How-To Geek

How To Setup a USB Flash Drive to Install Windows 10, 8, or 7

If you have a computer and would like to install Windows, you may be wondering how to do it without a clunky external DVD Drive. Today we show you how to install Windows from a USB flash drive.

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Installing Windows 7, 8, or 10 from a flash drive is essentially the same as installing it from a DVD. Most of the work is setting up your flash drive so it becomes a bootable device with the OS on it. Here we will take a look at a couple of utilities that will allow you to easily create a bootable USB drive and copy Windows to it.

Note: You’ll need a minimum of a 4GB flash drive to dedicate to the installation files.

First, Download Windows USB/DVD Download Tool (for any version of Windows)

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First, you’ll need to download and install the tool from Microsoft’s website, and then you’ll need to make sure that you have an ISO image of Windows 7, 8, or 10. This also works with Vista or XP, of course, but most people wouldn’t be installing those these days.

If you have issues using the tool, you might want to reformat your drive as NTFS beforehand, which you can do by right-cicking the drive icon in Windows Explorer.


Creating a USB Drive with the Windows Installer

It’s a pretty straight forward process, first browse to the location of your Windows ISO file and click Next.

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Select USB device…this also helps you burn the ISO to DVD as well if you need that option.

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Choose your flash drive and click Begin copying.

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Now just wait for the process to complete. The drive will be formatted and files copied to the flash drive.

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When the process is finished you will be able to see the files on the flash drive as you would if you opened the installation disc. Now you can start the installation on any computer that allows you to boot from a USB drive.

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Update: this utility distributes adware so we’re not linking to it anymore.

If you want to transfer a Windows 7 installation disc to USB…another super easy utility to use is WinToFlash. Just follow through the straight forward wizard, and you’ll be ready to install Windows 7 from your flash drive in no time.


The neat thing about this utility is it also offers different advanced features and tasks for other versions of Windows too.


It’s as easy as choosing the location of the Windows installation disc and the USB drive. Where in this example the DVD is drive (E:) and the flash drive is (F:). They recommend to turn off your Antivirus to increase the process speed, but we had MSE running on our machine and it didn’t seem to affect performance at all.


Next, you’ll need to agree to the Windows 7 EULA and hit continue.


Now just wait until the drive is formatted and the files are transferred over to the USB drive. The amount of time it takes will vary between systems. In our test it took around 10 minutes to complete over to an 8GB flash drive.


That’s it! Now the drive is ready so you can install Windows 7 on your netbook or any other computer that supports booting from a USB drive.



WinToFlash is still in Beta and doesn’t require installation to use. Microsoft’s tool apparently became Open Sourced recently, requires installation, and a few other requirements like .NET Framework. Both of these tools are free and each one works a bit differently, so you’ll need to decide which will work best in your situation.  If you don’t want to manually create a bootable flash drive and copy the install files over, then you might want to check out these extremely simple to use utilities.

Download WinToFlash (Because there is adware in this application we’ve removed the link)

Download Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool

Brian Burgess worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. He's been a tech blogger and journalist for the past seven years, and can be found on his about me page or Google+

  • Published 01/28/15

Comments (8)

  1. jerm

    There are a few extra steps you need to take if you are trying to put a 64-bit version of Windows 7 onto a USB drive if you are trying to do it while on a 32-bit system.

  2. Tom

    With the mentioned MS tool I have had some problems, so I still use “unetbootin”. Though it looks like a tool only for creating linux bootable media, it works perfect for all ISO-files …

  3. Sami

    I also found BootSage the other day, which much like the other apps automates the process of creating a bootable Windows 7 or WinPE flash drive. I know this app runs under WinXP and up, where it seems like the other apps only support Vista +.

    Anyway, you can never have enough tools in your toolbelt.

  4. mzakho

    thanks pls help more informatio abut this stap

    E:\ ???????????????????

    i chosed deferend wat i have in may computer and error is apper.


  5. fady

    Well, I find WinToFlash to be easier and much more customizable, Thanks for the great tips.

  6. eltranced

    i’ve found “Winsetup” to be superior tool to wintoflash when i’ve installed tinyXP and tiny7 on acer netbook and

    recently windows7 64x on another machine without any extra work that jerm mensioned
    i did have a problem of iso not being recognized so had to unzip it to have the program find necessary boot folders

  7. sam

    I just want to make bootable device to my pen tell me how i can make or wht software need to make bootable.

  8. Gladwin

    Does any one have an idea
    how to make bootable winxp and win7 into one usb pen drive so that instead of carrying two bootable cds to install on each computer it will be hectic

    please help me

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