Create a Bootable VistaPE USB Hard Drive or Flashdrive


Step 1 - Use WinBuilder to Build VistaPE

Step 2 - Copy VistaPE Files to the USB Device

Step 3 - Move "grldr"

Step 4 - Install Grub4Dos to the MBR of the USB Device

Step 5 - Boot your VistaPE USB Device

Step 6 - Updating your VistaPE USB Device


After creating your VistaPE CD, you may wish to boot it from a flashdrive or a USB hard drive. This guide can help you do that. I've tried to make the process as simple as possible and have tested it on multiple flashdrives as well as USB hard drives (FAT32 and NTFS partitions).

The exact same procedure can be used to allow an internal drive to boot your VistaPE setup. If you don't want to mess with your main hard drive and have an additional internal drive, you can set it up with VistaPE and use the BIOS to select which drive to boot.

I would like to thank K0lo on the Acronis Forum for his procedures, time and testing that went into creating these instructions.

Step 1 - Use WinBuilder to Build VistaPE

Create a VistaPE project using WinBuilder. If you need help using WinBuilder to create a VistaPE build, you can find Mustang's Guide here. If you need any of Mustang's Acronis True Image or Disk Director plugins, you can find them here.

These instructions were created using WinBuilder 072a and VistaPE 10. However, the procedure is the same when using WinBuilder 074 and VistaPE 11.

When creating your VistaPE build using WinBuilder, there are several important settings that need to be correct in order for the build to work properly.

Under Main Configuration make sure the Boot Manager is set to Grub4Dos (this is the default).


In all of Mustang's Acronis scripts, make sure to check the Run from ram (boot.wim) checkbox.


Under Finalize, make sure Create ISO is checked. The ISO image is needed to make the program install the Grub4Dos components in the build.

Step 2 - Copy VistaPE Files to the USB Device

Plug in your USB Device (either a USB hard drive or flashdrive).

FORMATTING NOTES: If using a flashdrive, it can be formatted as either FAT, FAT32 or NTFS. If using a USB hard drive, it can be either FAT32 or NTFS. You may also choose to create a small (500MB - 1GB FAT32 or NTFS) partition just for the VistaPE files and then create an NTFS partition in the remaining space to hold the backup files. Keep in mind, when partitioning your USB device, that the booting partition (the partition holding the VistaPE files) can be either Primary or Logical.
If your USB Device is already setup how you want and has an allowable format, you don't need to reformat the device and lose any files already on the device.

Open My Computer and browse to your WinBuilder folder. Then browse to the sub-folder Target and then VistaPE.


Select all the files and copy them to the USB Device.

Depending on the options you selected in your VistaPE build, your folders may look different. For example, if you used the option in the Extended Configuration script to Force place all programs to RAM (boot.wim) you won't have a Programs folder.

In the example below, I've copied the files from D:\WinBuilder_072\Target\VistaPE to my flashdrive on F:\.

Step 3 - Move "grldr"

Copy or Move the file grldr from the boot folder on the USB Device to the Root folder. Grub4Dos looks for this file in the Root of all partitions and uses the first one it finds.

Step 4 - Install Grub4Dos to the MBR of the USB Device

Now you need to install Grub4Dos to the MBR of the USB Device. To do this, the easiest way is to use the grubinst_gui.exe utility. Click here to download the program (other builds are available here). Extract the contents to a folder on your hard drive. In this example, I've extracted the files to D:\Temp\grubutil-1.1-bin-w32-19.

For those interested, more information on Grub4Dos can be found at the following locations:
Grub4Dos Main Page
Grub4Dos Downloads Page (check here for updated downloads)
Grub4Dos Tutorial
Grub4Dos Guide (hosted by
Grub4Dos GUI Installer Downloads

In Windows XP, just run the grubinst_gui.exe program.

In Vista, you'll need to run grubinst_gui.exe in Administrator mode. Right-click on the program file and select Run as administrator from the pop-up menu.


You may get a security pop-up window asking if you want to run the program. Select Run to start the program.


In Vista, if you have UAC turned on (the default setting), you'll get another warning. Select Allow to let the program start.


Once the program is started, select the Disk option, then click the Disk Refresh button and then select your USB Device from the dropdown box.

IMPORTANT: Make sure you select your USB Device from the dropdown list and not a different drive (if installing to an internal drive, make sure it's the correct one). If you accidentally select the wrong drive, you may not be able to boot your system without doing a boot repair. You should be able to tell which is your USB Device by the size shown for each drive. In the above example, my 1GB flashdrive is easy to pick out.

Now click the Part List Refresh button, then the dropdown box and finally select the Whole disk (MBR) option.


Leaving all the other options unchecked and cleared, click the Install button to install Grub4Dos to the MBR of the USB Device.

You may want to check the Don't search floppy checkbox before you install. I have run it without this checked, though, and haven't had any problems.

Hopefully, you'll get the message that the installation was successful. Press Enter to close the Command Prompt window.


Click the Quit button to exit the Grub4Dos Installer program.

Step 5 - Boot your VistaPE USB Device

Your VistaPE USB Device should now be bootable. Leave the USB Device plugged in and reboot your computer. Check the BIOS (if necessary) to make sure the USB Device is the first boot device. If everything works correctly, the USB Device should boot to the Grub4Dos menu. Select VistaPE to start VistaPE.

Step 6 - Updating your VistaPE USB Device

If you make changes to your VistaPE build, you can update the files on the USB Device by repeating Step 2 and copying the updated files to the USB Device. No further steps are necessary.

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