72c - Installing Windows from ISOs using Easy2Boot

Please go to the www.easy2boot.com website for up-to-date information.


This page has been split off from the main Tutorial 72a page and only covers Windows Install ISOs.

The E2B menu entries for Windows ISOs (see above) will only be listed if one or more ISOs are found in the appropriate \_ISO\WINDOWS\xxxxxx folder.

Here is a quick summary of the main ways Windows ISOs are supported by E2B - all use an unmodified Windows Install ISO file:

1. Install XP (or 2003) from an XP Install ISO using two E2B USB boot stages (use for 32-bit and 64-bit XP on IDE and some AHCI systems)

2. As (1) but with DPMS (driver pack mass storage files) added to the E2B drive - this allows installation to SATA\RAID\SCSI systems without needing a modified XP ISO (32-bit XP only)

3*. Boot to WinPE and install XP from an XP ISO using winnt32.exe - this is a one-step process. If installing to an AHCI\RAID\SCSI system, a modified (nLited) XP Install ISO is required. This process can be automated using an unattend.txt file.

4*. Install Vista/7/SVR2K8 from an ISO - you can use your own unattend.xml if you wish

5*. Install Win8/SVR2012 from an ISO - you can pick a product key or your own unattend.xml file

Windows 8 Product Key requirements

When installing Windows 8 from an Install DVD, it will usually request a Product Key from the user. If using E2B with an Autounattend.xml file, the Product Key must be specified in the AutoUnattend.xml file. E2B will thus ask you to choose a product key and will then write the key into the AutoUnattend.xml file. You can remove the requirement for a product key during Installation by editing the ISO contents. See here for details.

Installing Windows from an E2B USB Hard disk (or 'Fixed disk' USB Flash drive)

*IMPORTANT: If your E2B drive is of the 'Fixed disk' type (i.e. a USB Hard disk or a USB Flash drive that appears in Windows Explorer as a 'Local drive' or in RMPrepUSB as a 'Fixed Disk') then (3), (4) and (5) above will also require a USB Helper Flash drive to be connected at the same time as the E2B drive.

If you are using a USB Hard Disk to hold your E2B configuration or a USB Flash Drive that is of the 'Fixed Disk' type, then you need to make a E2B 'Helper; Flash drive. See here for details.

Introduction to Easy2Boot

Installing Windows XP to an AHCI system using E2B and DPMS2

Windows Install ISO files

All .ISO files larger than 0 bytes in a folder will be listed - note that these ISO files should not be modified to auto-install or they may or may not work!

The ISO files can be any name and should be placed in the appropriate folder (look at the sub-folders under \_ISO\Windows to see where they should go).

Note: Most OEM Windows 7 and 8 install ISOs contain all SKUs, so for instance a Windows 7 Home Basic DVD will usually contain Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate SKUs. You will be able to choose any of the these versions. So if you have a Windows 7 SP1 64-bit Ultimate ISO, simply rename this to Win7_64_SP1.ISO and it will be listed in the menu system and you can choose any of the versions inside it.

Note that Retail ISOs usually contain a single SKU and a single language. These are smaller than the OEM ISOs (e.g. Win7_64 is only 2GB instead of 3GB+) and the ISO \Sources folder contains the word 'Retail' in the EI.CFG file. If you have an OEM multi-lingual Vista/7/8 ISO it should contain all SKUs.

You can use the Install Windows XP using WinPE menu to pick any XP ISO to install and also pick an unattend.txt file. A WinPE v2/3/4 ISO or Windows Install ISO is also required. Only a single boot to the Easy2Boot USB drive is required with this method. This method will also work if booting from an exFAT formatted Easy2Boot USB drive using a Win7/8 WinPE or Install DVD. This method can also be used with XP install ISOs that contain $oem$ folders.

Although you are asked for a partition size, you can later skip over partitioning and formatting of the drive. If you specify a partition size and an unattend.txt, when you later confirm with Y - the disk will be wiped, re-partitioned, re-formatted and the whole XP build will continue automatically without further user input being required.
The XP ISO should have any mass storage drivers already integrated (nLite'd) as required by the system (e.g. AHCI drivers).

Custom Windows Vista/7/8 Install ISO files

If you have a custom-made Windows Install ISO (such as a large All-in-One 8GB+ ISOs which boot to a Desktop with a Start Menu and can install lots of different versions of Windows) try the following:

1. Place the ISO file in the \_ISO\MAINMENU folder and rename it using the .ISOPE01 file extension
2. Boot to E2B and run the ISO
3. When the ISO boots, look for the LOADISO blue command console window which will load the ISO file as Y: - if you do not see this blue console window, run a Windows shell (e.g. press SHIFT+F10 or run the command console from the Start Menu or Total Commander, if present) and from the Windows shell console, type wpeinit - after 5-30 seconds, you should see the E2B blue console window appear for a few seconds.
4. Now you can proceed as normal and the ISO will be available as drive Y:.

If you wish, you can also try this with standard Vista/7/8 Install ISOs. Note: Many Win8 ISOs also require a product key to be pre-defined in which case you will need to use the standard method of installing from a Win8 Install ISO (see below).

Where to put your standard Windows Install ISOs

If you wish to install from your Windows Install ISOs, you must place them in the correct specific folder in the E2B file structure.

\_ISO\WINDOWS\SVR2012 <-- Server 2012 Install ISOs go here
\_ISO\WINDOWS\SVR2K8R2 <-- Server 2008 R2 Install ISOs go here
\_ISO\WINDOWS\VISTA <-- Wndows Vista Install ISOs go here
\_ISO\WINDOWS\WIN7 <-- Winodws 7 Install ISOs go here
\_ISO\WINDOWS\WIN8 <-- Windows 8 Install ISOs go here
\_ISO\WINDOWS\XP <-- XP Install ISOs go here (XP 64-bit ISOs should have '64' somewhere in the name of the ISO file)

At least one ISO file must be detected in one of these folder, to see a Main menu entry for Windows Install.
Although not fully supported in E2B, Windows Server 2003 Install ISOs can also be placed in the \_ISO\WINDOWS\XP folder and installed as if it was XP.

Note: Always run WinContig on the E2B drive after copying the ISO files (RMPrepUSB - Ctrl+F2)

Installing Windows from an E2B Hard Disk (instead of an E2B Flash drive).

USB Flash drives can be 'Removable' or 'Fixed Disk' type.
USB Hard drives are nearly always of the 'Fixed Disk' type.

When Windows Setup runs (Vista and later versions), Setup will look for a file called \AutoUnattend.xml on a removable drive. E2B relies on this feature. The AutoUnattend.xml file generated by E2B contains an entry which causes Windows Setup to run a utility (FiraDisk and/or ImDisk) which finds and then loads the Windows Install ISO file as a virtual DVD drive so that Windows Setup can access the files inside the ISO.

Note: Some modern (win 8 certified) USB flash drives can also appear as a hard disk to Windows. Run RMPrepUSB and select the USB flash drive - check that it is listed as a (Removable) drive. If not, you will need to follow these instructions and use a secondary 'removable' Helper USB Flash drive.

E2B Windows XP+WinPE (see section below), Vista and later OS installs will not work if you only use an Easy2Boot USB Hard Disk (you will get a 'Driver required' error).

make Windows Vista/7/8/2012/SVR2K8 installs work from an Easy2Boot USB Hard/Fixed Disk (Local Disk in Windows Explorer), you must use an Easy2Boot USB Hard drive together with a spare, writeable, 'removable' USB 'Helper' flash drive, as follows:

1. Prepare your Easy2Boot USB Hard disk as described in this tutorial.

Add your Windows install ISOs to the \_ISO\Windows\xxx sub-folders and check that it the menus work and can detect your Windows ISO files.
Run WinContig (RMPrepUSB - CTRL+F2) to make the files contiguous.

2. On any small spare USB Flash drive that you have available - this drive must be seen by Windows as a writeable, removable disk which is usually the case for small USB flash drives - check that RMPrepUSB reports it as (Removable):

Copy the 3 files - Unattend.xml, AutoUnattend.xml and WINHELPER.USB files from the \_ISO\docs\USB FLASH DRIVE HELPER FILES folder to the root of the USB helper Flash drive using Windows Explorer.

Note: The Unattend.xml file is only required if you use the 'Windows XP install using WinPE' menu option.

IMPORTANT: When you use the Easy2Boot USB Hard disk+flash drive combination, the only \WINHELPER.USB file in the whole system, on any disk volume or filesystem, should be the one on the USB 'Helper' Flash drive. Do not copy WINHELPER.USB to the root of your Easy2Boot USB hard disk or anywhere else!
The USB 'Helper' Flash drive should not contain the Easy2Boot \_ISO\E2B folders, otherwise Easy2Boot may get confused (certain files are searched for during Windows installs and so the only Easy2Boot files should be on the boot device).

3. To install Windows Vista/7/8/etc. (or XP via WinPE method) onto a target system, connect both the Easy2Boot USB hard disk and the USB flash drive - but boot from the Easy2Boot hard disk.

This will only work when booting from a real system (it will not work under a Virtual Machine or Emulator). Even just using a single E2B USB flash drive will not work because a USB Flash drive is seen as a hard disk by VM's and so the AutoUnattend.xml on the flash drive is not found by Windows Setup.

WARNING: If you use a multiple-partition USB flash drive and the xml files are not on the first partition then Windows Vista/7/8 installs will not work because Windows Setup only mounts the first partition of a flash drive and so cannot see any of the files on the other partitions of the flash drive!

IMPORTANT: Only one drive in the entire system must contain the E2B files - do not put the E2B files and folders on the Helper USB drive!

If your (Dell) system only boots from a USB Flash drive

Some Dell Optiplex systems (for instance) do not seem to support booting from a USB Hard drive. In this case, you can boot from the USB Helper flash drive and then run E2B from the USB Hard drive as follows: