Friday FOSS Fest Ventoy is a free tool that turns any USB drive into a multi-boot wonder.
Even if you’re not a FOSS fan, having a few bootable USB drives handy is handy. You can often revive a sick PC by simply starting Windows and running
CHKDSK /F on it, or start Linux to retrieve files from a computer if a PEBCAK error happened and someone forgot their password.
If you have a few PCs lying around, it’s faster to mount the latest Windows 10 disk image and run it.
setup.exe than letting Windows Upgrade do the download for everyone.
Ventoy is not unique or unprecedented. There are gadgets for this – for example, if you can find one, Zalman has created a few external hard drive enclosures that allow you to choose an ISO file with physical buttons and then the box emulates a USB CD drive with that. disc inserted. There are also tools such as DriveDroid for an Android phone to do that too. But why carry a cable everywhere?
Ventoy makes this faster and easier than anything we’ve seen. All you need is a spare USB stick with enough space for a few ISOs; eight concerts will work and 16 is a lot. Download the Linux or Windows version, whichever works best for you – it’s only 18MB, or about a quarter the size of Balena Engraver, for example – and run it.
It partitions and formats your key with a small boot partition and a larger empty one. Just copy a few ISO files to the large partition, insert the key into any Intel PC or Mac, and boot from it. Ventoy generates a menu of all ISO files on the fly and lets you choose one, then the computer boots from it.
It’s faster than writing a file, especially with Windows tools like Rufus. You don’t need a key writing tool at all. It will boot Linux, BSD, Windows, or any other standard ISO as desired, and will work on both BIOS and UEFI machines.
You can have as many ISOs as the key will contain, and unlike a DIY solution with GRUB4DOS, there is no need to manually edit the config files, add the ISO filename to a list or anything. It works. If you want persistent storage for a Linux live image this can do this too much. It’s also not limited to USB; it supports just about any type of removable disk.
In fact, the only thing we’ve found that it can’t handle are non-standard ISOs: exotic ones such as AROS, A2, or old DOS BIOS flash images. Often times these have to be written to an actual optical disc anyway. Want to look under the hood? It’s all about GitHub. ®