Normally, when I write about free or commercial software for Win10.Guru, it falls under the heading of Admin Toolkit items. This time, I came across something free and worthy of mention that I wanted to share. But I haven’t had enough time or experience with the tool to know if I can recommend it or not. I plan to do just that in the weeks ahead. If it makes the grade, I’ll recast this piece as an Admin Toolkit item. If not, I’ll add a coda to the end of this story that describes my experiences, and explain why I can’t recommend the tool. We’ll just have to see what happens. I can tell you this much right now, which may help you to understand why I cannot yet provide a ringing endorsement, and why I must offer up a warning as well.
About the Host Domain: Ventoy.net
According to whois.domaintools.com, ventoy.net is registered in China through Alibaba Cloud Computing. The domain is 119 days old as I write this story, created on 2019-12-24, and its authoritative name servers are DNS17.HICHINA.COM and DNS18.HICHINA.COM. The site seems a bit underprovisioned, too.
It took me some time to navigate around, and to register for its forums. Page loads were sometimes quite slow (20-plus seconds for page transitions, longer to bring up the registration page). More alarmingly, the ZIP file download never worked for me, even for a paltry 3.1 MB file. All four of my download attempts failed with a “Network error.” Using the Network Meter gadget on an otherwise quiescent machine, transfer rates varied from a low of 10 Kbps to a high of 180 kbps — ungodly slow, in other words. I eventually appealed to Martin Brinkmann at Ghacks.net who posted an alternative download/mirror link at my urging.
Normally, such a small download happens so quickly I don’t even get a download progress tab in Chrome, Firefox or Edge for something of this size. (That’s what happened when I downloaded the Ghacks mirror link, in fact.) All this screams “Look out!” or perhaps “Be careful!” Thus my next move was to submit the ZIP file to VirusTotal for a checkup. Only McAfee flagged the file, out of the 62 engines that VirusTotal uses for screening. I’m OK with that, so I opened it up to try it out (on a scratch SSD which I can destroy and replace whenever I need to). Norton blocked the necessary executable file — named Ventoy2Disk.exe — so I had to manually exclude it from screening and restore it to the root of the extracted files directory. On a machine running Windows Defender, I didn’t have this problem.
It may not look like much, but Ventoy provides some useful and interesting capabilities.
After you insert a USB flash drive into the PC where you’ve copied the Ventoy ZIP file, launch the Ventoy2Disk application. It begins by creating a dual partition layout on the Flash Drive (and completely over-writes its former contents). 32MB goes into a FAT-formatted partition that gets labelled EFI on my PCs (all of which support EFI: I don’t have any MBR-only PCs any more). The remaining disk space goes into an ex-FAT formatted partition labeled Ventoy.
Here, you can add as many bootable images as you like by copying ISO files into that storage space. Just for grins I copied a fairly recent business editions 1903, Kyhi’s Rescue Media (WinPEse…), and the DART iso onto my prepared UFD. I also had to jump into my BIOS and disable secure boot before I could boot to the Ventoy UFD, but sure enough its menu showed me options to boot into all three of the ISOs I copied onto the Ventoy partition:
+ DART10.iso (Windows 10 version of the Diagnostic and Recovery Toolset, DART)
_a10b235d.iso (my “business editions Win10 iso”)
+ winpese-x64-14393_17.01.16.iso (the most current version of Kyhi’s Rescue Disk, to my knowledge)
When I selected Kyhi’s Rescue Disk, it initially threw up a blank screen rectangle on top of the Ventoy menu. This sat there, doing nothing, for quite some time. Eventually, I gave up. But it did boot to both the DART and the Win10 Business editions ISOs. Thus, I’m inclined to suspect something amiss with the winpese ISO rather than the Ventoy boot software. This appears to be a useful tool because it’s incredibly simple to use, works with all kinds of ISO files (including many, many versions of Linux as well as Windows), and requires only copying of one or more ISO files to the Ventoy partition for setup. So far, so good.
Now, I need to live with this for a while and see how it grows or wears on me. I plan to download and try some absolutely current Win10 ISOs next. Stay tuned.
Note Added May 17
I’ve been using the program for almost 4 weeks now, and it hasn’t failed me with any of the other ISOs I’ve tried. Right now, in fact, I’ve got ISOs for Windows 10 Builds 18363.815, 19624.1000, 19041, and 1903 Business Editions (updated Sept 2019), plus DART in my Ventoy folder. 3 of the 4 OS ISOs are larger than 4 GB in size, and I’ve booted successfully to all of them. This is great because it means you no longer have to use DISM with the /Split-Image setting to break big .WIM files into smaller sub-files (see this MS Hardware Dev Center article for details).
Author: Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.