• RMPrepUSB User Guide & FAQs - RMPrepUSB

• RMPrepUSB User Guide & FAQs

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RMPrepUSB User Guide
Guide for v2.1.714

If you are looking for a ready-made solution for a multi-boot USB drive. please go to the Easy2Boot website.

FAQ's here

Click here to watch the 'How to use RMPrepUSB' YouTube videos.


RMPrepUSB is a Windows utility that can be used to format any USB storage device, e.g. USB Flash drive (UFD) or USB hard disk, as a bootable device (but cannot be used on USB Floppy drives to format floppy disks). It can be used to partition, format, write a Master Boot Record, partition table and/or Volume Boot Record (sometimes called a Partition Boot Record) and operating system boot code to a USB storage device (e.g. USB flash memory drive or USB hard disk). It can also be used to work on non-USB drives.

If you installed RMPrepUSB using the Installer, you can easily uninstall it using the ‘uninstall RMPrepUSB’ entry in the Start Menu. However, you do not need to install RMPrepUSB (it is portable and will even run under BartPE or WinPE v1/v2/v3), just ensure that all the files are copied to a folder on your hard drive or storage drive.

Note: if running Win PE you may need to copy the MSVBSM60.DLL from the WINPE_EXTRA folder to the same folder that RMPrepUSB.exe is in. Also, if you are running under Win PE v1/BartPE you may need to copy showdrive.exe file from the WINPE_EXTRA folder (do not copy this file if running Windows XP+ though as it can cause problems!) - showdrive auto-mounts a new drive after it has been formatted if the OS itself does not.

To start - select the Language that you want to use in the top-right hand box. RMPrepUSB will list all *.INI files found in the .\LANG folder. Note that the translated files may be slightly out of date, but if you select English you will always get the latest version of help text. If you are running Windows XP, you may need to install Asian language support (see FAQ Q32)

Please read the all the FAQs at the end of this document!


RMPrepUSB and RMPartUSB are free (Freeware) for private use only; however they are not Open Source programs. For commercial use and licensing please contact [email protected]. Distribution, sale, or use in a commercial solution is forbidden without permission from RM Education plc (see FAQs below for more information).

The RMPrepUSB download includes some executables which are not the intellectual property of the author or RM Education. The licensing terms and conditions of these programs are:

Grubinst.exe, grldr and touchdrv.exe – Author: bean123 homepage GPL (see GPL.txt)

Mkefs.exe – Author: MattWu [email protected] homepage GPL (see GPL.txt)

Syslinux.exe – Author: H. Peter Anvin see homepage

QEMU - QEMU was written by Fabrice Bellard and is free software.

HashMyfiles.exe - by NirSoft (licence files included with download)

WinContig.exe. - with kind permission from Marco D. Free for personal and commercial use.

Start_VM.exe - with kind permission from David B. Free with published sources on reboot.pro

Various parts are released under different GNU General Public License version 2-compatible licenses.

These include the GNU Lesser General Public License (GNU LGPL) or permissive licenses such as the BSD license

RMPrepUSB is intended for use on USB Flash memory drive, USB hard disk drives or other USB storage devices such as card readers.

Press F1 for help and shortcut functions.

RMPrepUSB can:

· Partition, format and make bootable a USB drive (follow the steps numbered 1-6 in blue text)

· Clean (erase/wipe) a USB drive (best to unplug and re-plug afterwards)

· Backup a USB drive (or parts of a USB drive) to an image file

· Restore an image file (or part of an image file) to a USB drive

· Install the grub4dos or syslinux bootloader onto a USB drive

· Test a USB drive (useful for testing fake USB flash memory drives)

· Test raw read/write speed of a USB drive

· Eject a USB drive (for safe removal)

· Display the partition structure of a USB drive (or image file)

· Be used after PEBuilder to install your XP PE files to a bootable USB drive.

· Work on hard disk drives as well as USB drives (by using the ALLDRIVES command line parameter)

· Create an ext2/3/4 read/write filesystem (as a mountable file – e.g. casper-rw)

· Emulate booting from the selected USB drive (QEMU = F11) v2.1.707 and later versions have full write access!

· Calculate MD5/CRC32/SHA1 checksum of a file (ALT+F2)

· Overwrite Master Boot Record with default (Win7/Vista) MBR

· Run Disk Doctor utility for disk testing/editing

· Install the WEE bootloader to Track 0 (overwrites MBR)

· Run DiskDoctor (a raw disk editing/testing/data search utility)

· Make all files on a drive contiguous using WinContig

Install grub2 to MBR+following sectors

Note: Red or blue coloured buttons will write to your USB drive in some way. Except for the Test Speed button, all red/blue buttons will erase, alter or overwrite your USB drive contents. If you have any important files on the USB drive, copy them to a safe place first!

Important: always run these utilities with Administrator privileges or USB drives may not be accessible and you may get a write error reported!

When you click on one of the Prepare Drive, Quick Size Test, Test Speed, Clean, Image Tool or Info buttons, RMPrepUSB will call the Windows command line utility RMPartUSB - the exact command line will be shown to the user beforehand. If you prefer, you can use RMPartUSB in your scripts or batch files rather than use RMPrepUSB. Type ‘RMPartUSB’ in a Windows command shell to see full instructions on how to use the utility or read the rmpartusb.txt readme file.

Fig. 1 Note: The button ‘6 Prepare Drive’ uses the settings numbered 1-5.
The two imaging operation buttons (FiletoUSB and USBtoFile) are totally independent of any other settings within RMPrepUSB
(i.e. the NTLDR, FAT32 and all other options have no effect when imaging – a binary image is simply copied to or read from the UFD
and is similar to the dd.exe utility, no additional ‘tweaking’ is done by RMPrepUSB or RMPartUSB and no extra files are copied afterwards).
The ‘Install grub4dos’ function installs grub4dos to any USB drive and does not call RMPartUSB.
Also note that during operation, both the commands that will be executed and the status are shown at the bottom of the form.

Fig. 2 RMPrepUSB Help form (press F1 or Help button)
Note the extra functions available using the Function keys!

Click to see RMPrepUSB videos on YouTube

Six steps (1-6) to make your USB drive bootable

1. Select the USB drive in the listbox if more than one is present and either leave the ‘1 Partition Size’ as MAX or change it (e.g. type 512 for a partition size of 512MiB).

2. Change the ‘2 Volume label’ text if you want to.

3. Set the ‘3 Bootloader Options’ that you want installed onto the new partition after it has been formatted.

4. Change the ‘4 Filesystem and Overrides’. You may need to experiment with these before you can find a combination that works. If in doubt use ‘FAT32’ and ‘Boot as HDD’.

5. If you want to, you can copy the contents of a folder (or zip/iso file) to the new empty partition on the USB drive after it has been formatted by RMPrepUSB. Tick the ‘5 COPY OS FILES’ box if you want to do this. Note: RMPrepUSB will not place any boot files on the USB drive and it will not be bootable unless you copy some boot files onto it using this option or by manually copying files over after formatting.

6. Click on the blue ‘6 Prepare Drive’ button.

WARNING: After a format operation or if Refresh is clicked, RMPrepUSB may select a different drive in the drop-down list. ALWAYS check that the correct USB drive is selected before clicking the Prepare button!

Note: When finished and before you unplug the USB drive, click on the ‘Eject’ button to prevent file corruption.

If you are experiencing difficulties using RMPartUSB or RMPrepUSB when formatting drives as a ‘floppy’ device – try disabling your antivirus software. Some antivirus software (e.g. Symantec) can interfere with direct access to the drive once it has been formatted as a floppy drive! Alternatively, disable floppy disk scanning in your AntiVirus options.

Special shortcut keys:

F1 – Help
F2 – Open Explorer @ USB drive
ALT+F2 will calculate MD5/CRC32/SHA1 checksum of any file
CTRL+F2 - run WinContig to defrag all files on selected drive
ALT+CTRL+F2 will overwrite the MBR with a default one
F3 – Open Explorer @ RMPrepUSB application home folder
F4 – Open menu.lst from root folder on currently selected USB drive with notepad
F5 – Refresh
ALT+F5 - Toggle the mode to allow operation on all types of drives (ALLDRIVES/USB_ONLY)
ALT+CTRL+F5 - Launch Disk Doctor utility
F6 – Open USBSpeedDP.csv using the spreadsheet app. associated with .csv files
F7 – Open USBSpeed.csv using the spreadsheet app. associated with .csv files
F8 – Open USBSpeedDP.csv in notepad
F9 – Open RMPrepUSB.ini file in notepad
F10Save current configuration settings to RMPrepUSB.ini
F11 - Run QEMU and emulate booting from USB drive
F12Load user pre-set menu again (if RMPrepUSB.ini file present)
ALT+F12 - Install WEE bootloader

If you have the English language selected, you can press F1 to see this hotkey list and then press ESC to close the help form.

There are many other hotkey combinations - these can be seen when you use the menu tabs:

Fig. 3 Drive menu showing hotkey shortcuts

About the COPY OS FILES function

RMPrepUSB prepares a USB drive by partitioning it, formatting it and placing boot code in the Master Boot Record (MBR) and Volume Boot Record (VBR, sometimes called the Partition Boot Record or PBR). However, the USB drive will not boot unless you copy boot files onto the drive. You can automatically copy files to the root of the USB drive after it has been formatted by ticking the COPY OS FILES option. If you do not tick this option then you must copy any boot files onto the USB drive manually afterwards (make sure you copy the system and hidden files too!).

The latest version allows you to either COPY FILES FROM A FOLDER (yes) to the root of the target drive or EXTRACT FILES FROM A FILE (no) and copy them to the target drive. If you have all your files in a folder and just want to copy the files inside the folder to the USB drive, then choose 'Yes'. If you select a folder, the entire contents of the folder will be copied after the format has completed.

The contents of the selected folder (and all subfolders) will be copied if you choose 'No'.

If you want to EXTRACT files from a compressed file (e.g. an ISO or ZIP file) then choose 'Yes'. If you answer 'yes', and then select a compressed file, such as an ISO file or zip file, the decompressed contents of the file will be copied to the target drive after it has been formatted.

You can ask RMPrepUSB to extract files from an iso,zip,7z,gzip,cab,rar,vhd,lzh,img or ima file after formatting has completed.

Saving your favourite configurations

If you regularly make bootable USB drives or you want to distribute RMPrepUSB to other users inside your company or friends, together with a source folder containing your OS files, you can save the RMPrepUSB settings to RMPrepUSB.ini automatically by pressing F10. Here is how to do it:

A. Place your source OS files in folders on the C: drive of your hard disk, e.g.



Now for each USB configuration:

B. Run RMPrepUSB (you must click cancel if you already have an RMPrepUSB.ini file present and are prompted to choose a previous configuration) and actually make your bootable USB drive as you would normally (you do not have to do this, unless you use syslinux, but it helps to get it right - if you don't actually make a USB drive then check the contents of the RMPrepUSB.ini file after making it). If you need to use the install syslinux option, you must run through a complete format/syslinux operation to set the correct Raid/Syslinux options so they are saved to the ini file correctly when you press F10.

C. (optional) After 'Prepare Drive' has finished and the file copy has completed, untick the ‘No user prompts’ box and then click on Install grub4dos and choose the grub4dos options as you require (this sets the grub4dos option to either MBR or PBR depending on which one you choose). If you don't need to run grub4dos, then skip this bit as it is not necessary. If you also want to create an ext2 filesystem, you should use the Create ext2/3/4 FS button to set those options (though you can cancel after entering the volume name and size parameters). Now you can tick the ‘No user prompts’ box again if you don’t want the end user to have lots of prompts.

D. Now press F10 - you should be asked if you want to append the settings to the configuration file RMPrepUSB.ini. F10 records all the current settings including the MBR or PBR selection used when grub4dos was run, also any syslinux options and also the ext2 filename/size and appends them to the end of the RMPrepUSB.ini file as a new entry.

E. You will be asked to input a title (which will eventually appear in the user’s menu on each first run of RMPrepUSB – see section F below) and then add some text for the user’s instructions:

If you don't already have an RMPrepUSB.ini file then it will be created for you. You can press F9 if you want to see it or edit it.

Repeat this (B-E) for all your different types of bootable OS's.

F. Exit from RMPrepUSB and then restart RMPrepUSB - because an INI file is now present in the same folder as RMPrepUSB.exe, the user will now see a menu list when RMPrepUSB first runs and can pick one of the preset configurations.

Clicking ‘Cancel’ will not set any options, but choosing a configuration and clicking OK will pre-set the options which may override any options the user chooses. The user will now be prompted with the instructions that you previously entered into the configuration file, e.g.:

G. When the user clicks on the ‘6 Prepare Drive’ button, they will be prompted to accept or refuse the SIZE and VOLUME LABEL that was set in the configuration file:

If the user chooses ‘No’ then the current settings in RMPrepUSB will be used; ‘Cancel’ will abort the operation.
If you used ‘Install grub4dos’ and/or the ‘Create ext2/3/4 FS’ button, it will automatically run with the correct options that you recorded in the RMPrepUSB.ini file.

You can edit the INI file using Notepad to make changes or delete any section – just press F9. Note that you can hide some buttons and checkboxes if you wish. Here is an example RMPrepUSB.ini file with only one menu item:

LABEL=Ylmf 3.0
USERPROMPT=Click 6 Prepare Drive to format your USB drive, install grub4dos and create an Ext2 filesystem named casper-rw for Ylmf

You can now ZIP up all source files and RMPrepUSB files and create a self-extracting EXE which will extract the source files to the correct location on the hard disk (i.e. C:\ACME\RMPrepUSB in this case). This is especially useful if you have the same source files but have different systems which need different RMPrepUSB options set (i.e. some systems boot with Force LBA set and some do not - so you can have two configurations but only one set of source files). Alternatively, you can create a self-installing distribution file using NSI – see the tutorial on the website for more details.

Note: if your partition is small (e.g. DOS), rather than use preset configurations, you can also distribute an image instead, using the 'USB->File' function (make sure the USB partition size is as small as possible - just big enough to hold the OS files to keep the image size small) and use the PALL option.

The RMPrepUSB PDF file (press F1 and then OK to view it) has a more detailed explanation of the steps above and includes screenshots too.

How to boot to an Operating System

RMPartUSB only partitions and formats the drive. You must copy over the boot files to make a bootable disk. RMPrepUSB can copy these boot files to the USB drive if you use the COPY FILES folder and tick the Copy check box.

Hint: If the boot files are present but your PC is not booting correctly - check your BIOS menu options! Some BIOSes have an option to boot a USB drive as a ‘Fixed Disk’ or a ‘Removable Disk’. Try different BIOS settings if you are having difficulty getting your USB drive to boot!

Here are some quick tips on what boot files you may need to boot different Operating Systems:

Required extra boot files

MS-DOS requires IO.SYS (or MSDOS.SYS depending on the version used) and COMMAND.COM in order to boot. You must obtain these files from somewhere (e.g. a DOS floppy boot diskette?). Simply copy these files onto the USB drive after you have formatted it using the MS-DOS option, by using the COPY FILES option to point to where you keep these MS-DOS boot files and tick the Copy checkbox.

FreeDOS requires the files KERNEL.SYS and COMMAND.COM (which may be renamed in some versions) in order to boot. The latest version of RMPrepUSB includes the few essential boot files in a FreeDos folder, so simply use the COPY FILES option and select the FreeDOS option in RMPrepUSB.

WinPE v1 and XP require many files to boot, but the first file is NTLDR. If you want to boot to BartPE, see Q24 below.

WinPE v2 and v3 and Vista and Windows 7 require many files to boot, but the first file is BOOTMGR. For instance, just copy all files from a Vista or Windows 7 bootable DVD to the USB drive after formatting using the WinPEv2 (bootmgr) option in RMPrepUSB.

SysLinux when booting will first look for the files LDLINUX.SYS and a SYSLINUX.CFG file. Many other files will also be required. If you are using isolinux, use the Install SysLinux RMPrepUSB option and then after the files have been copied over, rename isolinux.cfg to syslinux.cfg. Note that when RMPrepUSB installs syslinux it uses the -fma switches, so as well as the PBR boot code being changed, the MBR boot code will also be changed. If you want to also boot to grub4dos, install grub4dos to the MBR after running syslinux.exe. You can then boot to grub4dos, and then to syslinux by using chainloader (hd0,0)+1 to load the syslinux PBR bootstrap code.

Grub4dos when booting will first look for the file GRLDR. RMPrepUSB will ask you if you want it to copy this file after it has installed the boot code. After that it will look for a \menu.lst file. Note that the version of grubinst.exe is not the normal v1.1 version, it is a ‘homebrew’ version (I have called v1.2) which has been specially modified to work on more systems/BIOSes than the old 1.1 version. The grldr file is recent ‘chenall/tinybit’ version but you can change it for any version you like by overwriting the file.

If you want to use a different version of syslinux or grub4dos, place your own versions of syslinux.exe, (grubinst.exe) and grldr into the same folder as RMPrepUSB and overwrite the ones provided.

Explanation of the Override options

The most complex part of RMPrepUSB is in selecting which overrides (if any) to use. The reason that there are so many choices is that different BIOSes behave in different ways. A USB Flash Drive (UFD) that is formatted normally and contains MS-DOS boot files may boot as an A: drive on one system, but boot as a C: drive on another system. If you change the BIOS Setup menu options on the same system, it might then boot as an A: drive. On yet a third system, the same USB flash drive might not boot at all!

In addition, some BIOSes will not boot from a UFD at all if the physical drive size is greater than 512MB – or – some BIOSes may not boot from a UFD if the volume size is over (say) 1.3GB.

If you wish to boot from a UFD or USB hard drive, you may need to experiment with the settings below. You may find that one group of settings will work for one system and a different group of settings will work for another system. If using UFDs, always try a 512MB USB flash drive first before you move on to larger UFDs – some older BIOSes will only work with small UFDs.

Boot as FDD (A: no MBR)

This option will format the drive with the chosen filesystem format option (FAT16\FAT32\NTFS) - the USB drive will have no partition table just like a floppy disk. The first sector of the USB drive will typically contain the operating system boot code. This option is usually used for an MS-DOS or FreeDOS drive that you wish to boot as a large floppy drive (i.e. they will boot to the A: prompt).

You can also select the 64hd/32sec option (recommended). If you de-select this option then the volume boot record will use 255 heads and 63 sectors per track.

Note: If you need to boot as drive A:, grub4dos can be used to map the UFD always as drive A: even if the BIOS tries to boot it as a hard disk. See FAQ 35.

Boot as ZIP (A: with MBR)

This option creates a Master Boot Record and partition table in the first sector of the drive. The Volume Boot Record code that is written to the drive will be suitable for booting MS-DOS or FreeDOS as a floppy drive. In addition, a drive geometry of 64hd\32sectors will be used (if possible).

If you wish to boot the USB drive as a hard drive then untick this option or tick the 64hd\32sec option.

‘Force use of LBA calls’ can be used with this override, but ticking the 64hd/32sec override will de-select the ZIP option, as the ZIP option will add the 64hd\32sec override.

Note: Some ZIP drive specifications define the first three entries in the partition table as unused and the fourth partition table entry is used, however this partition arrangement is not recognised by Windows and such a partition cannot be accessed by Windows Explorer. Only the first partition of a removable drive can be accessed by Windows OS’s (unless a special driver is installed).

Boot as HDD (C: 2PTNS) - Recommended to try first!

This option simply adds a second, small hidden partition entry to the partition table. Some BIOSes will treat a USB drive as a hard disk if it sees more than one partition table, because the ‘specification’ of a ZIP drive (super-floppy) is that it must only have one partition (thanks to ‘online’ of www.boot-land.net for this discovery). If you want to boot a system from a USB drive as a hard disk, set this option and untick the ZIP option. You can try either the ‘Force LBA’ override or the 64hd\32sec override with this option.

Note: If you want to boot a USB drive as a hard disk and this option does not appear to work, try re-partitioning again but leave all the USB-FDD, USB-ZIP and USB-HDD options unticked.

Forcing the use of LBA calls (only use if boot problems)

This option sets the end Cylinder/Head/Sector values in the partition table to their maximum value of 1023 (3FEh) cylinders, 255 heads (FEh) and 63 sectors – even if the partition size is under 8GB. If BIOSes read a drive partition table and see that the CHS value is the maximum, then the BIOS may use a sector translation of 255 heads and 63 sectors per track. In addition, partition and volume boot record boot code will use LBA Extended Int 13h BIOS calls if it determines that the CHS values are set to the maximum. This also may help to successfully boot an operating system from a USB drive.

This option cannot be used with the 64hd\32sec option as they are mutually exclusive.

Use 64hd/32sec if possible

Instead of creating a partition table using the default drive geometry of 255 heads and 63 sectors per track, this option will use 64 heads and 32 sectors per track which is the most compatible setting for USB-ZIP (large-floppy) booting. If the partition is too large to use 64\32 geometry, then 128\32 will be used instead and then 255/32 and then 255/63. This option is recommended for ZIP (large floppy) booting and FAT16.