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Boot BartPE, Slax and BackTrack off USB-Stick PDF Print E-mail
Written by Andreas Böhler   
Tuesday, 08 July 2008 01:00

I recently discovered this page about booting MiniPE, Knoppix and BackTrack from USB. However, the procedure didn't work out for me on my Kingston 4GB stick. Here's how I set it up:

I first followed the directions from the Site mentioned above and used PeToUsb to install PE from the ISO to my stick. Once installed, it booted perfectly. However, any Partition Management Utility I tried showed the partition as invalid an wouldn't let me resize it. I don't know whether using PeToUsb in the first place is necessary or not.


  • USB-Stick: 2GB or bigger
  • Motherboard that boots from USB-HDD
  • Linux AND Windows installed. Yes, I had to use Windows, but I'm pretty sure there exists similar software for Linux
  • ISO-Images of BackTrack, BartPE and Slax (or other OS you want to boot)


At first you need to partition and format your device. I used one partition for every OS, the BartPE partition is the first and formatted as FAT so that Windows can use this partition also as data storage.
My partition scheme looks like this:
   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System 
/dev/sdf1 * 1 788 3077897 6 FAT16
/dev/sdf2 789 790 7812 83 Linux
/dev/sdf3 791 1016 882756 5 Extended
/dev/sdf5 791 978 734297 83 Linux
/dev/sdf6 979 1016 148397 83 Linux
  • /dev/sdf1: 2,93GB FAT32 (BartPE, Data)
  • /dev/sdf2: 8MB ext2 (GRUB)
  • /dev/sdf5: 750MB ext2 (BackTrack)
  • /dev/sdf6: 150MB ext2 (Slax Popcorn Edition)

Setting up GRUB

Grub will be installed in the MBR and helps us select the OS to boot. So issue the following commands, replacing sdf with your usb-device:
At first, mount your Grub-partition somewhere:
sudo mount /dev/sdf2 /mnt
Then install Grub:
cd /mnt
grub-install --root-directory=. --no-floppy /dev/sdf
Next, we need to create a menu.lst file:
cd /mnt/boot/grub
sudo nano menu.lst
menu.lst looks like this:
andy@ich:/mnt/boot/grub$ cat menu.lst
title BartPE
rootnoverify (,0)
chainloader +1

title BackTrack
root (,4)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz root=/dev/ram0 rw initrd=/boot/initrd.gz init=linuxrc lang=de \
load_ramdisk=1 prompt_ramdisk=0 ramdisk_size=4444 max_loop=255
initrd /boot/initrd.gz

title Slax
root (,5)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz vga=769 changes=slaxsave.dat max_loop=255 initrd=/boot/initrd.gz \
init=linuxrc load_ramdisk=1 prompt_ramdisk=0 ramdisk_size=4444 root=/dev/ram0 rw lang=de
initrd /boot/initrd.gz

We're done with setting up Grub, unmount the volume and let's install some operating systems!

Installing Slax and BackTrack

The procedure for installing Slax and BackTrack is the same for both distributions, you just have to replace the devices and ISO-images!
At first, mount your ISO-image and your stick somewhere. I'm going to show bt2final.iso as example:

sudo mount /dev/sdf5 /mnt
sudo mount bt2final.iso /media/tmp -o loop
Now simply extract the contents of you ISO-image to your stick and you're done!
sudo cp -a /media/tmp/* /mnt
sudo umount /mnt
sudo umount /media/tmp
Repeat this procedure with the Slax ISO-image

Installing BartPE

Now we need to switch to Windows. Grab a copy of PEBuilder and extract it somewhere.
We need to make our Windows-partition bootable! Therefore, we first format the partition accordingly: Start - Run - "cmd" and enter:
format F: /fs:fat /u /v:usb /backup
Then we install the BootSector into the partition:
C:\pebuilder\plugin\peinst\mkbt.exe -x -l=BartPE "C:\pebuilder\pe2usb.bin" F:
Of course, you need to edit the Paths to reflect your system.
Next, we need to extract our BartPE ISO image onto the disk and apply some changes! I mounted the ISO in Daemon-Tools and used PeToUsb to copy over the files. Be sure to NOT format your device using PeToUsb, but to simply select "Copy Files"!
Now you should be able to boot from you stick and have a triple-boot environment!
If something goes wrong, don't worry, I had to re-format my stick at least 10 times until BartPE was working!
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