We dubbed our kick ass tool for solving problems and assisting with projects the Tech Support Toolkit. It’s basically yesterday’s Swiss Army Knife is and today’s USB thumb drive. A bit more dull a knife but just as powerful in certain industries. CD and DVD bootable disks are going away. Most new computers don’t even have a drive for booting up from. Many people ask what to do if you want to install a new operating system if there’s no CD ROM. Thankfully there are some pretty cool tools that get you away from the legacy BIOS and CD boot modes and into UEFI.
Here’s what enabling UEFI look like in the Dell BIOS
OS Bootup and Installation Tools
We will focus on Winsetup because it allows you to store multiple boot installations on one USB. From what I can tell, Rufus is limited to just one bootable ISO. I have setup a USB disk with a customized Windows 7 iso (over 7GB), Windows 10 ISO’s (both 32 and 64bit), 2008 r2, 2016, a couple of WinPE based utilities like Paragon Backup & Recovery, and Partition manager, Rescue Kit, a couple of Linux Distro’s and tools, the UBCD etc., all on the same disk. It works great.
USB Stick vs Disk
The Tech Support Toolkit used to be a USB disk drive, not a stick, as the disk has a larger capacity and it can hold more ISOs. Through trying the different options during format I have gotten this disk to work on all the different BIOS’s I have seen, so for me it is universal. But I did have to re-make it a couple of times until I got it this way. I have since switch to sticks because they offer more capacity than a year or two ago and they fit on a key chain.
USB stick is faster than DVD but I also found drawbacks. Many OS (eg win7 OS) the image does not have USB 3 drivers and generates on many boards an error. So you have to use an USB 2 stick for older boards that do not have the USB 3 driver in the bios. The only method that always worked was from the DVD. However, many of these old computer are being replaced. So this will be a moot point for many individuals.
To begin, first download and run the program.
FBinst Tool – Step 1
Click this option for formatting the USB stick for the first time. You shouldn’t have to go hear again after the format is complete unless you have new stick. Leave the settings at FAT32 when you plan to do the setup, otherwise you won’t be able to install the OS’s to UEFI based PC’s and GPT disks.
Side Note – The message you get about splitting the iso is because your iso is larger than 4GB. FAT32 only supports a max file-size of 4GB. But the utility WinSetupFromUSB automatically splits iso’s that are larger than 4GB into chunks, so that it still works on a FAT32 formatted file-system. It just notifies you that it will do the split so you know. Just hit OK it and it will work fine.
Gather your ISOs – Step 2
Find Windows 7, 8, 10.1 Pro and Home. Grab ISOs from MSDN Subscriber Download Site Then look at other utility options if there are bootable ISO solutions for them…
Reactive Utilities – Malware Malbytes, JRT.exe, Systernal TCPView, Microsoft System Restore, Veeam Endpoint Backup, Hirem Boot CD, Eset Online Scanner, Eset SysRescue, Paragon Rescue Kit, Parago Backup and Recovery, CCCleaner, UBCD, and a diagnostics tools for Lenovo products.
Additional Utility Notes: The 32 bit backup & Recovery should be enough. 32 Bit OS’s will also run on 64 Bit hardware. It may not use all RAM then and could be slower, but a backup tool usually doesn’t use much RAM so I doubt you’d notice a difference.
The ADK option comes up in a lot of ISO kits. It creates a WinPE based iso, it can be easier to use (but it will install parts of M$’s ADK tools so WinPE iso’s can be created). If you don’t use the ADK option you’ll get a Linux based iso.
Use the Linux/GRUB section for the UBCD and HBCD.
HBCD not required
I’m struggling to get HBCD to work with the menu.lst. Grab the HBCD folder off the HBCD ISO when using Magic ISO to mount the Hiren ISO. Then edit the menu under WinSetup USB stick. Add the following at the bottom of config file. It should work but I got the error below.
Add to USB Disk – Step 3
Manually add each ISO one by one and label them accordingly.
Custom Boot Names – Step 4
Make sure you add very specific but to the point custom names. You’ll thank me later.
Computer Boot Issues – Step 5
Side note: It’s an m$ issue, when you boot the installation media from an NTFS file-system, it can’t load the EFI modules which are needed for an UEFI BIOS to recognize it as such, and so only normal BIOS setup will be available.
Understanding how PCs boot these days and the legacy boot option is essential for troubleshooting PCs. You tech support toolkit is useless without it. For now, there show be two particular options you should focus on. We have some resources at the bottom of the page if you to understand much more further in depth.
Legacy Boot – “USB Storage Device” – Boot Menu 1
UEFI Boot – “Windows Boot Manager” – Boot Menu 2
You can simply use Windows Boot Manager if you are running a Windows OS setup. Use the legacy boot option for everything else.
Two Boot Menus
Boot Menu 1 – AKA “Legacy Boot”
When I boot from the USB disk I first am asked about whether I want to use Grub4DOS or pLop boot manager, where I can select between F1 and F2. This selection I usually don’t touch, and then I get the next screen, which is a light blue, and the first menu.
It starts with
0 Windows NT6 (Vista/7 and above) Setup, then
1 Second part/continue NT6 Setup (Boot first internal disk). Then
2 Windows NT6…. Then
3 gparted-live. Then
4 Clonezilla-live. Then
5 UBCDrindi, and so on.
If I select the top option (0), I almost get to the menu you have in your screen-shot. except at the top I have
…Back to Main Menu(Grub4DOS)
Boot Menu 2 – “Windows Boot Manager” – Windows Setup Issues.
A lot of computers were installed with the legacy boot option. Windows won’t boot correctly if you are in UEFI or in secure mode set in the BIOS. Disable UEFI if it does not boot correctly or enable it if Windows was setup in UEFI mode. Make sense?
Tech Support Toolkit FAQ
Secure Boot Notes:
“Operating system loader signature not found in secureboot database (‘db’) is the error message I received… Message boards say to disable secure boot but I want secure boot.”
***You’ll need to disable secure boot if you want it to boot from other devices than the OS disk
you can re-enable it later again, if you want***
Windows Installation Notes:
Grab the key from prior install if wiping the computer using Belark Advisor or Copy the COA if on the computer.
Don’t enter any key during the installation. You can skip that step or click on “I don’t have a key”. The installation will proceed, and once finished and the system has an internet connection it will activate automatically, provided you installed the correct version of Windows 7 that corresponds to what came with the computer.
More Installation Notes:
You can only use UEFI and GPT if you install the system via UEFI in the first place. You can use GPT drives as secondary drives on MBR-based installations of windows. When you get the boot media selection you should see two options for your DVD or USB stick, one of them UEFI, which would be what you select. This works with DVD’s and USB sticks, but the USB stick must be using the FAT32 file-system, otherwise you won’t get the UEFI boot selection.
UEFI or MBR Boot Windows Install Additional Legacy Issues:
If you use a UEFI boot then you must install to a GPT disk, MBR boot to a MBR disk. Some software balks on GPT disks (Spinrite) but most cloning software doesn’t care about the DATA on the disk..
More About UEFI:
UEFI is chosen usually if the drive you are installing your Windows to is bigger than 2TB or you want to have more than 4 primary partitions. Otherwise there is no reason to use UEFI.
In most cases, disabling secure boot in UEFI solves many problems
More About GPT:
Disk Manager will show if it is GPT or MBR
If the UEFI boot is enabled in BIOS and you are installing the Windows 7 64bit (32bit will not go to GPT drive) to empty HDD (not partitioned) then it will make automatically GPT drive with partitions.
To check if your drive now is a GPT drive right click on C: – Properties – Hardware – select again Properties – then Volume – populate. It will show what type of HDD is used.
As for Backup of the drive. You can use Paragon Backup & Recovery 15 Free tool to take backup of your HDD. It does work with both GPT and MBR drives.
Setup properly, the tech support toolkit offers many advantages over a standard DVD setup. Call us today if you would like us to assist in a future tech support endeavors.