In this guide, we’re going to show you how to create a bootable USB flash drive using either Windows XP or Windows Vista, and then install the files onto the USB and then install Windows 7 onto your Netbook from USB.
You will need one USB flash drive, with a capacity of at least 4GB, a copy of Windows 7, a program to extract the contents of your Windows 7 image file, such as 7-Zip, and a computer running either Windows XP or Vista. Windows XP users will need to download an additional program, MBRWizard.
Before getting started, you need to make sure you can boot your netbook from a USB by going into the BIOS settings. This can be done on most netbooks by hitting F2 as it is starting.
Once you are in the BIOS settings, go to the Boot tab, and ensure that ‘USB HDD’ is included in the Boot priority order list. If it is, you should be able to boot from your USB flash drive.
Format The USB Flash Drive
First, we need to format the USB to get it ready for use. Right click the USB drive in your Explorer window and click on ‘Format.’ The file system you will be using is NTFS.
Windows XP users, if you do not see that choice in the drop down menu, follow this guide, to enable formatting your USB flash drive, using NTFS.
Activate The USB Partition
At this point, Windows XP users will put the program, MBRWizard to use. After you have downloaded the zip file, extract its contents to the C drive, then open the Windows Command Prompt. (Click the Start button, hit ‘run‘, type ‘cmd‘ and press enter.)
Using MBRWizard and the command prompt, you are going to be able to activate the partition, by typing the following commands:
You should now see, as in the screenshot below, your USB listed as one of the disks, in my case, Disk 1.
You will then type the following command:
mbrwiz /disk=X /active=1 (Where X is the number of your Disk)
When prompted with “Are you sure you want to set the partition(s) Active?“, answer Yes.
Windows Vista users will not need to download MBRWizard, but rather can go straight into the command prompt and type the following:
You will then need to identify your USB flash drive, again in my case, it is Disk 1, and type the following
Select Disk X (Where X is the number of your Disk)
Select partition 1
You should then see the message: Diskpart marked the current partition as active.
Extract Windows 7
Navigate to your Windows 7 image file, and extract its contents to a folder named Windows7 in the C Drive. These files can be deleted once you are done.
Return to your command prompt window and type the following:
bootsect /nt60 X: (Where X is the letter of your USB drive – in my case G:)
You should then see the following:
The final step in getting your USB ready is putting Windows 7 on it, which is where unetbootin comes in.
Once you have the program installed, select Diskimage, and browse to your Windows 7 image file, and select the USB that you have prepared for the install, and click OK.
Unetbootin should take about 15 to 30 minutes to copy the files onto your USB.
Installing Windows 7
All that’s left to do is install your new OS. Plug the USB into your netbook, and start it up. When starting your netbook, you can select to boot from the USB by entering the Boot Menu. In my case, on the ACER Aspire One, I had to hit F12, but with some other netbooks, this can be done by hitting the ESC button.
Once you are in the Boot Menu, you can choose to boot from your USB flash drive, and will then enter the Windows 7 set up menu.
If you are upgrading from Vista, you should be able to preserve your program files and settings, but upgrading from XP is not possible. A clean install is necessary, but all of your files and folders will be preserved in a folder in the C drive, labeled Windows.Old.
Did you manage to install Windows 7 on your netbook? Let us know how it goes in the comments.