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).
this loads the diskpart application we need to proceed
the image above shows our 32GB USB drive is listed as DISK 2
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
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
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.
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)
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.