How to Install Windows 7 from a USB drive – easy way

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KitGuru reviews a ton of products every month and quite often this involves making sure that our operating systems are clean, fresh and performing at maximum efficiency. The only way to achieve this quite often is to reinstall the operating system, which if you are handling via a DVD can be a laborous and painful procedure. There are also times as a reviewer that I don’t even install a DVD drive into a test rig.

One of the best ways around this is to install Windows 7 from a USB drive, which can cut the install time down to around 15 minutes (from 30-40 via DVD) if you use a fast drive. I am constantly being asked to explain to friends and colleagues the best way to do this as many of the guides online are too complex, or require third party software which doesn’t always work. With this KitGuru guide all you need to ensure is that your motherboard supports USB booting … which is pretty much a common feature now.

Today I am going to publish a step by step guide which works perfectly and doesn’t require any additional tools – I have been doing it for some time now to create bootable Windows install drives.

Firstly, you need to get hold of a fast USB 2.0 flash drive – such as the Corsair Survivor GTR unit we reviewed a while ago. It doesn’t need to be 32GB however, all you need is a 4GB unit. The faster it is, the less time you will wait.

What you need:

  • A Windows 7 DVD install disc
  • A USB Drive (4GB+ and as fast as you can get)
  • A Keyboard
  • A Mouse
  • A PC
  • A running Windows Operating system
  • A working set of hands and eyes
  • 15 minutes of your life

Plug in your USB drive – we are using a 32GB Corsair Survivor for this, which is totally overkill but its the fastest unit we have in our offices right now.

Before continuing, make sure you have removed any important files on your drive to a safe location, what we are about to do will totally erase the contents. Don’t blame me if you accidentally erase all the naked photos of your girlfriend.

Insert your DVD of Windows 7 into the computer, no, don’t install it.

Open your ‘my computer’ and make a note of the drive numbers of both the USB drive and the DVD drive with Windows 7 files on it.

As you can see from the image above, our DVD is drive D and the Corsair USB drive is E.

Open the command prompt with admin rights. Type cmd in Start menu search box and hit Shift+Ctrl+Enter.

To keep things really easy, if you see text in THIS COLOUR, it means this is what you type into the command prompt (you don’t need to type in upper case).

Next type

DISKPART

this loads the diskpart application we need to proceed

Then type

LIST DISK

the image above shows our 32GB USB drive is listed as DISK 2

so type

SELECT DISK 2 (your USB Drive may have a different number, don’t blindly follow this text)

You will get a successful response “Disk 2 is now the selected disk”

Next we want to clean the USB drive

Key in

CLEAN

you will get a successful response ‘DiskPart succeeded in cleaning the disk”.

After the drive is cleaned follow the list in the image above (detailed below in list order) – you can also note the successful text responses from the OS as you enter each command.

SELECT DISK 2 (or whatever number your USB drive is)

CREATE PARTITION PRIMARY

SELECT PARTITION 1

ACTIVE

FORMAT FS=NTFS

Formatting can take a little time depending on the size of the drive, our 32GB unit took about 10 minutes to format - you will see a percentage readout until it is finished.


Next key

ASSIGN

EXIT (we need to leave DISK PART)

Type D: CD BOOT (substitute the “D” if necessary with the letter of your Windows 7 DVD drive)

then key

CD BOOT

then

BOOTSECT.EXE /NT60 E: (substitute the “E” if necessary with the letter of your now ready USB drive) – we are telling the system to create a bootsector file on the USB drive.

Now you can exit the command prompt and copy all the files on the Windows 7 DVD to the USB drive.

Once this completes you are ready to boot from this drive, all you need to do is configure your motherboard bios to boot first from USB rather than hard drive or optical drive. If you don’t know how to do this, refer to your specific motherboard manual (its generally a simple one click procedure).

Hey presto, Windows 7 installation should take between 33% and 60% of the time it does from the DVD disc. This is also a great way to test the speed of your USB drives if you have a few. We have recorded gains of up to 15 minutes between various makes and models. All are certainly not created equal!

KitGuru says: Do you like this method? discuss in our forums or leave a quick message below.

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How to Install Windows 7 from a USB drive - easy way, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating
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13 Comments
  • Francois Lebon
    June 25, 2010
    #1
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    No software? great, bookmarking it to read later when I get home.

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  • Brad
    June 25, 2010
    #2
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    thats awesome, thanks, will check this out when I go to reinstall again, due in a month or so :)

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  • Terry
    June 25, 2010
    #3
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    If this works ill be having your babies, I gave up trying to do this a long time ago with some crappy piece of free software I found. was a nightmare.

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  • Tim
    June 25, 2010
    #4
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    Merci Monsieur Zardone. I have this bookmarked and shall try it over the weekend. If it works ill be chuffed to bits.

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  • Tech Head
    June 25, 2010
    #5
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    Shit I wasn’t aware you could do this from the command prompt, thats mega man, thanks.

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  • Eric K
    June 25, 2010
    #6
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    command prompt really is a powerful tool if you know what you are doing, sadly I only know bits and pieces like most people.

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  • steve
    June 25, 2010
    #7
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    that is a really effective method. seems to work so far :)

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  • Barn
    June 25, 2010
    #8
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    to much typing already….
    just use this handy tool from Microsoft to do the job !

    http://images2.store.microsoft.com/prod/clustera/framework/w7udt/1.0/en-us/Windows7-USB-DVD-tool.exe

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  • steve
    June 25, 2010
    #9
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    @ Barn – thanks, but I already tried that months ago and it never worked right.

    @Zardon, cheers man, this worked a treat, took about 10 minutes and I just reinstalled Windows in about 20 minutes. Need to get a mega speed unit later :)

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  • Tech head
    June 25, 2010
    #10
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    The Microsoft tool is handy, but the problem is depending on the OS configuration it doesnt always set up administrator privs right then you end up with a boot drive which isn’t right. I tried it before and I could only get it working on a certain machine. This step by step guide should work in any OS (Tried it earlier and it does :) )

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  • When Bobby met Delilah
    June 26, 2010
    #11
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    at last, a fully self contained guide without resorting to crappy tools which dont work. thanks!

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  • Ashish Sharma
    November 6, 2010
    #12
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    You can use the following utility for the same:

    https://sourceforge.net/projects/setupfromusb/files/

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  • AR-Thaheem
    September 12, 2013
    #13
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    This is amazing information to make win7 with USB installation.
    I must say you have done a great job.
    sir. help me plz
    how to make a my own windows XP win7 with integrated software like adobe reader MS office etc . my own theme and my own desktop background my own visualization my own setting of all the new features.
    how can i do this. any software r any other to make a own windows. Thanks.
    your site is sooooooo cool n very informative.

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