Installing Windows 7 directly from a USB thumb drive can be done in a couple of easy steps, thanks to Microsoft’s very own Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool. When and why should you do that?
- About 99% of all netbooks are sold without any form of DVD drive. What if your pre-installed Windows 7 installation is messed up? What if your netbook came with Windows XP and you want to upgrade? Now, you can setup Windows 7 from a USB key!
- Power users regularly install operating systems on more than one machine. Installing from a USB key is much faster than from an old-school DVD drive.
- In addition, a USB drive is more practical than a DVD, to carry around.
Unfortunately, copying over all of the files from the Windows 7 DVD to a USB thumb drive is not going to work. That’s where we can help!
The Windows 7 USB/DVD download tool is back!
Microsoft released the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool in October 2009, but soon after, Windows insider Rafael Riviera found out—while poking around the source code—that the company lifted code from open source project ImageMaster. Microsoft immediately pulled the tool and re-released it under GPLv2 on December 9, 2009.
What do you need?
There are several items required for using the tool, to create a bootable Windows 7 Setup from a USB thumb drive.
- You will need .NET Framework, which you can get here. This is for Windows XP and Vista users only; Windows 7 users already have the latest version of .NET Framework installed.
- You will need the Windows 7 ISO file that you bought and downloaded through official retail channels, like the Microsoft Store. The Windows 7 Setup DVD cannot be copied directly to a USB thumb drive. However, you can convert your Windows 7 Setup DVD into the ISO format. Refer to the section below titled “Make An ISO File Out of Your Windows 7 DVD”.
- You will need a machine that supports booting up from a USB thumb drive. This is a feature that all netbooks—and most notebooks and desktop PCs—have.
- Lastly, you will need a USB thumb drive with at least 4 GB of free space. Make sure that it is empty and that all of your files have been moved to a safe location.
Make an ISO file out of your Windows 7 DVD
Most users purchased Windows 7 from physical retail stores or online, or by getting it with a new PC. Since the tool is only able to create a bootable Windows 7 Setup on a USB drive from an ISO file, you will have to convert your DVD. To do this, take the following steps:
- Download and install MagicISO Maker from http://www.magiciso.com/download.htm. Insert the Windows 7 DVD into your drive. Open up the Start menu, and click on “Computer”. Right-click on your drive, and select “MagicISO” and “Make Image File from X:”—where X stands for the letter of your DVD drive.
- Click on the little folder icon next to “Output File”, and select the folder where you want to place the ISO file, such as “Desktop”. Then type a name, and click “Save”. Next, select “Standard ISO image file (.ISO)” under the “Output format” settings.
- Click “OK”, and wait for the Windows 7 DVD to be converted into the ISO format.
Now you have an exact copy of the Windows 7 DVD saved on your hard disk, and it’s time to transfer the copy to a USB thumb drive.
Install Windows 7 from a USB thumb drive
The Windows 7 USB DVD Tool will now come into play! Follow these steps to create a bootable Windows 7 install from a USB thumb drive:
- Download and install the Windows 7USB/DVD Download Tool.
- The application shortcut should appear on your desktop. Make sure that the USB thumb drive is plugged in, and then double-click on the shortcut to launch the program. Click on “Browse”, and select the ISO file you have either purchased online or created using the previous step-by-step guide. Click “Next”.
- In the next screen, click on “USB device”, and select the USB drive. For example:
- Click on “Begin copying” to start the process, which might take a couple of minutes. Once all of the setup files are on the USB thumbdrive, click on “X”.
Run the Windows 7 setup!
From now on, it’s pretty easy! Plug in the USB thumb drive, and get your PC, laptop or netbook to boot directly from the USB port. For that, you need to open up the boot menu. (You can find it on most PCs by pressing one of the following keys: ESC, F2, F8, F12, DEL, ALT or CTRL. If that doesn’t work, watch out for any hints during boot up, such as “Hit the XX key to enter the boot menu”.) For a complete guide on installing Windows 7, read this blog post, specifically the section titled “The clean installation process”.
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