Creating a Bootable USB Drive and Booting From It

Since USB drives are relatively cheap, capacious and readily available , they have been successfully replacing the old-school CD/DVD media for quite some time now. Although the latter is still a good option for movies or music long term storage,  it is not worth the hassle elsewhere as it introduces more variables to the game like third-party CD/DVD burning software and takes forever to write.  That is the main reason you may consider using a USB drive instead. In the following steps I will take you through the steps of creating a bootable USB drive depending on your needs.

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 Article Contents

Creating bootable USB drive for Windows 7 / Windows 8 / Windows 8.1
Creating bootable USB drive for Windows XP
Creating bootable USB drive for  drivers or a BIOS update
Setting up BIOS to boot from USB drive
 
Creating Bootable USB Drive for Windows 7 / Windows 8 / Windows 8.1

Step 1. Download, extract and install the Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool. Don’t worry, it works with all three operating systems just fine.

Step 2. Open the tool and click “Browse” to select the ISO file containing your Windows 7 / Windows 8 / Windows 8.1 operating system (pic. 1). Once selected, click  “Open” and then “Next”.

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Step 3. Click on “USB device” (pic. 2).

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Step 4. If you have more that one USB device connected at the time of following this guide, make sure you choose the one you are planning on putting the operating system on in the drop down menu and click “Begin copying” (pic. 3).

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All you have to now it to wait for copying to complete and then you are done.

Creating Bootable USB Drive for Windows XP

Step 1. Download, extract and run Rufus tool.

Step 2. In the drop down list choose your USB device you want to copy Windows XP to. Next, click the button with a disc picture on it (marked in red, pic. 4), select the Windows XP ISO file and click “Open”. You do not need to change any other settings here. Click “Start” to begin copying files.

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Be patient and wait for copying to complete. Now you have a bootable Windows XP USB drive ready to boot from.

Creating Bootable USB Drive for Drivers or a BIOS Update

Step 1. Download HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool and boot files. Extract both archives and launch the tool. If the tool gives you an error on launch, make sure you right-click on it and select to run it as administrator (pic. 5).

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Step 2.  Select your USB drive in the top drop down menu. The file system should be set to FAT32. Next, check the “Quick Format” and “Create a DOS startup disk” boxes and then select the location of the boot files you have extracted (pic. 6).

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Step 3. Click “Start” and confirm you want to format your USB drive in the pop-up window (pic. 7).

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That is all. You can now put a BIOS file, drivers and an  updater utility on your USB drive and boot from it.

Setting Up BIOS to Boot From USB Drive

When you turn on your computer, the BIOS first initializes all the components connected to a motherboard. Next, it checks for a bootable drive and this is the moment when boot device sequence really matters. If there is more than one bootable drive, say, a hard disk you have your OS on and a USB bootable drive you have just created, the BIOS will boot from a device which comes with a higher priority. So if you cannot boot from a USB device, it is likely your boot device priority is not in correct order and needs to be changed. Long story short, you should give your boot USB  device the top priority  in BIOS.  In order to achieve it, you have to:

*In the following steps ASUS BIOS will be used as a reference.

Step 1. Plug your newly created bootable USB drive, restart your computer and before it begins to load the operating system, depending on your BIOS, press “Esc”, “F1″, “F2″ or “Del”. Usually the BIOS logo screen shows which key should be pressed in order to enter  the BIOS configuration utility. For example, all ASUS motherboards enter the BIOS configuration mode when “Del” is pressed during a boot up.

Step 2. Once in BIOS, locate the Boot menu (pic. 8). If your non-Asus motherboard has a different BIOS layout, the boot menu should appear under “Advanced BIOS Features” or similar section.

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Step 3. Now, head over to “Hard Disk Drives” section where you will be able to see all HDD, SSD and USB drives currently present on your computer. By pressing “+” key make sure a device named “USB: Generic Flash” is the 1st drive on the list (pic. 9)

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Step 4. Press “Esc” to return to the main boot menu. Now go to “Boot Device Priority” section and do the same thing as you did in step 3 and make the “USB: Generic Flash” appear on top of the list again (pic. 10).

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Step 5. Confirm the changes you have just made by pressing “F10″. Finally, click “Esc” to leave the BIOS setup utility.  Now you should see your computer booting from a USB drive.

A Shorter Way of Achieving the Goal

Rather than going through all the steps mentioned above, you may just try to bring  the advanced boot menu by repeatedly tapping (not pressing and keeping pressed) “F8″ key as soon as you power on or reboot your computer. You should see a window similar to the one in the pic. 11. Select the “USB: Generic Flash”, press “Enter” and watch your system boot from a USB drive. The reason I offer this seemingly better solution as secondary is that not all BIOS versions support this feature. Another thing is this feature does not save the boot device priority list, so if you need to boot from a USB drive more than once, you’ll have to be vigilant not to miss to tap “F8″ everytime.

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SSD RAID0 TRIM Support on X58 Platform

I still find it hard to believe the X58 platform has been around for six years now.  If we lived in 2005 now,  in the world of CPUs such a large amount of time would have been considered as eternity, however, this is no longer true in 2014. That’s right, cheap Westmere-EP based LGA1366 hexa-core Xeon CPUs  is the reason why the X58 platform is still a  viable option.

If you’re interested in getting the best out  of your X58 setup, you may consider putting your SSD drives in RAID0 mode. However, there seems to be a hurdle in the way: the X58-based motherboards lack TRIM support in RAID configurations. Note that TRIM is only supported since Windows 7, so if you have an SSD but  run an older version of Windows, it’s probably a good idea to upgrade.

TRIM is an important feature as it ensures your SSD drive does not keep junk data. When the HDD deletes a file, it simply marks that file as “deleted” and does not destroy that data until something new needs to be written on “top” of it. The SSD, on the other hand, works on a completely different principle from the HDD and simply cannot overwrite the files mentioned in one step. Before writing new data, the blocks storing junk data need to be deleted and this is the moment the TRIM command extends a helping hand.  The TRIM command can be thought of as a message from the OS telling the SSD what previously used memory blocks no longer hold valid data and can be deleted even though nothing is scheduled to be written yet. This prevents the SSD from losing its speed over time as well as extends its longevity.

That being said, Intel does not officially support TRIM in RAID configurations on X58 systems. However,  thanks to guys on www.win-raid.com , this finally seems to be possible with some effort. Next I’m going to provide you with a simple steb-by-step tutorial on how to modify your motherboard BIOS to add support for TRIM in RAID configurations.

Before We Start

In the following steps I’ll be using ASUS P6T Deluxe BIOS as a reference. Please note the following steps apply to all X58-based motherboards, not only ASUS as long as your motherboard comes with American Megatrends BIOS and not Award BIOS like, for example, Gigabyte boards. In case you own either an ASUS P6T Deluxe or an ASUS P6T WS PRO motherboard, you can download already modified latest BIOS for either board below:

ASUS P6T DELUXE ver.2209 RAID TRIM

ASUS P6T WS PRO ver. 1205 RAID TRIM

 

Step 1. Download the latest BIOS for your X58 motherboard. If you’re not sure of what motherboard you’re running (which I highly doubt), download CPU-Z  utility. After launching it, head over to “Motherboard” section and find the “Model” field (pic. 1).

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Step 2. Download BIOS modification tool MMTOOL as well as the custom modified RAID ROM Module which we’ll later inject into a BIOS file. This RAID ROM module carries a version number of v10.1.0.1008 and if you log on the www.win-raid.com forum, you’ll see this is not the latest version which “should work”, however, I’ve found the v10.1.0.1008 to be the one to work on my P6T Deluxe motherboard. The newer versions would result in blinking cursor during POST after enabling RAID.

Step 3. Extract what you’ve downloaded in step 2. Launch the MMTOOL, click “Load” and select your motherboard BIOS file (pic. 2) and then “Open” (pic. 3).

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Step 4. Once loaded, in the BIOS contents table locate “PCI Option ROM” entry. Keep in mind there may be more than one entries matching this name. The one you need comes with “Link Vendor ID: 8086″, “Link Device ID 2822″ (pic.4). Vendor ID of 8086 means the manufacturer of  corresponding BIOS device is Intel, meanwhile device ID of 2822 confirms we’re dealing with Intel Desktop/Workstation/Server Express Chipset SATA RAID controller.

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Step 5. Click on “Replace” tab in the MMTOOL. Now click “Browse”,  select the extracted RAID ROM Module which you downloaded in step 2 (pic. 5). Then click “Open” and “Replace”.

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Step 6. That’s it, the hard part is over. It wasn’t actually that hard, was it? The last thing left to do in MMTOOL is to save the BIOS file with the modifications you’ve just made. I suggest you create a new BIOS file by clicking “Save ROM As” and leaving the original BIOS file untouched just in case. Next, upload  the modified BIOS file onto a flashdrive and flash your motherboard with it. If you’re running an ASUS board,  you may flash via  EZ-FLASH built-in BIOS utility. It’s advisable to clear CMOS after flashing. Not to mention, you do everything at your own risk.

Step 7. Once you’re done flashing your motherboard, download the modified Intel RST drivers for Windows. Next, install them and reboot your computer. That’s it!

Making Sure TRIM Is Working

Here comes the moment of truth and we’ll see if out effort finally pays off. Download a tiny Trimcheck  application and run it from your RAID disk. On the first run the application will create a test dummy file. After no less than 20 seconds launch the Trimcheck again to see the result (pic. 6).

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Here are some of my benchmarks comparing a single Samsung 840EVO 120GB SSD against two of them in RAID0 on my ASUS P6T Deluxe motherboard.

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