How to create a bootable Windows 7 USB flash drive
The USB flash drive has replaced the floppy disk drive as the best
storage medium for transferring files, but it also has its uses as a
replacement for CDs and DVDs. USB drives tend to be higher in capacity
than disc media, but since they are more expensive, they cannot (yet)
really be used as a replacement. There are reasons why you would,
however, choose a USB device over a DVD disc, and bootable software is
definitely one of them. Not only is it faster to copy data such as setup
files from a USB drive, but during usage the access times are also
significantly faster. Therefore, installing something like Windows 7
will work that much faster from a USB drive than from a DVD (and of
course, is particularly useful for the PCs without an optical drive;
this isn’t something we should just leave for the pirates to enjoy).
This guide will show you two different ways to create a USB flash
drive that works just like a Windows 7 DVD. In order to follow this
guide, you’ll need a USB flash drive with at least 4GB of free space and
a copy of the Windows 7 installation disc.
You are normally given this tool when you purchase from the online Microsoft Store.
The easiest way to turn a USB flash drive into a bootable Windows 7
installer is by using the tool Microsoft offers, cunningly named the
Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool. To get started, download the installer
[exe] from Microsoft.com and follow the basic steps to put it onto your
computer; you can put it on the computer you plan to install Windows 7
on or another one, it doesn’t matter.
Once it is installed, it should create an icon on your desktop, so
double-click that to open. If you can’t find it, use the search function
in the Start Menu with a keyword like “USB.” Launching it should give
you the above screen, and step one is to find the Windows 7 .ISO file.
The tool only accepts .ISO images, so we recommend that you convert
yours if it’s in a different DVD image format.
Step two is straightforward: simply choose USB device.
In step three, all you have to do is make sure that you are choosing the
correct USB device. If you have other data on the device, move it to
your hard drive, another USB device, or somewhere else before
The tool will prompt you if it detects data on the device. Once your data is backed up elsewhere, click Erase USB Device.
You will get another prompt warning you that all the data will be wiped. Click Yes to continue.
The format will be very quick, while the copying of the files will take a little bit more time (about 10 to 15 minutes).
Once the process is complete, you should get the above confirmation
message. At this point you can close the tool and use the USB drive to
install Windows 7. Remember that you’ll have to choose to boot off the
USB drive. Before doing so, you may want to open up the USB drive and
double click on setup.exe to see if everything looks okay. If you want
to be able to do this manually, see the next section, and if you want to
be able to install any edition of Windows 7, skip to the section after