Boot from USB to Install Windows 7

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:34 PM :: 2027 Views :: Technology :: Digg it!

One of the things I really like about Windows 7 is it can be installed from a USB drive -- perhaps thanks to the rise in netbooks. This isn't anything terribly new to the world of computers, but it's always nice when you have a new feature to play with -- and, let's face it, Windows 7 is all about simplicity. When I first heard about installing from a bootable USB drive, I hoped it was going to be as simple as copying the files over. It wasn't. All-in-all, the process wasn't too bad, tho.

  1. Attach the USB drive
  2. If you have anything on the drive you want to keep, copy it off
  3. Click Start, type and select the Device Manager option
  4. Expand Disk Drives
  5. Right-click your USB drive, click Properties > Policies
  6. Check Optimize for performance and click OK
  7. Close Device Manager
  8. Open Windows Explorer (Win+E)
  9. Select Computer, right-click the USB drive, select Format...
    NOTE: Remember the total size of the USB drive and what drive letter it is assigned
  10. Select the NTFS file system, uncheck all format options, and click Start
    NOTE: This process will take a while, so we're going to multi-task
  11. While the USB drive is being formatted, copy the Windows 7 DVD contents to the c:\win7 directory
    NOTE: If you only have an ISO file, use 7-zip to extract contents to the target directory
  12. Click Start, type powershell, right-click the Windows PowerShell option, and select Run as administrator
    • Fine, fine... if you're not on the band wagon, run Command Prompt as administrator
  13. When the USB drive is done formatting, type diskpart, and press Enter
  14. Type list disk and press Enter
    • This will return results like the following. In this case, I have a 16 GB drive as disk 1.

      DISKPART> list disk
        Disk ###  Status         Size     Free     Dyn  Gpt
        --------  -------------  -------  -------  ---  ---
        Disk 0    Online           74 GB      0 B
        Disk 1    Online           14 GB      0 B
       
  15. Type select disk <d>, where <d> is the disk number from the previous step, and press Enter
  16. Type list partition, press Enter
    • This will return results like the following. In this case, I have a 16 GB drive as disk 1.

      DISKPART> list partition
        Partition ###  Status         Size     Offset
        -------------  -------------  -------  -------
        Partition 1    Primary          14 GB    20 KB
       
  17. Type select partition <p>, where <p> is the partition number from the previous step (most likely 1), and press Enter
  18. Type active, to make this partition active an press Enter
  19. Type exit and press Enter
  20. When the Windows 7 disk contents are done copying, type cd c:\win7\boot and press Enter
  21. Type .\bootsect /nt60 <e:>, where <e:> is the drive letter your USB drive is assigned to (i.e. e:), and press Enter
  22. Lastly, copy the contents of the c:\win7 directory to the root of your USB drive

Wow... 23 steps seems like a lot more than I originally realized, but it's just about going thru the motions. You'll be waiting for the USB drive to be formatted and files to be copied for the majority of the time. Once you're done, reboot and plug in your USB drive to kick off the installation. Remember to check your BIOS boot settings. If your machine isn't configured to even try to boot from USB, you won't get very far.

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