Getting a USB Drive or Device to Boot or Autoplay / Autorun

This month’s technical question seems to revolve around the following questions.

1) How do I get a jump drive to boot?

2) How do I make a bootable usb drive or device?

3) I JUST WANT MY %#$%ing THUMB DRIVE TO BOOT!!!!!

Yeah, we feel your pain, so brace yourself for the harsh reality. Whether you want to get a jump drive to autorun or autoplay – here’s the straight scoop.
Getting a jump drive, thumb drive or any nearly any other usb hard drive device to autorun is almost impossible to accomplish.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news – but with today’s security settings and restrictions – even if you do get it to work – it is only under the most controlled of circumstances.

Now, this does not stop customers and marketing firms from calling us every week asking for how to do an autorunning USB Jump Drive for some marketing project they have (and usually frantic because they have already promised someone they can) – so obviously there is great need for this.

That being said, we’ve been actively studying how this is accomplished and under what circumstances. Gleen what you want from this – as we are merely reporting what we’ve found along the way.

1) Pre-conception #1 – All I need is an autorun.ini right?

Wrong. That might work for your typical CD-ROM or DVD project, however a jump drive is not treated the same as a CD-ROM or DVD. It is a device, not media. Granted, on some older Win 98 machines – we actually got the following to work by including both an autorun.ini & a seperate autorun.inf (as if it was a CD-ROM ISO).

If your file was presentation.exe, then your files would look like:

[autorun]
open=presentation.exe

or

[autorun]
shellexecute=presentation.exe

To see a list of all the various autorun commands you can use, visit this link.
Another resource is: http://www.phdcc.com/shellrun/autorun.htm

If you want Windows-based resources for booting from a USB Drive – here is the official Microsoft spiel: Recommendations for Booting Windows from USB Storage Devices: http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/device/storage/usb-boot.mspx

To sum the above article up – if you find that type of reading boring – Windows can easily make a USB Drive boot – if

1) You’re the manufacturer of Jump Drives, and

2) You can change your USB Device’s hardware BIOS to allow for Boot instructions.

If you cannot do either – then you cannot make a USB Drive bootable and anyone who says they can is a big, fat liar.

If you want to see some very cool multimedia presentations we can build for you – then give us a call about that. THAT – we can get to autorun for you!

UPDATED – We found this great little post on Digg – Simon’s Blog – how to autorun a USB Device.

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