GUIDE: Install Windows Vista, 7 and 8 from a flash drive!

criccio

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The below steps are no longer required.

Microsoft now has an official tool that can be downloaded from here: http://images2.store.microsoft.com/prod/clustera/framework/w7udt/1.0/uk/Windows7-USB-DVD-tool.exe


Works with Windows 7!

I member asked me to outline to him how I installed Vista from a flash drive onto my AAO, and I thought it might me of some use to other members here. My goal is to just have it written out somewhere on [H] so if people search for it here they will find a straightforward guide.

This method has worked for me many times and for many different people. It is an incredibly easy process, especially if you consider the pain it is to install XP from a flash drive....

Ok, here we go, follow closely.

1. Format the flash drive (at least a 4GB) as NTFS, NOT FAT32! Important!

2. Put the Vista disk in the drive, and open the command line with Administrator privileges.

3. Enter the text below directly into the command line, replacing the first drive letter with the drive letter of the Vista DVD, and the second drive letter with the letter of the flash drive.

Code:
xcopy D: E: /e /h
The "D:" being your optical drive where the Vista DVD is, and the "E:" being the flash drive. Change the letters to suit your setup. This might take awhile as it copies all the files on the Vista DVD to the flash drive. Just doing this from the explorer misses some hidden files.

4. Once that is finished, open a new command line window and enter the flash drive's directory. Do this by entering the drive letter of the flash drive. If the flash drive is drive E, just enter:

Code:
E:
After that, type

Code:
cd boot
You are now in the boot directory.

5. Now to run the bootsect command that makes the flash drive bootable. Enter the following, and just like before, replace the E: with the drive letter of the flash drive.

Code:
bootsect /nt60 E:
If you accidentally put the wrong drive letter there, you could be in trouble so pay attention! :)

You will get what looks to be an error, but ignore that. All you are interested in is if it says: Bootcode was successfully updated on all target volumes.

If you know how to boot from a USB device you are all set, if not, consult you're mobo's documentation.

I tried this method many times on many different PC's with a FAT32 formatted flash drive, but the install would always fail.

I am completely open to any more suggestions anyone may have, lets hear 'em! :D
 
Last edited:

bigdogchris

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Wow this is incredibly simple and requires nothing but Windows. Great job! I'm guessing this works for XP also?
 

criccio

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Wow this is incredibly simple and requires nothing but Windows. Great job! I'm guessing this works for XP also?
Oooooo no. XP is a whole 'nother animal. I actually attempted Installing XP Pro on my AAO when I first got it, but I gave up as it was uselessly complicated. I just wanted the features of XP Pro, and Home didn't have them. Decided just to go with Vista. Little off topic, but Vista IMHO runs better on this little beast then XP does.
 

CptFalcon

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I really wish software manufacturers would start using flash disks instead of optical media. It would be cheaper in the long run as you can transport more flash drives than CDs inside of a compact space like a box.
 
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I have wanted the same thing - the only thing is, though, they would probably charge more for the product, initially, because its flash media and not a CD, which can be made cheaply.
 

kuyaglen

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Thank you.

I dont know when I'm able to test this since I recently reinstalled Server 2008 on one rig and Vista x64 works fine on my other. Maybe when I get another hdd. I wonder if this works for Server 2008 x64.
 

criccio

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Thank you.

I dont know when I'm able to test this since I recently reinstalled Server 2008 on one rig and Vista x64 works fine on my other. Maybe when I get another hdd. I wonder if this works for Server 2008 x64.
It will.
 

criccio

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O god, i forgot about that. YES its normal. I'll edit my original post. Thanks!
 

criccio

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So.....does this speed up the install compared to installing from optical?
Maybe, if you have a particularly fast flash drive. Its mostly useful for people without optical drives. Like on some laptops.
 

criccio

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very nice, I used this way for my last vista install: http://kurtsh.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!DA410C7F7E038D!1665.entry

It worked great with my 180x patriot 8gb drive, much faster than installing from DVD!

The faster the usb stick, the better.

Know any easy ways to manipulate the install.wim file without vlite and WAIK? Wouldn't mind shrinking my base installs :)
Interesting, that guide uses a FAT32 drive, that failed for me every time I tried it, and that was about 8 times... :confused:

They also don't run the bootsec command. Hmmm, whatever works I guess.
 

RogueTrip

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Interesting, that guide uses a FAT32 drive, that failed for me every time I tried it, and that was about 8 times... :confused:

They also don't run the bootsec command. Hmmm, whatever works I guess.
Yep, using a basic format and then xcopy didn't work. You have to follow those directions with diskpart and will work great and is bootable without the nt60 bit. Your way seems a bit easier though. Wonder if it will work with Win7 ;)
 

bigdogchris

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Oooooo no. XP is a whole 'nother animal. I actually attempted Installing XP Pro on my AAO when I first got it, but I gave up as it was uselessly complicated. I just wanted the features of XP Pro, and Home didn't have them. Decided just to go with Vista. Little off topic, but Vista IMHO runs better on this little beast then XP does.
OK I'm confused then. What are you doing here that would not let this work for XP? Is it editing the cd boot directory? Also, I'm lost as to what you mean by AAO?
 

criccio

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OK I'm confused then. What are you doing here that would not let this work for XP? Is it editing the cd boot directory? Also, I'm lost as to what you mean by AAO?
Google around for installing XP from a flash drive, its not the same procedure, and definitely not as simple. AAO is my Acer Aspire One netbook.
 

RogueTrip

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I can confirm that the link I gave will also work great for Win 7 Beta (7000) install.
 

Klob

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I wouldn't want MS shipping the OS on flash drives because it is a volatile medium, good quality optical disk can last 100 years or more so long as you don't scratch it.
 

aaronearles

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Good info.

Guide to Installing XP from a flash drive:
1. Just don't do it, it's not even worth it.
 

Demon10000

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Good info.

Guide to Installing XP from a flash drive:
1. Just don't do it, it's not even worth it.

...someone installed it from a flash drive running DOS without Smartdrv. There is absolutely no reason NOT to install XP from a flash drive if it's something you want, or need, to do...
 

darkpaw

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I really wish software manufacturers would start using flash disks instead of optical media. It would be cheaper in the long run as you can transport more flash drives than CDs inside of a compact space like a box.
There is no way it would be cheaper for the mfg. 8GB Flash drive will cost them at least $5 while a mastered DVD9 is probably $0.05 or less. I think we'll see more of it as time goes on, but mainly on very small installs.

Either way, great guide and thanks op for putting it together.
 

MTXR

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Joe Average

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I'd seen the OP's method posted on a Microsoft blog last week but never got back to it (and I didn't bookmark the page so it got lost in the 200+ Microsoft blogs I've been hitting), but I just now did it using Win7 x64 Beta 1, worked great, no issues whatsoever.

I timed it from the moment I pressed Enter on my laptop's boot menu to select the USB stick (HP "Business Class" nx7400 (Core 2 Duo T5600 @ 1.86 GHz, 4GB DDR 667, 120GB 7200 rpm 8MB SATA I drive) to the moment the create a user account window popped up:

15 mins 35 seconds, so not too shabby at all. Give or take maybe 1 minute due to me having to select buttons during the process and the finalizing of the settings (the 15:35 included the system check for WinSAT too).

I've got a Kingston 4GB USB stick, testing it with HDTune just after the installation (on Win7) shows an average read speed of 19.3 MB/s so, about average for a $10 USB stick I guess. :)

The biggest place this "method" helps is the file copy, after the files are copied from the installation media to the hard drive (or an SSD if you've got one) the installation media isn't really accessed anymore. This is also what happens if you run something like XP or Vista and you mount the Win7 installation DVD as a virtual optical device - you can install it from that method because the file copy process copies everything and after that, the media isn't needed anymore...

Regardless, it does help with the biggest time chunker, the copying. Even on fast DVD drives, the random access speeds and moving the laser assembly around... ugh... so I'm sold and will use this method in the future as all my current machines (my own personal hardware and not client boxes) are USB bootable. Neat stuff... :)
 

odoe

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Stickied.
Nice and simple, thank you.
 

Joe Average

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hehe Wouldn't be easier and more efficient to just delete those posts once and for all? Eh? :)

Congrats on the Sticky-ness... and yes, as I've said before, this is the one I point people to for this particular aspect of using USB sticks, every time.
 

Cov

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No matter what I do, I just cannot formay my USB device in NTFS format.
WTF ?
 

Joe Average

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Stick the drive in, open a Command Prompt (Admin Command Prompt in Vista/Windows 7) and - knowing the drive letter - use:

format driveletter: /q /fs:ntfs

That should do it, and yes put the colon :)) after the drive letter...
 

Cov

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Hi thanks dude .. but having tried your guide step-by-step ...





Went to Start / typed in CMD / right clicked CMD and run as administrator / typed format g: /q /fs:ntfs (g = drive letter of my 8 GB USB device).

It confirms that my current file system is still FAT32.

It prompted me for giving the device a new name.

... and then it failed ... again .... why why why ? Incompatibility ? or just because life is a bitch sometimes ?
 

Joe Average

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Methinks your Flash drive be defective... I've had that happen to me on many occasions, turned out to be a defective drive.

Format it FAT32 and run a full chkdsk scan on it (chkdsk driveletter: /f) and see what that turns up.

But in 20+ cases of seeing a similar error, it was because of defective Flash drives, could be the same in your case.
 

criccio

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Aw I thought this was if you had an .iso file.
You can use an ISO file just fine. Just mount the ISO with you're favorite virtual drive application (daemon tools, alcohol 120%, VirtualClonedrive.. etc) and then follow the guide.

Thats how I did all my Win7 installations.
 

Jon55

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You can use an ISO file just fine. Just mount the ISO with you're favorite virtual drive application (daemon tools, alcohol 120%, VirtualClonedrive.. etc) and then follow the guide.

Thats how I did all my Win7 installations.

Like via a flash drive? As in mounting an .iso to a flash drive and installing off it?

EDIT: Oh duh, that makes sense. Why didn't I think of that. :D Thanks for the heads up!
 

criccio

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Mount the ISO.... to your computer..

It will show up in My Computer just like if you burned it and put the DVD in the computer.... drive letter and all.

Then follow the guide. This is how most people here are doing Win7 installations, no need to burn a disk needlessly.
 

Jon55

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Mount the ISO.... to your computer..

It will show up in My Computer just like if you burned it and put the DVD in the computer.... drive letter and all.

Then follow the guide. This is how most people here are doing Win7 installations, no need to burn a disk needlessly.
Nice, thanks guy.

OK, one last question. When formatting the flash drive, it gives you the checkbox option to "Quick Format". What's the difference between doing a quick format and a regular format (other than one being much faster than the other)?
 

criccio

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For all intents and purposes, use Quick Format for this situation. Google will turn up a ton of information on the specifics of the two options if you really want to know the details.
 

Jon55

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Hm, I've seemed to run into a problem.

Everything has gone great up until running "bootsect /nt60 F:" (F being my flash drive). I get the message:

Target volumes will be updated with BOOTMGR compatible bootcode.

Could not map drive partitions to the associated volume device objects: Access is denied.
And that's it. No "Bootcode was successfully updated on all target volumes" afterwords like everyone else is getting. I'm doing this on a MacBook Pro, so I wonder if EFI has anything to do with it.
 
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