Saturday, February 17, 2007

making life easy: custom live boot cds for ghosting, cleaning pc

so, as many of you may notice, i change the OS on my system or clean install it quite often.  most of the times, i prefer to do my system rebuilds manually (backup files, format patitions, reinstall from cds/dvds, reload all applications); however there are times when i just want to get my system back up and running.   to make my life easier, i've created my own custom ghost boot cds from bart's preinstalled environment utility (http://www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/#download/).  His utility basically allows one to make their own 'live' cd (fully bootable cd that contains its own os, in this case a basic/slim version of windows xp).  most people i know do not have a clue on how to create or even use such a disk so today i'll explain the following:

-what is a live/pe boot cd
-what or how to use one
-how do you create one
What is a live/pe boot cd?

a live/pe boot cd is basically a cd that contains a super slim OS on the disk itself. usually these type of cds have utilities to allow a user to view files on the pc they are booting the cd on or to fix the pc.  the requirements for making a boot cd via bart's utility requires his download and your Windows XP install cd copied to your harddrive.   a live/pe boot cd will also contain generic drivers to allow you to use the most basic of your devices such as keyboard, mouse, usb harddrives, and some basic networking (this isn't guaranteed since there are a ton of network adapters out there and bart's utility only handles a select few chipsets such as realtek, intel, etc).  i mainly use my live cd to recover files from a pc that won't boot (os corrupted/infected) and then copy them to my usb harddrive or to make images of a harddrive with. 

Why or what do you use one for?

you can use a live/pe cd to backup files from you pc (if you can't boot to it or your xp installation gets corrupted), run adaware/spyware checks on it, make a ghost image of your harddrive, boot a computer that has no OS on it, etc.  however i will be focusing more on using it to make a ghost image of your harddrive. if you wanted to, you could setup a pc at home so that there is no OS on it however it could be used via a live cd (you could setup the live cd to have firefox and nero and even bittorrent).  might not run that fast or look nice but secure and does the trick.

Making your own boot cd

Requirements
-Bart's PE Builder  (http://www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/#download/)
-copy of your windows xp installation disk on your harddrive (just copy the whole disk to a new folder called 'C:\XPinstall')
-Adaware installed on your pc and definitions updated (recommended)
-Ghost 8.0 installed on your pc (yes, it does require you to have a real copy installed to pull the files for the plugin)

1.  Download bart's utility and install it.  Remember where you install it too, default location is to the C:\ drive, not the program files folder like most applications.  I installed mine to a seperate partition (i've built several live cds in the past and really hate it when i redo my system and my bart setup is not).

2. Open up PE Builder, it will ask you if you want to search for XP install files, choose no.  We will set this up manually (faster).  At the top, click the browse button by Source and choose the folder we copied the entire XP install cd contents to (ie C:\XPinstall )

bartpeinstall xp files

3.  Now, click on the Plugin button at bottom.  We will go in and see what we need to do to get Ghost8 and Adaware working. 

bartpe plugins1

if you select the plugin, and hit the Help button, it will tell us what we need to do to get Ghost and Adaware to work on our boot cd.

for adaware, we will need to do the following:

 -Install Adaware on your PC. Update your definitions (that way the cd will have the latest). 

adaware files

Then browse to the adaware program files folder on your PC (ie C:\Program Files\Lavasoft\Adaware) and copy the adaware.exe and defs.ref file to bart's plugin folder for adaware (located where we installed bart's preinstalled utility \ plugin \ adawarese \ files \ )

adaware plugin folder

We will do the same thing w/the ghost files too.  Again, you have to have Ghost 8.0 installed onto your pc to get the appropriate files.

ghost files

For Ghost, we will need to copy ALL of the files in the C:\Program Files\Symantec\Ghost folder to bart's plugin folder for ghost8.

Finally, after we have the files for adaware and ghost8 moved into bart's plugin folders, we will need to enable the option in PE Builder utility.  Go back to the plugins screen (if its not still up) and click Adaware and then the enable button and do the same for Ghost8.  Also enable any other plugins you may want (ie network support) on the disk.

4.  Back at the main PE Builder screen, if you want to copy additional files to the boot cd make a folder and put the files you want copied in there and then click on the browse button under Custom:

These files/applications may not be runnable but can be copied to the computer you are booting w/the boot cd we are making.

Finally, choose how you want to output the boot cd (to an image file for later burning or to a cd/dvd) and then hit Build.  it will go through its steps and once your done, you should have a fully bootable ghost/adaware boot cd!  now you can create an image of your harddrive and make restoring your system a cinch!  this cd will support usb drives so you can connect a nice external usb drive to burn the image too (most of my hd images are about 6gbs in size).

(output screen)

bartpe output

TIPS:
-always run a defrag on your pc's harddrive prior to making an image
-there are more plugins such as a bittorrent and firefox browser one, just head to bart's site ( http://www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/#download/ )
-if you can't boot to the cd, be sure to check your BIOS settings and that CD-ROM is listed as the first boot device (prob will be under Boot Options/Order)
-if you have your pc's harddrive broken up into several partitions, you can make an image of a partition and save the image to a different partition on the same harddrive. (ie C: = xp install, D: = folders partition; i could make a partition of C: and have ghost save it to my D: )
-to edit the background photo for your cd, go to Bart's PE Builder utility folder (where we installed it) and replace the bartpe.bmp w/your own 800x600 bmp file.  just rename to be bartpe.bmp (file is a bmp, 16bit)
-for more network adapter support you can check over here for additional drivers or info on making your own: http://www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/drivers/