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Get ready to boot with USB drives

June 14, 2006 03:52 IST

Ahmedabad-based eInfochips, a silicon and product design services firm, has designed a 1 GB 'bootable USB drive', thus becoming the first domestic company to design a bootable pen drive.

"Our pen drive will have either Linux or any version of Windows," said Tapan Joshi, vice-president, eInfochips. The USB device will be very light and thin, similar to other pen drives.

"This drive will help in booting any computer in which BIOS supports the USB booting," he said, adding new PCs have the feature with BIOS having the option: 'boot with USB drive'.

Joshi also pointed out that nobody would be able to delete the system files on the USB drive. "Now we have introduced a prototype of the drive with a 1GB capacity. We are also planning to design the drive with a storage capacity of 2GB and above," he said.

While the USB drive currently supports Windows and Linux OS(es), eInfochips is also working on making it compatible with PCs from Apple Computers (called Macintosh or Mac in short).

Joshi said, "The drive will be have the licensed version of the OS for which we are planning to sign an agreement with Microsoft for its operating systems." 

The price of the drive will be based on the cost of OS. eInfochips has also tied up with several original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), which will manufacture this drive.

"We will license the drive as an intellectual property and sell to our OEM customers," he said.  eInfochips, which provides electronic design services to global blue-chip technology companies, is also planning to double its headcount by 2007," Joshi said.

How  to boot  from a USB

Getting a PC to boot (start operating) from a USB device should ideally be simple. After all, a USB drive is a floppy- or CD-like medium. And every PC for the last 20 years has known how to boot from a floppy or CD.

The most important factor in using a bootable USB device is whether the system BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) will support USB booting.

If yes, one can make almost any USB device bootable with the "Windows-based Format Utility for HP Drive Key or DiskOnKey USB Device".

The instructions are simple, and the software takes only a few moments to format a USB device and copy over the necessary boot files. Steps are similar to partitioning and formatting any other drive type.

What's a pen drive?A USB (Universal Serial Bus) flash drive is also known as 'pen drive', 'chip stick' (not commonly used), 'thumb drive', 'flash drive' and 'USB key'. They are also called 'memory sticks', which can be a misleading statement as 'memory stick' is a Sony trademark for its proprietary memory card system. A flash drive consists of a small printed circuit board encased in a plastic or metal casing, making the drive sturdy enough to be carried about in a pocket. Only the USB connector protrudes outwards, and is usually covered by a removable cap. USB was developed in 1995 for adding peripherals to computers as easy as hooking up a telephone to a wall-jack without any hassle. Users need not shut down and restart their PCs to attach or remove USB devices. One can theoretically add up to 128 devices to a USB port.
Himansh Dhomse in Ahmedabad