Installing Win7 via Flash Drive

For over 15 years, Microsoft has distributed Windows installation media on optical disc. And why wouldn’t they? CDs and DVDs can hold significantly more data than floppy disks, and optical drives are (were?) far more ubiquitous than competing technologies like Zip, Jazz and LS-120 disks.

But times have changed. Most netbooks and many “ultralight” laptops don’t come with optical drives. And, let’s face it, new technologies like flash drives are much, much faster than optical discs.

Thankfully, Microsoft listened to IT folks and came up with an easy way to install Windows 7 via flash drive. I’ll show you how below. Although it might look like a lot of steps, I’ve just been very thorough with my documentation. In practice, it’s really quite easy.

To create a Windows 7 installation flash drive, you’ll need the following:

1) A working Windows 7 computer with DVD drive.
2) A 4GB (or larger) flash drive.
3) A Windows 7 installation DVD.

The first thing you’ll need to do is make sure that the computer(s) you want to install Windows 7 on can boot from a flash drive. Most computers built in the past five years should be able to do this; computers built in the past three years almost certainly can. To test, insert a flash drive into one of the USB ports on a target computer, then power it on. At the boot (BIOS) screen, you should see something that says Press ESC for boot menu (the exact key will vary; F10 and F12 are also common choices). Press the key. If you see the flash drive listed as a boot choice, you’re good to go. If not, see if you computer or motherboard manufacturer has a BIOS update on their website. Run the update and try again.

Now, for the actual steps:

1) On a working Windows 7 computer, start a command prompt with elevated privileges. The easiest way to do this is to start typing “command prompt” in the Windows 7 Start Menu; once that option appears in the Start Menu, right-click it and choose “Run as Administrator”.

2) At the command prompt, type DISKPART and then press the ENTER key.

3) After the command prompt changes to DISKPART>, type LIST DISK and press the ENTER key.

4) Type SELECT DISK x, where x is the number of your flash drive, and then press ENTER. Needless to say, it’s crucial to choose the correct disk at this step.

5) Type CLEAN and then press the ENTER key. It will probably take a little while for DiskPart to process this command.

6) Type CREATE PARTITION PRIMARY and then press the ENTER key.

7) Type ACTIVE and then press the ENTER key.

8) Type FORMAT FS=FAT32 QUICK and then press the ENTER key.

9) Type ASSIGN and then press the ENTER key. This will assign a drive letter to the flash drive.

10) Insert the Windows 7 DVD into your DVD drive (if it’s not there already), and copy the entire disc to the flash drive. The easiest way to do this is to open Windows Explorer, select the files on the DVD, then drag and drop the files to the flash drive.

That’s it! Just insert the flash drive into the computer you want to install Windows 7 on and choose the flash drive from the boot menu. Windows will install faster than ever before!

One last tip: if you’re performing the above operation on the computer you’ll install Windows 7 on, make sure to remove the DVD before booting off the flash drive. For some reason, Windows setup will pull the files off the DVD (if available) instead of the flash drive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.