUSB, install the grub4dos boot manager using the ‘Install grub4dos’ button on RMPrepUSB, add your files (ISO files, disk image files, OS files or even files which are prepared as empty ext2 filesystem volumes), edit your menu.lst file (press F4) to make a user menu so the user can select which OS or program to boot to. Optionally you can test that your USB drive boots using the QEMU button.
[quick start quide with videos]
Easy2Boot is just a collection of grub4dos batch files that you can add to a grub4dos bootable USB Drive (its not a software for Microsoft Windows or Linux). Once you have made the grub4dos bootable USB drive and copied over the Easy2Boot files, just add any bootable files (linux LiveCD ISOs, Windows Installer ISOs, memory test .bin files, floppy and hard disk images, .imgPTN partition images, etc.). Easy2Boot automatically looks at all the files on the drive and dynamically creates a new menu each time you boot from the USB drive. Each file will be booted according to it’s file extension (unlike most MultiBoot Utilities, E2B does not look at the file name and does not need to recognize what type or version of linux is inside the ISO file).
Easy2Boot requires RMPrepUSB. [Make an Easy2Boot USB drive – Instructions]
YUMI (Your Universal Multiboot Installer)
Use YUMI to create a Multiboot USB Flash Drive containing multiple operating systems, antivirus utilities, disc cloning, diagnostic tools, and more. YUMI uses syslinux to boot extracted distributions stored on the USB device, and reverts to using grub to Boot Multiple ISO files from USB, if necessary. YUMI works like Universal USB Installer, except it can be used to install more than one distribution to run Live from your USB. Distributions can also be uninstalled by using this tool.
In the gallery above, first case if when you have provide an ISO file that you have downloaded already. In the second case, user is downloading Ubuntu ISO from online official Ubuntu website. After downloading, the bootable USB will be created. In the third screenshot, unlisted ISO is being tried. YUMI is meant to use to create bootable live USB for Linux based operating systems, but you can choose ‘unlisted ISO’ to add your choice of ISo file(s) to create bootable USB drive.
First time you can format the USB drive and after that you can add more ISOs by repeating same steps of choosing USB drive and giving ISO file. Don’t format it while adding more ISO files. Yes! ‘Unlisted ISO’ choice to add any ISO of your choice instead of selecting listed supported operating systems and tools, works fine. After you are done, the multiboot USB is ready that will offer choices of which ISO to boot from.
So YUMI can create multiboot USB containing different operating systems but you will have to burn the ISO files one by one by using YUMI. Your USB drive must be Fat16/Fat32/NTFS formatted, otherwise Syslinux will fail and your drive will NOT Boot. Its better to use Fat32 because if you use NTFS with YUMI, data may become corrupted.
By using SARDU tool, you can create multiboot USB drive containing multiple operating systems, system security tools, system partitioning tools and system utilities. You can create bootable tools USB disk containing software like antivirus, partition tools, password reset tools, password recovery tools and more. Basically, you select the tools or utilities to include in your multiboot USB and then Sardu will facilitate the download process of those tools. If the tool is not free or restricted by copyrights, it will provide you link for that tool so that you can download it yourself. If you choose to download tools or ISO files by using Sardu, some of these can be outdated. So you might want to check that if you need latest ISO.
Sardu has a tabbed interface offering different utilities grouped under tabs. All antivirus tools are grouped under Antivirus tab, partitioning and troubleshooting tools are under Utility tab, Linux distros are under Linux tab, and Windows under Windows tab.
Upon clicking tools, utilities or operating system buttons, you will be prompted to download the file from original source. Click Yes to add desired file to the download queue. Click the Downloader tab and click START. This will download all selected files. If you also want to add Microsoft Windows to multiboot USB, you should already have the ISO of the Microsoft Windows. Place the ISO in location of /Sardu/ISO/. You also need to rename the ISO in a specific format. Hover the cursor on the buttons to know the specific required file names.
Sardu does not format USB but it writes or overwrites data. Your USB drive should be with FAT32 filesystem. Connect the USB drive and press search USB button. Select USB from the list. Download ISO files (utilities, tools, OS) needed or provide ISO files. Select the downloaded files and press blue USB drive button to create multiboot USB containing selected items.
Multisystem is a Linux based software that can create multiBoot live USB containing multiple operating systems. Drag and drop ISO files and that’s it. The GUI is not perfect but its the software works perfectly. Running this software via the Ubuntu installer (PPA) is kind of complicated so you can run it from a console window because it keeps asking to over-write/delete files and for sudo permissions.
To install Multisystem in Linux, these commands from terminal may work.
sudo apt-add-repository 'deb http://liveusb.info/multisystem/depot all main' wget -q http://liveusb.info/multisystem/depot/multisystem.asc -O- | sudo apt-key add - sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install multisystem
MultiBootUSB is a portable application, that is very useful to create multiboot USB drive. Run the tool and select the USB drive. Browse ISO file and hit ‘create’ button. MultiBootUSB shows added ISO files in the main panel. You can repeat the process and add more ISO files. You can remove ISO files by selecting them separately. You can check your downloaded ISO files or bootable tools, from ‘QEMU’ tab. Select ‘Boot ISO’ or ‘Boot USB’ from there. You can also select how much RAM to use for this emulation. This feature will enable you to check the operating systems that you are going to keep in your USB, without restarting your copmputer. MultiBootUSB is a good software but it can be slower than the others.
This tool allows you to select multiple ISO files at once and create a multi-boot USB drive. It also allows QEMU to test ISOs.
It prepares multiboot USB drive to install any Microsoft Windows versions (if you already have got licensed ISO file), boot various Linux and *BSD flavors, as well as many Microsoft Windows, Linux, DOS based and other utilities. It supports many other ISO images as long as they are compatible with grub4dos emulation, such as Ultimate Boot CD, most DOS based utilities, Acronis and Paragon boot disks and more. It also supports Syslinux boot menu and optionally single source which uses Syslinux or Isolinux as bootloader.
This tool boots the install bootmgr/ntldr for any given ISO file. Make a multiboot windows USB key with Syslinux and FiraDisk. It only allows Microsoft Windows based ISO files.