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Boot from USB Drive

I sometimes get asked if it’s possible to boot from a USB drive.

Yes, and here’s a few reasons why you may want to:

  • Boot into WinPE to install or capture an image
  • Repair Windows outside of the installation (WinPE/WinRE)
  • install an OS, like Windows 7 (or soon to be Windows 8)

For several of these tasks, it will be necessary to download WAIK http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?displaylang=en&id=5753

This will give you all the info you need to make your own WinPE disk.

The purpose of this post, is to show you how to make your own USB bootable disk.
You can then copy onto that WinPE, or perhaps the content from the Win7/8 DVD or ISO, but you must make it bootable first.

So, here’s what you need:

Open DISKPART.EXE from a command line.
Use List Disk to check which disk is the USB stick (you don’t want to make a mistake for the next part!)
Select Disk 1 (assuming that is the number from above)
Clean (will wipe existing partitions)
Create Partition Primary (well, makes a new one)
Select Partition 1
Active (marks it as bootable, which is what we are looking for here)
Format quick fs=fat32
Assign
Exit

Now, copy on Windows DVD content, or continue here to put a custom WinPE image on for the other scenarios mentioned.

Update: For ease of use, also try the USB/DVD tool that the Microsoft Store provides.
This essentially does the USB stick partitioning and formatting part for you, then, when pointed to an ISO, will convert that to your bootable stick. Now that Windows 8 / Server 8 previews are available, you may be tempted….!

Download it here: http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msstore/html/pbPage.Help_Win7_usbdvd_dwnTool

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