How To Create A Bootable USB Drive From Your Windows CD

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We have been using CDs and DVDs to install operating systems on our computers for quite some time now. With the ever increasing popularity of netbooks, things are about to change. In such cases, an external optical drive or a USB drive is required.

There are couple of situations where the use of USB drive brings a certain benefit:

  • When you are trying to install Windows on a netbook or your optical drive is broken
  • When you want to create a live USB from an ISO image (requires some extra effort)
  • Theoretically, the transfer speeds should be better and the installation process is a little faster
  • You can protect your original install media from wear and tear.

There are a number of ways to create a bootable USB drive, however most of them require copying files manually – making it prone to mistakes. WinToFlash makes the entire task a lot simpler by the magic of automation.

Download WinToFlash from here. It is a portable application, all you have to do is extract the zip file and you are ready to go. Start WinToFlash, pop in the Windows CD/DVD, plug in the USB flash drive and specify the paths. Click ‘Next’ and sit back and watch WinToFlash create a bootable USB drive from the installation media. This might take some time depending upon the size of the installation media.

create a bootable usb drive

WinToFlash can also be used transfer Preinstalled Environments (PE’s) to a flash drive. Go to the ‘Tasks’ tab and choose the appropriate option you want to use.

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create bootable usb drive

Creating a bootable flash drive from an ISO image is a little more involved. WinToFlash doesn’t let you specify an ISO image as the source for Windows file. To get around this limitation, you can do one of the following:

how to make a bootable usb drive

  • Extract the ISO file. Most modern archiving software can extract files from an ISO image. I used 7-zip.
  • Virtually mount the ISO image (try Virtual CD-ROM control panel) and specify the virtual drive as the Windows file path in WinToFlash.

convert bootable cd to bootable usb drive

The rest of the process remain unchanged and you will get a bootable USB drive after successful completion.

I want to install Linux using a bootable flash drive?

As the name suggests WinToFlash only works with Windows installation media. If you want to install Linux using a USB drive we suggest you have a look at UNetbootin. It works well with ISO files and can even download the required files if you don’t currently have them on your computer. You can also use built-in tools included in many distributions these days, if you already have Linux installed on another computer.

How do I check if my computer can boot from USB drive?

That is a question I get asked many a times. You can refer to your computer’s manual to check if you are able to boot from a USB drive. If that doesn’t work or you have a custom-built computer than you can always check the BIOS settings to see if there is an option to boot from External drive or USB drive. If there is one, make sure your computer is configured to look for a USB drive before it defaults to boot from the hard disk.

After you are through with the installation, I would suggest that you move the USB drive option back down the order and protect the BIOS settings with a password to minimize the risk of your computer being compromised.

If you have some other nifty ideas on installing/upgrading operating systems without burning a DVD, we would love to hear about them in the comments!

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Comments (17)
  • wappy

    virus, don’t use it.

  • buse

    Wintoflash is nothing more than a virus, don’t use it.

  • Andreea

    Hi! I tried to make my USB flash bootable in order to install WinXP. WinToFlash made my flash bootable but it does not install XP. When I boot from the USB the cursor just blinks and stays there for ever. The installation process does not begin. Any ideas? Please….

  • jax

    (long time user of these forum sites, first time commentor.)
    normally when i have an issue i perform a search to scour online forums for people who have had a similar issue and to read possible solutions. this method has worked about 99% of the time. however, after spending all day (literally, all day) yesterday trying to get not only xp onto my usb drive but make it bootable in the process, this site really became the salvation to my sanity (and what’s left of my hair).
    that said, i think it is important that others realize that if the copy of xp they have is only sp1, they will need to integrate sp2 into it in order for the usb drive to work properly. the following site helped me to do just that:
    http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-22_11-5304468.html
    and this website provided me with the tools to make my usb drive bootable. so thanx Varun!
    what strikes me as “odd”, is that while every one of these tutorial sites i came across usually begin with some iteration of the fact floppy drives are dead, and some computers either have a non-working optical drive or no optical drive at all, and so booting off a usb drive will become a necessity. that there is so many “possible” solutions to do this. and that the majority of them are crap. i mean, sure, from one of the tutorial sites i was able to make my usb drive bootable, but it was impossible to install xp since it was in a FAT16 environment.
    maybe there should be an option inside windows itself to format a usb drive and make it bootable (much like in win98 there was an option to format a floppy disk and make it bootable…), i don’t know, something easier than spending a whole day trying different solutions, and honestly contemplating purchasing an external optical drive to get the installation done. ugh!
    and thanx again Varun!!!

  • cheap computers

    I think theoretically, the transfer speeds should be better and the installation process is a little faster.

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For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.