The HeliOS Project is now.....

The HeliOS Project is now.....
Same mission, same folks...just a different name

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Help Jail-Break a Windows User...

The idea or concept of the "Live CD" escapes most Windows Users.  I know it did me when I was new to all of this.  The fact that you can run an entire operating system on a contained CD without altering the hard drive data is far beyond most Windows users.  I've seen it enough times to know...

Now introduce the same concept via a USB stick and things get really interesting.

The dilemma I've faced in the past is that I knew I could make a workable and persistent USB-based device in Linux...there are a lot of tools available.  I simply assumed one had to be in the Linux environment to do so.

Silly me...Now who's the idiot making assumptions...?  I found the Windows apps on the website that I "assumed" only wrote about Linux tools such as UNetbootin.


There are two applications that I personally use and recommend for making a Linux distro USB device while in Windows.  For those that may not be familiar with them, here's the deal...

Linux Live USB Creator or "Lili" is a Windows app that allows you to make a persistent USB Linux distro.  Now I will admit that it's been a while but the appliciations that are available in Linux to do this task would fail better than half the time...problem is, they wouldn't fail until you had 30 minutes invested in the process.  It was frustrating to say the least.

Lili was a breeze to use in Windows.  The picture on the right shows 4 extremely simple steps to get the job done.  While it does only offer an option to work in FAT 32, I have yet to find this any slower than the sticks I've created in EXT3 or 4 in a Linux environment.

Lili has an advantage in that it allows you to choose a "persistent mode" and any software you install or changes you make within the entire system are saved for the next time you  boot the stick.  The downside, at least to me was the fact that the developers have to constantly build the app in order for it to work with the latest distros.  While it worked great within the rather inclusive list of distros mentioned, it failed to work with a custom distro we built from Linux Mint for The HeliOS Project.  Not a can customize your distro any way you want and it will stay that way...As long as that distro is on the list.

The other Windows app I found to work great is the Universal USB Installer.  You can get this app from as well.  This app worked just as well for me but what I found most interesting is that while the developer(s) offer a list of working distros, two distros we built ourselves worked and installed perfectly even though they are not on the list.  I made 18 of these sticks in less than 2 hours in preparation for Linux Against Poverty on June 19th.

Some might wonder why we would write about creating a Linux USB stick in Windows but the fact is that if the only options are in Linux, then how is a Windows User going to see or understand it?

This is simply another tool in our box that can help us get those who are interested in Linux to investigate it further.  If they can create their own USB Linux Distro while in Windows, then the comfort level is far higher than if they had to work in an alien environment...chances are that would not happen anyway.

I thought I would take time to also mention a tool that will create a Linux image from ISO while in Windows.  Sure there are a bunch of them available but the one we found to work best for new users is called ISO Recorder.

It is simple enough to use even for the most basic user, however one drawback I've found is that there is no DVD support until Vista.  Since 80 percent of the Windows Users I know still use XP, that could be a problem.

So...if you would help me pass along these cool tools to your favorite Windows User, I'd appreciate it...OR post ones that you know of that work well. 

All-Righty Then


PV said...

There is also Unetbootin for Windows, but it is one of the somewhat buggy alternatives you mentioned. I haven't ever tried these 2 applications, but I will definitely give them a shot soon.

a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

Gavin said...

For burning ISO files in WinXP, I usually use DeepBurner:

The portable version unzips to a folder, but it contains only an executable and supporting files. No touching of the registry, no need to be on the C: drive, etc. You can run it from a USB stick if you want.

Of course, Win7 can burn ISO files to CD & DVD without the need for extra software, but there are zero options. Not exactly a stellar built-in utility. But I admit that it generally works OK.

For playing around with extra operating systems from within an existing system, I highly recommend VirtualBox for beginners:

It was originally an independent project that was acquired by Sun, which was bought by Oracle, but they seem to be keeping it going so far. Plus, it is still the best multi-platform para-virt open-source project in existence. Great for virtualization newbies, regardless of your platform of choice.

And of course we cannot touch on this topic without mentioning the good ol' Wubi:

Most Windows users report favorably on Wubi, probably because it behaves just like any other ".exe program" on the Windows side of things. No fuss, no muss, no getting a VM running first, etc. Just click and go.

Kevin (Whizard72) said...

OpenOffice just hit 150 million downloads. I wonder how long M$ can continue to sell their office suite for more $ than it costs to buy windows itself?

Anonymous said...

I've used Unetbootin and Virtualbox, heard of Wubi but hadn't heard of the other tools!

I'll post this to my Linkedin and Facebook profiles for a start!

Unknown said...

There's also InfraRecorder:

Kevin (Whizard72) said...

Ubuntu has a nice startup disk creator that works flawless and unetbootin under Linux hasn't let me down either.

Brett Legree said...

Lili also has a version that comes with Portable VirtualBox, so you can run things from within Windows - pretty cool... :)

Unknown said...

Last time I checked, the Unetbootin website said that the Windows version is actually more dependable than the Linux one, although I have never had problems with either.

As for Windows CD/DVD/Blue Ray ISO burners, there is a good selection with ratings and capsule descriptions at

Personally, I agree with their top rated CDBurnerXP as being the best I found when working in Windows XP.