UPDATED: Hidden Gem: Installing Windows 7 / Server 2008 R2 From a Bootable USB Flash Drive Print E-mail
Written by Darwin Sanoy   
Monday, May 3, 2010 2:00am

After having difficulty with a DVD drive on one of my laptops, I did some snooping around to find out if I could install Windows from a thumb drive. The first utility I found did not work but then the perfect solution came from the most unusual place and it works with Server 2008 R2 as well!

Updates as of 5/3/2010: 1) This utility works with Windows Server 2008 R2.  Apparently it does not block the process if the ISO you are using is not Windows 7.  It may work with other ISOs as well, I've only tested it with Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.  2)  Upon a second run on the same USB flash drive, the final step of making the drive bootable fails - this is because it was made bootable by the first run - I ignored the error and the drive booted fine.

When I tried out WintoFlash, my computer would not boot from the finished USB flash drive.  To be fair, I haven’t tried it out since and they have posted at least one update since I tried it.  WintoFlash also claims to be able to make a bootable Win PE disk.  WintoFlash also works with other operating system versions - but this next solution may be limited to Windows 7.

However, in Microsoft’s Store site they have a small free utility for assisting you with making bootable media from any Windows 7 ISO file you purchase from the store.  It worked like a charm on the first go.  One of the advantages to the Microsoft tool is that it will work directly against the ISO file – you don’t have to mount it first or burn a disc first.  A notable downside is needing to install the utility – it would be much nicer if it was just a stand alone EXE.

Installing Windows from a bootable USB Flash drive is much faster than the old DVD routine.

The utility is called the “Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool”  The term “Download” in the name is referring to “downloading” the ISO to media – not to downloading the actual files from the internet.

You can find the utility on the Microsoft Store site at http://store.microsoft.com/Help/ISO-Tool.

Here are screen shots of the entire wizard:



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