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Saturday, 21 September 2013

How to create a bootable USB drive for pretty much any OS using Windows 7, Vista, and Windows 8

How to create a bootable USB drive for pretty much any OS using Windows 7, Vista, and Windows 8

Disclaimer: 

All advice is given to be used at your own risk. This worked for me and I hope it helps you - but take no responsibility for any undesired outcome that you may experience.
Additionally, this method only works using the following operating systems - Win Vista, Win 7, and Win 8.

Special thanks:

A special thanks goes to Michael Surtees for his contribution to this handy solution.

Introduction: 

The following process demonstrates how to create a bootable USB Drive which you can copy the contents of an OS installation disc to. The result is a portable installation USB drive which, IMO, is super handy and soooo much quicker than DVD (blerrrg)!
I found this useful and it should, in theory, work to create a bootable installer for pretty much any OS (Windows, Linux, etc.)

Pre-requisites:

  1. USB thumb/flash drive that is large enough to house the entire contents of your installation ISO plus a little extra.
  2. Said USB thumb/flash drive will be formatted with ALL data removed - as such you will need to backup any data on the drive before proceeding with this process.

The HOW:

First, we need to open a Command Prompt (CMD.EXE) as administrator (right-click on the CMD icon in your Start menu and select "Run as administrator".
It is imperative that you launch CMD.exe as administrator. I cannot vouch for the results if you do not.
right-click on "Command" and select "Run as administrator"

Next, enter the following command into CMD: 
diskpart
("Diskpart" is the disk management utility)

Next, enter the following commands:
list disk
("List disk" displays the connected disks. Your USB drive should be listed here as well. Make a note of the number next to your USB drive as you'll need to enter it into the next command. Note that in the screenshot below - Disk 0 is my primary HDD - this is NOT the disk number you want - be sure to choose the right number or you could wipe your data).

select disk # 
(Be sure to replace the "#" with the number you took note of in the previous step. This will then return a message saying "Disk 1 is now the selected disk." - if it doesn't then stop immediately and close the CMD window and try again.).

clean
(This command will verify the integrity of the USB drive and ERASE ALL OF THE DATA ON IT!!!)

create partition primary
(This creates a bootable partition. You will see a message saying that the operation was successful).

list partition
(Take note of the partition number - quite likely "1").

select partition 1

active
(To activate the partition).


format fs=fat32
(This is a slow format so you should go and do something else while you wait - such as extract your .ISO file into a folder ready to copy across later. You can also take this time to download any drivers you may need during your installations.)


assign
(This will automatically assign the USB drive a drive letter).


exit
(Exit out of DISKPART).


All that is left to do is to simply copy the files you extracted out of the .ISO file onto the USB, along with any drivers you might need during OS install, to make the whole process much smoother.
NOTE: Any archiving application worth their weight will easily allow you to extract the contents of an ISO file. Examples include 7Zip, WinZip, WinRAR, etc.

Once that's done...
Plug your USB thumb/flash drive into a USB2 or eSATA USB combo port in your PC/laptop.
Boot the PC up, enter into "Setup" mode or "Boot Options" and choose to boot from the USB.
You'll then be able to boot and launch the OS installation process via the USB stick.

NOTE: There has been some reports from people (with general USB drive based OS installations) that they are receiving an error when attempting to install Windows 7 via the USB thumb/flash drive stating "A required CD/DVD drive device driver is missing. If you have a driver floppy disk, cd dvd or usb flash drive please insert it now".
This has to do with USB3. For some reason it simply does not like USB3.
To overcome this - plug the USB thumb/flash drive into a USB2 port or if you have a eSATA USB combo port - use this port instead. I've seen first hand this issue resolved this way.

Happy installing and as always I HTH.

Cheers.
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