Creating Bootable Vista / Windows 7 USB Flash Drive

EDIT 2009/12/11: Microsoft Provides a tool to do this for you – Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool. See the Microsoft Store Help on the ISO-Tool (http://store.microsoft.com/Help/ISO-Tool).

It surprised me to find that there are very few dead-simple guides to creating a bootable USB thumb/pen/flash drive for a Vista and/or Windows 7 installation.  I cobbled together the following from VistaPCGuy and another source I don’t remember right now.

This will walk through the steps to create a bootable USB flash drive for the purpose of installing a Vista or Windows 7 OS.  These instructions assume that you have a computer with Windows Vista installed on it.

Required:

  • USB Flash Drive (4GB+)
  • Microsoft OS Disk (Vista / Windows 7)
  • A computer running Vista / Windows 7

Step 1: Format the Drive
The steps here are to use the command line to format the disk properly using the diskpart utility. [Be warned: this will erase everything on your drive. Be careful.]

  1. Plug in your USB Flash Drive
  2. Open a command prompt as administrator (Right click on Start > All Programs > Accessories > Command Prompt and select “Run as administrator”
  3. Find the drive number of your USB Drive by typing the following into the Command Prompt window:
    diskpart
    list disk
    The number of your USB drive will listed. You’ll need this for the next step.  I’ll assume that the USB flash drive is disk 1.
  4. Format the drive by typing the next instructions into the same window. Replace the number “1” with the number of your disk below.
    select disk 1
    clean
    create partition primary
    select partition 1
    active
    format fs=NTFS
    assign
    exit
    When that is done you’ll have a formatted USB flash drive ready to be made bootable.

Step 2: Make the Drive Bootable
Next we’ll use the bootsect utility that comes on the Vista or Windows 7 disk to make the flash drive bootable.  In the same command window that you were using in Step 1:

  1. Insert your Windows Vista / 7 DVD into your drive.
  2. Change directory to the DVD’s boot directory where bootsect lives:
    d:
    cd d:\boot
  3. Use bootsect to set the USB as a bootable NTFS drive prepared for a Vista/7 image. I’m assuming that your USB flash drive has been labeled disk G:\ by the computer:
    bootsect /nt60 g:
  4. You can now close the command prompt window, we’re done here.

Step 3: Copy the installation DVD to the USB drive
The easiest way is to use Windows explorer to copy all of the files on your DVD on to the formatted flash drive.  After you’ve copied all of the files the disk you are ready to go.

Step 4: Set your BIOS to boot from USB
This is where you’re on your own since every computer is different. Most BIOS’s allow you to hit a key at boot and select a boot option.

I used these instructions to get my new Dell Mini 9 laptop loaded with Windows 7 (the PDC bits).  HTH.

651 thoughts on “Creating Bootable Vista / Windows 7 USB Flash Drive”

  1. I had bought a MSi U100 – OpenSuse 10 version today, and wanted to desperately switch over to Win 7. But even after trying a dozen free and paid software that claim to turn your usb pen drives to bootable versions, I wasn't able to get the installation started.
    Then someone pointed this link to me, and boy, though i had completely given up – looking at the 450+ comments, a sliver of hope again came up within.
    It took just a few minutes to follow all the instructions… and windows 7 installation started…

    I am so glad you posted the instructions so lucidly… thank you sir !

  2. this is great, i used a win7 computer to great a boot usb for another computer and the steps worked perfectly.

  3. Thank you for this information.
    Unfortunately, my Windows 7 Ultimate did not support creating a USB Win 7 drive.

    Everything worked real well…copied Win 7 to bootable USB ….the USB booted into windows install.

    When I had a choice what drive to use, it did not allow me to use a USB or IEEE 1394 .device.

    I have Win 7, Ultimate. Is this OS different than other versions of Windows 7??

  4. Thank you for this information.

    Everything worked just fine until I had to select disk to install Win 7.

    (Booted from USB and ran Windows, selected custum…etc)

    Windows did not allow me to use a USB or IEEE1394 device….any help?

    I am using Windows 7 Ultimate… are versions any different?

  5. is there another way to make usb drive bootable cos bootsect cmd doesn`t seem to work for me `bootsect` is not recognised as an internal or external command,operable program or batch file. please help.

  6. hello it's great but I've got one problem when I do than: bootsect /nt60 g: it didn't work and this message appears: program too big to fit in memory somebody can help me? please

  7. Hi I already have window 7 on my computer whose subscription is about to expire. I have the CD of full window 7, but my computer dont read any CD/DVD. I think the device where I insert CD is not working.
    So can I make bootable USP for the window 7 CD and do the same procedure as mentioned above to install window 7 again.

  8. Some of these comments are just sad…I mean seriously people….

    Great work on the how-to. Works perfect! A+

    1. Thanks for the headsup – not the first time I've seen eerily similar instructions to mine appear. I don't mind people copying them – I'm glad I can help – but giving credit where credit is due is just the right thing. If they believe they have come up with their instructions all on their own with no influence from me, or other sources, then that's great. I'm certainly not the first person who figured out how to do this. I just posted the instructions because I couldn't find where anyone else had.

      1. PS: I think it's funny that they removed the link to my post that you put in the comment on their website. If they really didn't copy the instructions, why would they remove the link? :)

  9. i did the whole process perfectly as above along with the bios priority set to removable drive,
    but after inserting the usb and restarting the netbook it shows this error
    ” Reboot and Select proper Boot device or Insert Boot Media in Selected Boot device and press a key ”

    im using Asus 1005HAB Eee PC with Windows XP(which is infected through virus so i cant install from inside also)

    plz can u help me through this
    Thanks

    1. If you have your asus eeepc recovery disk, try following the same instructions but instead of copying the win 7 dvd, copy the recovery disc. Not sure if it will work, but if the your eeepc still has that hidden partition it will fully recovery winxp back to brand new.

  10. It would be nice find a quick way to get a Bootable ready-to-go Windows 7 DVD, like Ubuntu or similar Linux Distribution.
    Run in a quick way, check what you need then turn off and get back your original OS that may be not the latest Microsoft OS.

  11. i have a copy of window xp and want to make bootable pen drive and i have windows 7 as operating sysytem

  12. I had the problem with not being able to run the bootsect phase. The way i managed to do it was to complete all the phases leading up to the bootsect part and then reopening a comd prompt as administrator. (right click command prompt in accessories and run as administrator) after this i carried out the d: cd d: boot and all worked well for me from there. Hope this helps.

  13. yes! thanks for this guide…been searching for so long for a solution but found nothing but long complicated solutions that require you to download a ton of extra programs.

  14. When i try to type "bootsect /nt60 g:" i get this message: Bootsect is not recognized as an internal or external command, operable program or batch file… Hmm what am i doing wrong? plz help thank you

    1. did you change your directory to the "boot" folder in the cd directory before typing "bootsect /nt60 g:"?

  15. hiya id just like to add that another way of doing this as a complete newbie would be do create a disk image using power iso and then extract the whole image on to the root directory of your flash drive then boot from it

    works with my toshiba 1tb external hd

  16. I did it!. I was using an Ipod nano 1st generation because i don't have usb flash drive.

    J'ai réussi a le faire. J'ai utilisé un ipod nano première génération parce que je n'ai pas une clé USB

  17. Grassy ass.

    You just saved my main laptop, with a failing dvd drive I've used all of 5 times in 3 years.

    Friends don't let friends buy a dell. At least, not a modern one.

  18. Doing a full format of my 8GB USB drive took about 20 minutes.
    I suggest changing the
    format fs=NTFS
    command
    to
    format fs=NTFS label="win_inst" quick

    I also threw in a drive label :)

  19. I have Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit and am trying to install Windows 7 Professional 32-bit but when it comes to 'Launch Instal' I get an error message to say it cannot open .img files. I have tried downloading software to open .img files but still get error messages to say they cannot be opened. Any suggestions?

  20. Thanks for the information and tutorial. I recently bought a notebook without a dvd drive using Windows 7 64 bit. Is there a way to make this work without a dvd drive that you are aware of?

  21. dude thks alot for this info. u r so genius………now i can fixed my laptop w/out usb cdrom…thnks again….

  22. My Flash drive got screwed up at the format fs=NTFS level, all y tries to format it have proved to no avail, please help!! :(

  23. My computer keep showing error booting and i don't have Window 7 ultimate instillation CD. please can you tell me how to repair my computer my using flash drive to boot the window. Or you can tell me how to make this work that i wont losse any of my document.
    Thanks
    Please send me Email to tobiodumowu@yahoo.com

  24. To the person who asked about doing a quick format, simply change this line:
    format fs=NTFS

    to read as:
    format fs=NTFS QUICK

  25. hi ….is this process only helpful if u have windows vista already installed in ur system….it wont work on a corrupted system….

  26. Hi, I'm just a beginner for computer and I need help please from the steps above, mentioned " insert your windows dvd " does it mean my recovery discs, if it is correct, I have 2 discs when the first time I bought this notebook, But I don't know which one to put in ? they both looks the same the different is there is a sign disc 1 0f 2 and the other one is 2 of 2, Thanks beforehand , really appreciated.

  27. is there someone can help me out here, when i do this steps, at format fs=ntfs, it said 100% completed but, they said incorrect parameter, and I'm using 8gb generic flash drive ? and I tried manually to format my flash drive from fat32 to NTFS, it says windows are unable to complete the process, please someone here, pleassseeeee……..

  28. Thanks for all of the wonderful comments, folks. I'm closing the comment thread on this post as most of the questions, I believe, have been answered. I'm glad this has been helpful to you all.

Comments are closed.