Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Creating a Windows 7 Bootable USB Flash Drive

I decided to install Windows 7 (Release Candidate) on my Dell Mini 9 to see how the hardware and OS play together. One problem. No CD drive on the Mini. This isn't as big of a deal as you may think.

What you need:
1 x 4 GB (or larger) flash drive (aka thumb drive, pen drive, usb key, usb stick, etc.)
1 x Windows 7 Release Candidate iso file
1 x Bootsect.exe (You don't need to download this if you're on Vista. It's built in.)
1 x WinRAR installed
1 x Windows XP or Vista machine to work on.



Steps:
Once you've downloaded bootsect.exe (put it in c:\windows\system32 for ease of use) and the Windows 7 iso file, and installed WinRar you're ready to go.

1. Right-click your USB flash drive in Explorer (make note of its drive letter, you'll need it later) then click Format.
2. In the Format Disk dialog box, choose FAT32, Quick Format and click Start.
3. When that's complete, open a command prompt (Start > Run > cmd.exe) then type the following substituting the drive letter that your USB flash drive is currently using for "f:", then press [Enter]:

convert f: /fs:ntfs

4. From the same command prompt type the following substituting the drive letter that your USB flash drive is currently using for "f:", then press [Enter]:

bootsect.exe /nt60 f:

5. In Windows Explorer find and double-click the Windows 7 Release Candidate iso file you downloaded. This should open it in WinRAR. If not, launch WinRAR from the Start menu and use the File > Open dialog to open the iso file.
6. Once the iso file is open in WinRAR, click the "Extract To" button and select your USB flash drive, and click OK. This could take a while as WinRAR writes the 2+ GB of data to your flash drive.

Congratulations. You just made a Windows 7 Bootable USB Drive. Now boot your netbook, selecting your USB flash drive as the boot device, and install Windows 7.

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