Making a Bootable USB Thumb Drive in Vista
It is possible to create a bootable USB thumb drive that will allow you to repair an existing instance or install a new instance of Windows. The Windows operating system is available from Microsoft on the bootable DVD, and is normally installed onto an internal hard drive. The Windows operating system can be copied from the DVD to a USB thumb drive and used to boot the computer. A bootable USB thumb drive may be helpful if the internal hard drive is corrupted and there is no optical disc drive on the computer. The bootable USB thumb drive must be created while the computer is operating properly.
For information on installing Windows on a USB key, visit the Microsoft web site and search for Microsoft articles on: Create a Bootable Windows PE RAM Disk on a USB Flash Disk or Use a USB Key to Install Windows 7 .
To create a bootable USB drive you will need:
- USB thumb drive (4GB or larger)
- Original bootable DVD of Windows
- License Key (Use when installing new instance of Windows on the hard drive)
Making a USB drive bootable
The computer recognizes the internal hard drive and the optical disc drive as active drives on the computer. By default, a USB drive is recognized as Removable Storage. To create a bootable thumb drive, the USB drive must be configured as an active drive on the computer. You will need to do the following tasks.
- Prepare a USB thumb drive (4GB or larger) to accept the operating system.
- Copy the files from an original bootable Windows OS disc onto the thumb drive.
- Boot the computer from the USB thumb drive to repair or install the operating system.
This operation will require you to use a Windows Command window, rather than using standard Windows desktop environment. To run the required command, you will need to type each command followed by a variable that is specific to your computer, and then press the enter key to execute the command.
NOTE:To show the drive letters used in this document, we used the variable C: for the internal hard drive, E: for the optical disc drive, and G: for the USB thumb drive. You may need to change these variables to match the drive letters assigned on your computer. In the Command window on the computer the sample default C drive command prompt is shown as C:\>. The command prompt will change when you enter some commands to reflects the current drive and directory; i.e. E:\boot> is the command prompt shown for the boot directory on drive E:. Commands are shown in UPPER CASE text.
Prepare a thumb drive
You must perform the following commands so the computer can recognize the USB thumb drive as a valid drive.
- Insert a blank USB thumb drive in an active USB port. The capacity of the drive should be 4GB or more. If there is any data on the USB, you should make a backup copy because all files will be deleted when the drive is formatted to make it bootable.
- Click Start, type CMD in the search field and press enter key to open the Windows Command window. The default command prompt should be C:\>.
For each of the following commands, in the command window, type the command (shown in upper case) and variables, and press the enter key. The command's output, or an explanation is shown on the next line.
- C:\User> DISKPART
The prompt changes to reflect the actions done within DISKPART command, DISKPART>.
- DISKPART> LIST DISK
(This command reports the number 0 represents the hard drive, and the number 1 is assigned to the USB drive.)
- DISKPART> SELECT DISK 1
Disk 1 is now the selected disk.
(Replace the number 1 with the variable assigned for your USB drive in the previous command.)
- C:\> CLEAN
DiskPart succeeded in cleaning the disk.
- C:\> CREATE PARTITION PRIMARY
DiskPart succeeded in creating the specified partition.
- C:\> SELECT PARTITION 1
Partition 1 is now the selected partition.
- C:\> ACTIVE
DiskPart marked the current partition as active.
- C:\> FORMAT FS=NTFS
The format process may take several minutes.
- C:\> ASSIGN
DISKPART successfully assigned the drive letter or mount point.
- C:\> EXIT
(This command will exit the DISKPART function and leave the Command window open. Do not close the Command window.)
Now that the USB thumb drive is active, formatted and assigned, you can copy or install the operating system onto the thumb drive
Copy operating system files onto USB thumb drive
Now that the USB thumb drive is active, formatted and assigned, you can copy the operating system files onto the thumb drive.
Use a COPY or XCOPY command to copy the files from the bootable CD/DVD to the USB thumb drive. This allows you to boot a computer with the USB drive to Repair an existing instance of Windows, or Install a new instance of Windows on a hard drive. The exact copy command and options depends on the OS being used. The following are the commands for copying the Windows Vista files.
- Insert Windows CD/DVD and close optical drive door. (Assume optical disc drive is E and USB thumb drive is G).If installation program on the disc attempts to start, cancel the operation.
To change to drive E:
- E\>CD BOOT
To change to the boot directory.
- E:\BOOT\>BOOTSECT NT60 G:
Successfully updated NTFS Filesystem bootcode.
- E:\BOOT\>CD \
to change directory to the root level of the E drive.
- E:\>xcopy E:\*.* G:\*.* /S/H/E/V
To copy all the Windows files and folders to the USB thumb drive.Alternately, exit the Command window and use Windows Explorer to copy all the files from the CD/DVD to the USB thumb drive.
- When the copy is complete, change control back to the hard drive.
to exit and close the command window.
The USB thumb drive is ready for use
Boot the computer from the USB thumb drive and install the operating system
When you need to boot a computer using the USB thumb drive, do the following actions.
- Turn the computer off.
- Connect the USB thumb drive.
- Connect AC power adapter, and press the Power button to start the computer and repeatedly press the f9 key to select the Change Boot Device Order option.
- In the Boot Manager, use the Up Arrow and Down Arrow keys to select the USB thumb drive, and press the enter key to start the boot process.
- Follow the prompts and allow the computer to load the required files.
- When prompted, verify the Language and other preferences for the repair or installation, and click Next.
- When prompted, select the Repair your computer or the Install Now option, and follow the prompts.