Many people think that the USB sticks can only be used as storage media – to store pictures, videos, music or other documents. But they do not realize that the USB pen drives that they carry around in their key chain can also be used to boot into an entire operating system. Yes, if you can make the USB sticks bootable and copy operating system software files on it, then you can run a PC without actually requiring any hard disk. In fact, many Linux distributions like Ubuntu are already offering their operating system on a ready to boost USB disk. But you can also prepare your own USB disks and make them bootable using the free RMPrepUSB software.
RMPrepUSB is a Windows utility software that can format your USB disks using many different types of file systems (FAT16, FAT32, NTFS, exFAT), create different types of partitions on it (to use your USB stick as FDD, HDD, or Zip drive) and load different types of bootloaders on it (NTLDR, BOOTMGR, syslinux, grub, MS DOS). These features give you complete flexibility to turn your ordinary USB stick into bootable and portable disk that can boot into Linux, DOS or Windows PE.
The RMPrepUSB interface looks overwhelming but if you follow all the steps, then you will find it very easy to use. First of all you have to select a target USB disk drive from the list, followed by its partition size and volume label settings. Then, you have to choose one of the bootloaders to be installed on your USB disk – this makes your USB disk bootable. The choice of bootloader depends on the operating system files that you want to copy on it. For example, if you want to make a bootable Ubuntu disk, then perhaps you will use grub or syslinux. You can also choose to make the drive non-bootable.
In the next step, you have to decide a file system type and whether any MBR should be installed on the disk. You can use FAT32 or FAT16 file system types as they work on all operating systems. The USB override settings depend on the PC that you want to use it with. Some computers support USB stick booting only if it is used in the FDD mode.
in the fifth step, you have to copy the operating system files to your target USB stick. For Linux, you can just extract all the files from the Linux ISO image files and choose to copy them in this step. And finally, you can click on the Prepare Drive button to carry out all the operations that you have selected for your target USB disk. The whole process does not take more than 5-6 minutes.
RMPrepUSB also has some imaging tools which can help you to save the USB disk image to a file your hard disk. Later you can use the same tools to restore the USB disk image from the saved file to the USB disk.
Conclusion: RMPrepUSB is a comprehensive USB disk preparation tool for creating bootable USB disks. It supports almost all types of bootloaders, filesystems and can be used to create bootable Linux and Windows PE disks.
You can download RMPrepUSB from http://www.rmprepusb.com/.