How to boot ImageAssist USB Boot Disk, to VMWare Workstation 14

Hi all,

I had setup VMWare Workstation 14 on a Windows 10 Pro host. Within a VMWare Virtual Machine, I spent a lot of time creating a Gold/Maintenance "Windows 10 Pro Standard" install, and configuring a standard desktop session. I was creating the standard desktop under an administrative user "userlogin1". At the time I was unaware that there was a standard "Administrator" login with Windows 10 Pro, that ImageAssist can use for the purpose of creating a standard desktop, and then in ImageAssist you can specify to use that Administrator login as the default "User Profile". But regardless, I used ForensiT's User Profile Wizard, to copy the userlogin1 profile that I setup as a standard desktop, to my default profile.

The above worked quite well. I then cloned the final Windows 10 Pro Standard Gold desktop, to two other virtual machines, that I then used as a "Graphic Gold/Maintenance" virtual machine, and also a "Engineering Gold/Maintenance" virtual machine. Each with their own different applications, beyond the "Standard Gold/Maintenance" image.

My Windows 10 Pro install was using the 1703 edition of Windows. And then we decided to install 1709, and that's where the problems began. It is apparently imcompatible with some older versions of Trend Micro anti-virus, which we were running. And the symptoms is during the Windows 10 1709 upgrade, Windows 10 will just constantly reboot - or it will fail the install and return to the prior version (a very slow process).

I decided to delete my three virtual machines and then restore the three WIM images I created using ImageAssist.

But what I discovered, is that VMWare Workstation 14 (and earlier versions) are not compatible with booting to a WindowsPE (aka WinPE) USB Boot Disk - which is what the ImageAssist USB Boot Disk uses. I had attempted to create three "blank" virtual machines, and boot to the ImageAssist USB Boot Disk on each - but no go. Even after phone calls with VMWare, I found I was now stuck without any supported way, to restore my three images on VMWare's Virtual Machines.

After much trial and error, I found a work-around to this problem, that I thought others may appreciate.

There are lots of docs online about using Elmar Hanlhofer's "Plop Boot Manager", which you can burn to a CD/DVD as a bootable ISO file on your CD/DVD ROM, which VMWare Workstation is compatible with. And after booting to the Plop Boot Manager, it then lets you boot to a USB Drive. Which in this case, was my ImageAssist USB Boot Disk. And wallah, that worked! However there are some specific settings in the VMWare blank Virtual Machine that I had to make, in order to get this to work. In addition, you must first create the Plop Boot CD.

Follow these general guidelines to install Plop:

  1. Go to https://www.plop.at/en/bootmanager/download.html and download the most current version of the Plop Boot Manager (as of this writing it was plpbt-5.0.15.zip)
  2. Extract the zip file to a new folder
  3. Go to the new plpbt folder and you'll see a plpbt.iso file on the top level folder.
  4. Burn the plpbt.iso file to a CD/DVD; you do not want to extract that ISO and make the CD/DVD bootable, you just want to copy that ISO file, to the CD/DVD drive.
  5. Keep the CD/DVD with the ISO copied to it, for the next section below.

Follow these general guidelines to create a blank Virtual Machine:

  1. Go to VMWare's "Home" and "Create a New Virtual Machine".
  2. Specify "Typical" then Next
  3. Select "I will install the operating system later" then Next
  4. Guest Operating System: Microsoft Windows, then Next
  5. Name your Virtual Machine, then Next
  6. Specify a Maximum disk size (in most cases, 60GB is good) and I like using a "Store virtual disk as a single file". Then Next
  7. Click Customize Hardware
  8. Memory: use at least 4GB to 5GB (5120)
  9. Processors: use as many as you can (I use 2 CPU's with 2 Cores)
  10. Insert your CD/DVD that you made above, into the VMWare Host PC.
  11. New CD/DVD (SATA): Click "Use ISO image file:" and click "Browse". Browse to your CD/DVD drive
  12. When I burned my original ImageAssist USB Drive, I burned it on a USB 3.0 compatible USB Drive, via a USB 3.0 port. And on the USB Compatibility, I set it as "USB 2.0", because most reports state that VMWare Workstation does not boot properly from USB 3.0 drives. I'm not sure if that' really true. But mine would not boot until I set this to USB 2.0 and actually put the USB drive in a USB 2.0 port.
  13. Defaults for everything else, then click "Close" then "Finish".
  14. Now on the new Virtual Machine you just created click "Edit virtual machine settings" and you should now see a new "Options" tab. Click the "Options" tab.
  15. Keep all defaults. Except go to "Advanced" on the bottom.
  16. I had to change the default Firmware Type "UEFI" to "BIOS" to get the older style BIOS boot functions to work properly with Plop.

Next, here's the steps for how to boot your machine:

  1. Make sure that the Plob CD/DVD is in your host machine's CD/DVD drive.
  2. Insert your ImageAssist USB Boot Disk into a USB port on your host computer.
  3. Click the tab for your new Virtual Machine, at the top of the VMWare window
  4. Click "VM" at the top of the VMware menu, then select "Power" then "Power on to Firmware"
  5. Once powered on, the machine should recognize your USB is plugged in and a "Removable Devices" pop-up screen will open. Click "OK" to confirm to connect the USB Mass Storage Device, to your new Virtual Machine.
  6. Next, you should be on the BIOS Utility screen. (I see a "PhoenixBIOS Setup Utility" but you might see a different BIOS).
  7. Activate the Virtual Machine window by clicking anywhere in it. (click Ctrl-Alt to exit mouse control from the Virtual Machine, and back to your host machine).
  8. The mouse icon will probably disappear. Use your arrow keys on your keyboard, to find your way to the "Boot" section. Set your Boot Sequence so the CD-ROM Drive is booted first.
  9. Save and exit your BIOS changes
  10. The Virtual Machine will now reboot, choosing your CD-ROM as the boot device. And since you set the CD/DVD to use the ISO, Plop will read the ISO and boot to Plop. If it did not boot to Plop, check on the bottom of the Virtual Machine window, that your CD/DVD drive is "Connected" to the Virtual Machine rather than your host. Do the same for the USB Device; make sure it's connected to your Virtual Machine.
  11. Once the Plop CD is booted (it's actually a Linux boot disk), you should see a menu to select "Floppy" or "CDROM" or "USB". Select "USB"
  12. If Plop is able to find and boot your ImageAssist USB Drive, you should see the familiar loading bar on the bottom of the screen.
  13. If Plop is unable to find and boot your USB drive:
    1. First make sure any other Virtual Machines are shut down, other than the one you are working on.
    2. Then double-check all settings as specified above. Make sure both your CD and USB drive are "Connected" to the Virtual Machine you are trying to boot to Plop. Make sure that the USB is pressed firmly into the host machine's USB port. Even though it's recognized by a Virtual Machine, it may not be securely plugged in good enough to read data.
    3. Now restart your host computer and try again.
    4. If your USB still is not recognized, make sure it's a valid ImageAssist USB Boot Disk. You may want to try recreating the Boot Disk. I have seen USB Boot Disks corrupted when they are removed from a PC, without properly "disconnecting" them from a virtual machine, or without properly "ejecting" them first from the host machine.
    5. If you still cannot get Plop to recognize your ImageAssist USB Boot Disk, try putting the USB Boot Disk into another USB Port on your host machine (being careful to first "Disconnect" it from the Virtual Machine, then "Eject" it from the host machine). Sometimes a different USB Port (such as a USB 2.0 as opposed to USB 3.0 port) will be able to read the USB Boot Disk using Plop.
  14. Once ImageAssist is finished booting, you should now be able to use the tools on your ImageAssist Boot Disk.

I hope all the above steps/tips helps someone else who may be looking how to boot a Dell ImageAssist USB Boot Disk, using a VMWare Workstation 14 Virtual Machine.

Darren Nye

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3 Replies

RE: How to boot ImageAssist USB Boot Disk, to VMWare Workstation 14

Darren -

Thank you for sharing the detailed information. ImageAssist also provides the option to create an ISO of the USB. To do so, run the USB creator from a command line as follows:

c:\Program Files\Dell\ImageAssist\USB_Drive_Creator.exe /iso

This is documented in the FAQ's section of the users guide

- Tyler

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RE: How to boot ImageAssist USB Boot Disk, to VMWare Workstation 14

Tyler, is there any reason the ISO is not available for download alongside the ImageAssist installation download? It would save a lot of time for us who use the ISO to not have to make it ourselves.

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RE: How to boot ImageAssist USB Boot Disk, to VMWare Workstation 14


DIA does not offer an ISO of the DIA PE because it is dynamically created based on the host Operating Systems settings which it is built on, e.g. language, region, etc. If you require an ISO for your company’s needs, you can launch the USB Drive Creator Tool with the “/iso” switch, and it will build an ISO file saved @: “C:\Dell_RESTORE_ISO.iso”.

Thank you,


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