Create a bootable Windows USB drive

7:29:00 PM |

A common use of a bootable USB flash drive is to use it for booting into Windows. This can allow you to perform diagnostics on a computer that has hardware issues or can't boot into Windows. You can also use the flash drive to install Windows, instead of using the Windows installation CD.

This guide will outline making a bootable USB flash drive with Windows XP, Vista, and 7. Before we begin, it's important to note that the computer you want to use your bootable USB drive in will need to have the capability of booting to a USB drive. Most recent computers built since Windows Vista was released are capable of booting to a USB device. Prior to the Windows Vista timeframe, it's hit or miss with motherboards.


To determine if a computer is capable of booting to a USB device, access the computer's BIOS and check the bootable device list. If a USB device is listed, set the USB drive to be the first boot device. If you do not see a USB device in the list of bootable devices, your BIOS is not capable of booting to a USB device. (NOTE: You may need to have your USB flash drive plugged in when you access the BIOS).


To make the bootable USB drive for Windows Vista or Windows 7, you need to have Windows Vista or 7 installed on your computer. It is recommended that you have a flash drive of at least 4 GB in size, in order to store all the necessary files.

Note: Before you start, plug in the USB drive and backup any files you have stored on the USB drive. The drive will be formatted during this process and all files on it will be deleted.

Tip: You will need a Windows Vista or Windows 7 disc for these instructions to be successful.

1. Open an elevated Windows command line window by clicking Start, typing in cmd in the search text field, then pressing CTRL + Shift + Enter on your keyboard (at the same time). You can also access this by navigating to Start, All Programs, Accessories, right-click with your mouse on the Command Prompt menu item and select Run as Administrator.

2. At the command prompt, type cd c:\windows\system32 to change the directory to the Windows system32 directory. Ensure your USB drive is plugged in and type DISKPART and press Enter. Then type LIST DISK and press Enter.

3. You will see a listing of the disk drives connected to your computer. Find the disk number of your USB drive and type SELECT DISK [USB disk #], where "[USB disk #]" is the disk # for your USB drive. It should now state that your USB drive is the selected disk. If you're not sure what disk is the USB disk, eject the USB drive, perform step number 2 again, connect the USB drive again, and compare the results. Usually the USB drive will be the last drive.
4. Type in the following commands, one by one, pressing Enter after each command.
CLEAN

CREATE PARTITION PRIMARY


SELECT PARTITION 1


ACTIVE


FORMAT FS=NTFS

(may take a couple minutes, depending on the USB drive size)

ASSIGN


EXIT
Keep the command prompt window open, but you can minimize it for a little bit.

5. You will now need your Windows Vista or 7 Installation DVD. Put the DVD in your computer's DVD drive. Open up My Computer and note which drive letter is assigned to your DVD Drive and your USB flash drive.
6. Go back to the command prompt window and type in D: CD BOOT (substitute your DVD drive letter for "D:" if necessary) and press Enter. Type CD BOOT again and press Enter. Lastly, type BOOTSECT.EXE /NT60 H: (substitute your USB flash drive letter for "H:" if necessary) and press Enter.
7. The last step is to copy the entire contents of the Windows DVD to your USB flash drive.
Your USB flash drive is now set up to be a bootable USB drive for Windows Vista or 7.