I work with many different PCs with Windows XP and Windows 7 deployed, and I'm trying to consolidate my stacks of CDs into a single USB drive. I'd like to be able to boot off it and have a choice of a few options: A persistent Linux install for troubleshooting, the Win7 install CD, and the WinXP install CD.
I'm aware that most USB sticks can't be partitioned, but after much trial and error I've found one that can have its removable bit flipped, be treated as a USB hard drive and partitioned. I can set up 4 primary partitions and an initial test with a boot cd image on the first partition seems to work on 3 of my 4 home PCs... on (only) one of them though, Grub gives a 'Missing MBR-helper' error. All my systems, even the one not booting correctly, see the partitions as valid in both Linux and Windows, and I've successfully retrieved data from all of them. My guess is that it's a BIOS quirk on that particular machine, but it puts the whole idea in jeopardy... if it doesn't work on one of my own PCs, who's to say it will work on other PCs?
I'd like to salvage the partition idea if I can, maybe someone has run into this before... But if it's just not feasible, I read that Grub can boot image files under certain circumstances... I'm wondering if it's possible to have Grub (or any other bootloader) run the Win7 and WinXP CDs as image files? That way they could all sit on a single partition on the USB stick.
I haven't yet tried any other bootloaders, for all I know I could try something else and get things going. Thought I'd check with you guys first though!
Any help would be appreciated! Let me know if you need any additional info.