Create a Bootable VistaPE USB Hard Drive or Flashdrive


These instructions are currently a work in progress. I've tried to make the process as simple as possible and have tested it on flashdrives as well as a USB hard drive (NTFS single partition).

I would like to thank K0lo on the Acronis Forum for his procedures, time and testing that went into creating these instructions.

Last updated February 22nd, 2008

Step 1 - Use WinBuilder to build VistaPE

Create a VistaPE project using WinBuilder. If you need help using WinBuilder to create a VistaPE build, you can find Mustang's Guide here. If you need any of Mustang's Acronis True Image or Disk Director plugins, you can find them here.
NOTE: These instructions were created using WinBuilder 072a and VistaPE 10. However, the procedure is the same when using WinBuilder 074 and VistaPE 11.
When creating your VistaPE build using WinBuilder, there are several important settings that need to be correct in order for the build to work properly.

Under Main Configuration make sure the Boot Manager is set to Grub4Dos (this is the default).
Figure 1a
In all of Mustang's Acronis scripts, make sure to check the Run from ram (boot.wim) checkbox.
Figure 1b
Under Finalize, make sure Create ISO is checked. The ISO image is needed to make the program install the Grub4Dos components in the build.
Figure 1c

Step 2 - Copy VistaPE files to the USB Device

Plug in your USB Device (either a USB hard drive or flashdrive).

If using a flashdrive, it can be formatted as either FAT, FAT32 or NTFS.

If using a USB hard drive, it can be either FAT32 or NTFS. You may also choose to create a small (500MB - 1GB FAT32 or NTFS) partition just for the VistaPE files and then create an NTFS partition in the remaining space to hold the backup files.

Keep in mind, when partitioning your USB device, that the booting partition (the partition holding the VistaPE files) can be either Primary or Logical.

Also, if your USB Device is already setup how you want, you don't need to format the device and lose any files already on the device.
Open My Computer and browse to your WinBuilder folder. Then browse to the sub-folder Target and then VistaPE.
Figure 2a
Select all the files and copy them to the USB Device.
NOTE: Depending on the options you selected in your VistaPE build, your folders may look different. For example, if you used the option in the Extended Configuration script to Force place all programs to RAM (boot.wim) you won't have a Programs folder.
In the example below, I've copied the files from D:\WinBuilder_072\Target\VistaPE to my flashdrive on F:\.
Figure 2b

Step 3 - Move grldr

Copy or Move the file grldr from the boot folder on the USB Device to the Root folder. Grub4Dos looks for this file in the Root of all partitions and uses the first one it finds.
Figure 3a

Step 4 - Install Grub4Dos to the MBR of the USB Device

Now you need to install Grub4Dos to the MBR of the USB Device. To do this, the easiest way is to use the grubinst_gui.exe utility. Click here to download the program. Extract the contents to a folder on your hard drive. In this example, I've extracted the files to D:\Temp\grubutil-1.1-bin-w32-19.
Figure 4a
For those interested, more information on Grub4Dos can be found at the following locations:
Grub4Dos Main Page
Grub4Dos Tutorial
In Windows XP, just run the grubinst_gui.exe program.
In Vista, you'll need to run grubinst_gui.exe in Administrator mode. Right-click on the program file and select Run as administrator from the pop-up menu.
Figure 4b
You may get a security pop-up window asking if you want to run the program. Select Run to start the program.
Figure 4c
In Vista, if you have UAC turned on (the default setting), you'll get another warning. Select Allow to let the program start.
Figure 4d
Once the program is started, select the Disk option, then click the Disk Refresh button and then select your USB Device from the dropdown box.
Figure 4e
IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure you select your USB Device from the dropdown list and not a different drive. You should be able to tell which is your USB Device by the size shown for each drive. In the above example, my 1GB flashdrive is easy to pick out.
Now click the Part List Refresh button, then the dropdown box and finally select the Whole disk (MBR) option.
Figure 4f
Leaving all the other options unchecked and cleared, click the Install button to install Grub4Dos to the MBR of the Flashdrive.
NOTE: You may want to check the Don't search floppy checkbox before you install. I have run it without this checked, though, and haven't had any problems.
Figure 4g
Hopefully, you'll get the message that the installation was successful. Press Enter to close the Command Prompt window.
Figure 4h
Click the Quit button to exit the Grub4Dos Installer program.
Figure 4i

Step 5 - Boot your VistaPE USB Device

Your VistaPE USB Device should now be bootable. Leave the USB Device plugged in and reboot your computer. Check the BIOS (if necessary) to make sure the USB Device is the first boot device. If everything works correctly, the USB Device should boot to the Grub4Dos menu. Select VistaPE to start VistaPE.

Step 6 - Updating your VistaPE USB Device

If you make changes to your VistaPE build, you can update the files on the USB Device by repeating Step 2 and copying the updated files to the USB Device. No further steps are necessary.