Netbooks, laptops, office, and home computers...often we don't know which one we'll be working on from one day to the next. Sometimes, it isn't even our own PC, but one at a hotel business center or a client's office. That's one of the many scenarios in which it can be useful to have a bootable USB, containing a key application or an operating system. Or, perhaps, you simply want to back up an important application or data. USB Boot Maker ($90, feature-limited demo) is an easy-to-use utility for creating bootable USB keydrives or hard drives.
On startup, USB Boot Maker offers two choices: Create a bootable USB from a selected media or file, or Create a generic bootable USB. The former creates a backup USB (from a drive or an image file). For instance, if you have the appropriate license, you can make a bootable USB keydrive containing Windows 7. To do it, simply select your disc of Win7 as the source and your keydrive as the destination. (A warning screen reminds you that some material is protected by copyright, and that it's your responsibility to acquire the appropriate licenses and permissions.)
The generic option (which is available only on the full version, and not the trial) will create a bootable USB of Windows PE, Linux or FreeDos.
The step-by-step wizard interface will guide you through selecting your source and, then, the USB destination device. The final window displays the burning process with a progress bar. It's that simple.
Of course, to use a bootable USB, you'll need a computer that supports booting from USB, and vendor BluestSoft acknowledges that generic Linux usually doesn't. A third (dropdown menu) option will also do a complete wipe of all data from a USB device, by writing zero value to it. Bluestsoft claims that data deleted by this process are completely unrecoverable.
The utility's primary limitations are related to disc copy protection and any copyright of the source material. Beyond that, USB Boot Maker makes it remarkably easy for anyone to create backup bootable USB drives.
Note: The trial version is limited in functionality, so that a burned USB drive is bootable only once, and a USB drive can be burned only twice. The full version doesn't limit the number of times it can be used on a specific device. In addition, the full version can create a generic OS bootable USB. The full version is larger (229MB) in size, because it can create a generic bootable OS (Linux, FreeDOS, Windows PE) USB drive.