How To Make A USB Installation Disk For Windows 7 Without Extra Software

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usb installation disk windows 7I recently bought a nice new setup for my media centre, but I didn’t want to splash out on another DVD drive when physical media is basically dead – and swapping out a DVD drive from another machine just to install Windows seems like such a waste of time when I could be eating Christmas pudding. While Windows 8 is slated to allow media-less upgrade, today I’ll outline a relatively easy way to make a bootable Windows installation USB drive, without having to download additional software. If your Christmas PC budget didn’t quite stretch to a DVD drive, this is the tutorial for you.

We described a similar method before, but it required a few external utilities. This time I’ll assume you have a working Windows 7 computer with an existing DVD drive somewhere – and a working installation DVD to go with it. You’ll use this machine to format, set up, and copy over the relevant files to a USB stick. You could also do this without a DVD drive from the ISO, but in that case your job would be a whole lot simpler because you could use the official ISO -> USB creator.

Note: You cannot use this method to install to a Parallels virtual machine. Your only option in that case is to use either a physical DVD or an ISO download and connect to that to the VM instead.

You’ll need:

  • A working Windows 7 system with a DVD drive and administrator rights.
  • A Windows 7 installation DVD.
  • 4GB USB drive or larger.

This will also work with larger external hard drives instead of a USB thumbdisk, but be aware that all the data on the drive will be formatted and deleted.

Open An Elevated Command Prompt

Click Start -> All Programs -> Accessories and right-click on Command Prompt. Select Run As Administrator. Of course, you need to be able to authenticate as the administrator on the PC you’re using.

usb installation disk windows 7

Partitioning The Disk

Type:

DISKPART

usb installation disk

This will open up the partitioning application. Next, type:

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LIST DISK

Figure out which of the drives listed is your USB drive, and note the number. It’s crucial you get this right, or you’re going to end up losing data on other drives.

usb installation disk

Next, type the following series of commands, but replace the DISK number in the first line with the appropriate number from the above list. Here, my disk is number 1. Don’t confuse this with PARTITION 1. That number should not change, even if your disk is 3.

SELECT DISK 1  CLEAN  CREATE PARTITION PRIMARY  SELECT PARTITION 1  ACTIVE  FORMAT FS=NTFS  ASSIGN  EXIT

usb installation disk

Make It Bootable!

The format step may take a little while (it actually took about 30 minutes on my machine). When you’re done, put in your installation DVD if you haven’t already. Note down which drive letter your USB disk and Windows installation DVD are located at.

usb installation disc

Go back to your command prompt and type – assuming D: is your DVD drive with the install DVD, and U: is your USB drive:

D:/BOOT/BOOTSECT.EXE /NT60 U:

This will basically make your USB drive bootable.

usb installation disc

Copy Everything

The final step can be done from My Computer. Just open up the installation DVD, highlight everything, and drag it over to your USB drive.

usb installation disc

This will also take a while.

usb installation disk windows 7

Now you should be all set – just insert the USB disk into your new PC, and enter the BIOS to adjust the boot order, or choose the option during start up which says Choose Boot Device.

Let’s hear it for computers with no noisy and clunky DVD drives! Death to physical media! Or not – what do you think? Are you ready to go DVD-less?

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Comments (46)
  • Luke Artola

    I did what you sayed and I succesfully transfered it over but I am having an issue with the startup when ever it restarts to load the system it starts from the begining

  • ingo

    I REPLACED A HARD DISK ON MY LAPTOP, AND DOWNLOADED A W7 ISO FILE on dvd.
    i tried everything above but the last part tackled your help.
    D:/BOOT/BOOTSECT.EXE /NT60 E: my laptop didn’t respond on this??
    gave a list of words. SO i installed windows 7 from a dvd instead of a “bootable “usb….e voila….
    computer was also saying missing bootmanager on usb..

  • noob

    my usb flashdrive is disk 1, is that the disk youre supposed to clean?

  • Alex

    Great article

    My DVD drive is D and my USB is F. What am i doing wrong!!!??
    Ive tried many times and still get the same error..

    C:WINDOWSsystem32>D:/BOOT/BOOTSECT.EXE /N6
    The system cannot find the path specified.

    • Alex

      ok, I was referred here from another site to try to get it to boot from the USB drive. Im not even looking to reinstall Windows, just dont understand why i cant get around this error. Im assuming id have it fixed by now if the damn thing had an internal cdrom drive..thanks

    • James Bruce

      Ah, I don’t think this tutorial will help.

      An external USB drive *should* be recognized in the BIOS, but it might be labelled as USB floppy or similar – definitely keep trying to boot from it once you know the drive is actually working (test it on your other machine first).

      If that doesnt work, the only way I can think of to revive that laptop would be illegal -ie, download an install disk from *somewhere*, then put that onto a USB drive, then perhaps enter your original licence key.

      Or just install linux, given how old the laptop is and how vulnerable you would be running XP…

    • Alex

      I believe thats what the issue might be, the disc is a Reinstallation CD that came with the laptop. Says Recovery Media for Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition Svc Pack 3.
      Does that mean i can use it?

      IThe only thing im trying to do here is fix my Dell Dell 1012 Mini Inspiron that has no media drive.
      Here is my issue; so i thought i would fix it with the usb fix?
      I got this error (windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: WINDOWSSYSTEMvgaoem.fon)
      I have the original boot cdrom but don’t have an internal cdrom drive on this laptop. So i have been trying to get it to run from an external cd rom drive but it wasn’t installed before this happened. What can i do?? Ive changed the boot sequence several times and this did nothing..Not recognizing the cdrom. How can i fix this laptop!!?

    • James Bruce

      Silly question – but do you actually have the install disk in the dvd drive? Have you tried navigating to it and checking the boot directory is even there? If it isn’t, you might not have an install disk there, and it might be some kind of restore dvd that your PC manufacturer supplied…

    • Alex

      Sorry forgot the NT in the last one, but doesnt make a difference..

      C:WINDOWSsystem32>D:/BOOT/BOOTSECT.EXE /NT60 F:
      The system cannot find the path specified.

  • Goran B.

    Excellent. I’ve tried different methods, but this one actually worked. Thanks.

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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.