Author Topic: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick  (Read 17222 times)

Offline Braden

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Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« on: October 10, 2009, 11:12:20 PM »
Greetings,
  Hopefully I can give something back to the community, I don't have much to offer except perhaps some knowledge and experience.

The link below will tell you how to create a USB Pen Drive (Stick) that aswell as having your important files and things - it's also bootable on almost any computer that can be booted from a USB Drive. This may come in handy when you don't have your computer, but want to bypass the operating system of a computer you have access to, but no idea of what is on it as far getting access to your files.

Stage II - The USB Drive (Using UniversalSurvival_Additions.zip) has TrueCrypt (Encryption) which is perfect for all those private documents. I have selected Slax as the operating system - there are others but that is what I have experience with.
Parts of the document that mention UniversalSurvival_Additions.zip have not been uploaded yet as I'm not sure about the License for TrueCrypt - when installing via that file there is no usual Accept Terms button you get when installing software. Although it is a standard module for Slax, so it should be ok.

Please read the document properly as there are a few critical parts (well 1 actually)

I would like to know peoples experiences with this thing - especially non-technical people
Also disregard the "Explanation of Documents and Software" section as its in the UniversalSurvival_Additions.zip

If you would like the next stage (TrueCrypt and Wifi) and a Survival Podcast Link, please let me know and i'll update the Documentation

Setup Document.pdf - 0.04MB

For now I just want to see how many people get the Bootable Stick Created
This document is evolving

Good luck
   Braden

PS the zSHARE file will only be hosted for so long - then deleted a certain period after the last download
PPS For the technical - if you manually install the TrueCrypt Module from the Slax site - it will not work by default, there are a few tricks to get it working - if interested let me know. The UniversalSurvival_Additions.zip file will install and configure it correctly - but thats stage II

Offline Braden

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The Future of this
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2009, 11:24:39 PM »
I would like this to end up with Documents / HowTos / Manuals etc. installed by default aswell - but im not sure how the copyrights / licenses work if stuff like the FM 3-05.70 (FM 21-76) - Survival.pdf Field Manuals are to go on it aswell.
Anyone elses information from these forums they would like to see would be good aswell

Worst case we could have links to web sites to download the stuff - but those links go out of date

This Will be available to all people on the internet and also may link to other sites/podcasts on the internet

It Will always be free
 :)

Note: Being from New Zealand im not up on the latest legal stuff in America

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2009, 11:50:22 AM »
I haven't taken a look at the actual documents yet, but will.  I just wanted to say thanks for putting this together.  There have been discussions in the past about keeping a survival USB stick with all the pertinent documentation, but not really a how to.

Question, about how large an image does this end up being?  Personally, I'd like to stick to a thumb drive that is smaller than 2 Gig since there's a limit in some older computers. 

Offline vicious

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2009, 12:25:55 PM »
I haven't checked this out yet, but am planning on it. Right now I carry everything I need on a USB drive and a backup on a mini-sd card with SD adapter. I haven't looked into the bootable USB yet, but I'd hazard a guess that any PC that can handle booting from the USB drive can probably read larger sticks.

Thanks!

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2009, 01:16:41 PM »
I'd hazard a guess that any PC that can handle booting from the USB drive can probably read larger sticks.

Thanks!
Not necessarily, I have 2 spare computers that will boot off the USB, but will not recognise the hi capacity sticks.

Offline vicious

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2009, 01:41:37 PM »
It just goes to show what I know. ;D I have some newer PC's that won't boot from USB, but they will read the larger sticks. Thanks for the clarification!

Offline Braden

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2009, 12:53:09 AM »
Yep - good point about the larger USB Sticks
A good way around older computers reading them is to partition them into 2GB Partitions (eg. 4GB Drive could have 2 x 2GB Partitions - Both formatted FAT32) - im pretty sure all partitions will be available to the OS on the Stick and to normal mounting under windows.

The size if the base OS (Slax) is only 200MB and the additional Software (TrueCrypt and Wifi) are only an additional 8MB - this leaves Heaps of room (about 1.6GB after REAL Drive size) for your personal docs and another reason i picked Slax - you could probably get it smaller, but thats just being picky

 :)

PS If you want instructions on how to partition the USB Drives - let me know - but its one of those things you had better make sure your selecting the correct drive. It sounds like you guys know what your doing anyway.

The whole process takes no longer than about 10 minutes
« Last Edit: October 12, 2009, 12:56:35 AM by Braden »

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2009, 08:45:51 AM »
I haven't used Slax, but since it is Slackware based, should be a rock solid image.

I won't be able to do anything with it for a month or more.  Work and home life is taking up all my free time.

Offline Ultio1

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2009, 01:26:40 PM »
I have installed it on my 2 gb stick and cant it to work. It tells me that there is not a bootable partition on the drive.

 ???

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #9 on: October 12, 2009, 07:24:42 PM »
It has been years since I've used Windows regularly, so I may be way off here.  I seem to recall a setting where you have to put a check in a box to indicate the drive is to be bootable.  Not sure if this is the reason or not, but may be worth a look.

But in case it is not the case, what version of Windows are you using to create the drive? 

Offline Braden

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #10 on: October 12, 2009, 10:29:02 PM »
Greetings,
  I'm guessing here, but the non bootable thing may be because you haven't set the MBR on the USB Stick. In the Documentation assuming you have decompressed all the files onto the USB stick you should have a "boot" folder and a "slax" folder only on the USB at the top level.

Follow steps 5 - 7 and it should boot - making sure it shows you the same drive the USB Stick is in.
This is assuming you are using windows - slightly different story if your using linux

If you have, then - not too sure - what happened when you did step 6 ?

Hope this helps
   :)

Offline Braden

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #11 on: October 12, 2009, 10:40:55 PM »
Also - did you format it FAT32 ?

Offline Synaptoman

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2009, 01:13:22 PM »
Thanks for that.  I'll be trying it tomorrow.

Offline conan

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2009, 02:58:53 PM »
Another OS to look at is Damn Small Linux (http://www.damnsmalllinux.org/) I've got it running on a 128 MB drive I keep with me. So far it has mostly been useful for recovering files from peoples crashed computers.

I will have to try and make a custom one with all my files.

As a side note, this could also be burned to a CD/DVD for computers without USB booting.

Offline Braden

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2009, 01:57:40 AM »
I'll have to look into Damn Small Linux
There is a Live CD version of Slax aswell - but I think its of more use as a usable USB Drive - if you wanted a CD Version I would perhaps pick another Linux (Perhaps DSL - depending on the use for it)

The good thing about the this USB Version is you can have your own editable files on it

:-)

Offline conan

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #15 on: October 20, 2009, 06:25:33 AM »
The good thing about the this USB Version is you can have your own editable files on it

I'm wondering if you could do a combination of both, have a 'master' USB drive that you have all your files and whenever you find something else to put on it you just copy it over. Then copy that image to a CD that you can burn out a dozen copies and keep in every car, backpack, relatives house.

I've never used Slax but I have used both DSL and knoppix and what I like about DSL is that it is really lightweight and will run on near every computer no matter how old.

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #16 on: October 26, 2009, 01:55:55 AM »
Braden, this is a great idea. Ironic actually, I've been thinking of a similar idea over the last few days. Just one thing I'd like to add if you don't mind: keep in mind that USB drives have a limited number of writes - its up around 100 000 or something, so I can't imagine it'd be a very common problem, I'd just personally use a pocket hard drive if you add/remove things from it all the time :). Another good OS is 'Windows XP Gamer's Edition', some really lightweight modified version of XP that you can find here and there on the internet thats around 150mb when its packed into an ISO.

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #17 on: October 26, 2009, 03:59:09 AM »
TrueCrypt like most open software will never cost any money. The only downside is that it MIGHT be illegal to have in certain countries, but not in the untied states for sure. Here is a link to the main page for FAQ's on the software.

http://www.truecrypt.org/faq

Offline Braden

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #18 on: October 26, 2009, 11:57:25 AM »
@conan
You what you are suggesting is simple aswell - on the slax.org site (http://www.slax.org/get_slax.php) click the "download slax for CD" link and install that onto a cd - you will need some other software to copy the iso - but thats pretty easy to find - your cd drive usually comes with it - if not, try unetbootin (??)
Oops - actually reading your post again, thats not quite what you were after.
Actually - from reading the documentation - both the CD version and the tar version are exactly the same - so you only need the tar version and then copy that to a cd - not sure about a bootable cd - but i guess it just work. Slax can be booted in persistent mode or clean mode - you will need to play with it a bit  :)

The trick to slax is it file structure - which is why i picked it
at the root level the is a slax folder and inside that is a changes folder - from there they just map the actual file structure exactly - really nice and easy - to test it run slax off the usb and then look in the changes directory (easier on windows as slax does some really nice remapping of the folder) - can be seen in slax - just go to the media device and then to the changes directory.

Offline Braden

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #19 on: October 26, 2009, 12:05:35 PM »
@Shades
I've always wondered that myself about usb sticks - never had one die on me yet - but im sure its possible - the good thing about linux is most of the time it works out of ram if possible. Perhaps every year or so - transfer it to a new usb stick - but mine don't get that many writes even if i try
Never heard of Windows XP Gaming Edition - strange with the amount of gaming i used to do - you would think i would have - ps I like windows as an os - I just see linux as more of a SHTF OS  :D - not sure why.
I'll look into it - waiting for ModernWarefare 2 (PC version) - less than a month  8)

Offline Braden

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #20 on: October 26, 2009, 12:10:04 PM »
@Aiedz
True, very True - being from New Zealand - We fit into the liked by the USA deal  :)
From the list I saw (remember) there was only a few countries on it that weren't allowed
But good point

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #21 on: October 26, 2009, 04:39:42 PM »
keep in mind that USB drives have a limited number of writes - its up around 100 000 or something, so I can't imagine it'd be a very common problem, I'd just personally use a pocket hard drive if you add/remove things from it all the time :).

That's one of the big reasons that Linux is the better OS for something like this.  As has already been stated, Linux works out of memory most of the time.  The problem with Windows in this situation is Windows does a lot of paging.  For those that don't know, paging is basically putting stuff that isn't actively used from memory onto the hard drive.  Since this can happen hundreds of times a minute, it adds up pretty quickly.

And Braden, for me, Linux isn't just for SHTF situations.   ;D

Offline Braden

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #22 on: October 26, 2009, 10:33:41 PM »
Hey Fritz,
  well ok, your right - linux isn't just for SHTF - I love it aswell - used it for many years and many flavors, I use it for all my web development (LAMP) and as a server. also I use it for large downloads that may take a few days to download off slow servers - it consumes very little power (very old machine) compared to my Windows box (gaming machine on the odd occasion) - which I sleep at night - the linux box just stays on.
In case your interested - one of our work linux servers - off site just went down today - uptime of 3 years - it went down because the UPS Majorly failed and shut down all power (even when plugged in to active power) - bypass the UPS and it was back up as if nothing had happened - I love linux.
I remember another server - many years ago actually had a dead boot drive in it and we didn't know until we did a reboot and found the main drive was cold - no idea how long it had been dead.
 ;D

Offline CountryRootsCityJob

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #23 on: February 18, 2011, 10:58:29 AM »
Its been a long time but hopefully you guys will still have an opinion...

I can almost say I have no clue what you guys are talking about.  So, Braden... it appears as though a guy like me is the target audience for such a project.  I have a 2Gb drive that I think would work well for this... its a duracell (battery company) 2gb micro sd that I keep in my phone.  I've been trying to find a way to encrypt some personal files and at first glance it seems like this might work...  how am I doing so far? :)

~CRCJ

Offline idelphic

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #24 on: February 18, 2011, 11:58:36 AM »
There are a few bootable USB drive setups you can go with.  The last two that I have experience with is Hiren and Puppy Linux

Hiren's Boot CD is a great setup, and has both MiniXP and Mini Linux.  It includes a number of other utils, Boot and Nuke and more

Puppy is more like a full desktop on a USB..

Both have some encryption tools though as a functional 'desktop' I would go with Puppy.

Offline CountryRootsCityJob

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #25 on: February 18, 2011, 12:00:41 PM »
Haha... hey man, maybe I'll just call you :) 

Offline Docwatmo

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #26 on: February 18, 2011, 03:15:14 PM »
Yep, puppy all the way.  I do them as combo drives with portable apps so I can boot off of it if need be, or I can just plug it into any windows machine and run the portable apps.


Offline CountryRootsCityJob

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #27 on: February 21, 2011, 10:33:52 AM »
Well right now I feel like a puppy chasing a rabbit...  I don't have any clue what you guys are talking about.  Anyone care to explain it in a little bit more basic english?  (or should I pay a junior high kid to set it up for me?)

~CRCJ

Offline Docwatmo

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #28 on: February 21, 2011, 11:15:08 AM »
Linux is another operating system like windows.  But its a bit more flexible.  It wont run most windows programs but there are replacement programs that do just about anything any other windows machine can do.

There are MANY different versions of linux.  The main difference is the size and features that come with any of them.

The bootable stick is a USB flash drive that has a copy of linux on it.  Then you plug the stick into a computer and turn it on, it boots off the stick rather than the normal OS the computer boots from.  Everything stays on the USB stick.  This means basically your entire computer, software package, stored files, favorite web sites etc, are always on the stick and nothing is left behind on the computer.  Most of the bootable sticks will boot any computer with a few exceptions. 

I use it to dual boot machines.  I install windows like normal to play games or operate the full range of graphic abilities of the machine, then when i want to use the machine for personal stuff like documentation, or even web browsing without having to go copy my favorites to every machine I use, I just boot off the stick.

The sticks are pretty durable and easy to back up.

I also put a program called "portableapps" on the stick.  This is a windows program that runs portable versions of most of the popular software.  These also run from the stick but have to be run on a windows machine.  Kind of the best of both worlds.  I can boot the stick on a computer if needed or I can just plug it into someone else's machine and run my apps off the stick.


Offline CountryRootsCityJob

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Re: Creating a Bootable USB Survival Stick
« Reply #29 on: February 21, 2011, 11:19:20 AM »
I know very little about linux, but it's not a new idea for me.  But what's this "Puppy" you guys are talking about?  All I really want is to have a USB drive that I can put info on and encrypt it.  Should I start a new thread?
~CRCJ