Making a bootable USB stick to upgrade to Windows 7


So you have Windows 7 and you are all fired up about installing it on your netbook. The problem is that your netbook doesn’t have a CD or DVD player built in which means that DVD media that Windows 7 comes on is pretty much a coaster. You can solve the problem by popping $80-90 bucks on an external drive, but what if you could make that 4GB USB flash drive do the magic for you? Well you can, and it is pretty straight forward to do. All you need is a 4GB or bigger USB flash drive, a little bit of patience and your Windows 7 media.

The instructions I’m going to lay out for you are straight forward but you should be aware of a few things. First, I’m assuming you have access to another PC running at least Windows Vista that has a DVD drive. If you don’t, umm, you can stop reading now. 🙂

Second, I’m assuming you have a 4GB or greater USB flash drive laying around – and who doesn’t have a half-dozen of them? Third, I’m assuming you know how to get into the BIOS of your netbook or other PC you are upgrading that doesn’t have the optical drive. You’ll need to know how to do this in order to make sure your netbook boots from the USB flash drive and not the hard disk. Finally, I’m assuming you don’t mind digging about on the command prompt. I’ll walk you through step-by-step so you should be good, but be patient! Take your time, especially if this is a new concept to you.

Step 1: Plug the USB flash drive into your PC running Windows Vista and put the Windows 7 DVD into the optical drive. When the Windows 7 upgrade screen pops up just close it.

Step 2: Open a command prompt. This can be done in Vista by clicking Start and typing cmd in the Search box and pressing Enter. You will need to have Administrator access to do this. If you need to log in with your Administrator creditials, then go to Start>All Programs>Accessories and right-click Command Prompt and select “Run as Administrator”. Once you are logged in you will see a Command Prompt box open.

Step 3: In the Command Prompt window type diskpart to enter the Disk Partition application. Next, type list disk to show all of the drives on your computer including the USB key. Keep in mind that the drives are numbered, not lettered, in the Command Prompt. Drive 0 is almost always your C: drive, the main drive of your computer. Disk 1 is almost always your USB flash drive. Look at the list and see which one is the correct one for the USB flash drive. This is usually the smallest one in memory size but be careful and be sure! If you enter the command wrong in Step 4 then you could accidentally delete information off the wrong drive!

Step 4: Assuming that your USB flash drive is Drive 1, type select disk 1 in the Command Prompt window

Step 5: Now you will enter the following commands in this order one at a time:
create partition primary
select partition 1
format fs=NTFS

Don’t close the Command Prompt window! We are still going to need it.

Depending on the size of the USB flash drive, the format command could take several minutes to complete. Just be patient and let it do its thing. The cool thing is that one you are done with the above commands, your USB flash drive is now formatted and ready to be a bootable drive! Now we just have to put the Windows 7 media on it.

Step 6: While still in Command Prompt, change to the directory where the bootsect (Boot Sector) is located. To do this enter the following commands:
cd d:\boot

In this example I’m assuming that your DVD drive is D:. If it is not, change it to the appropriate drive letter.

Step 7: In Command prompt type bootsect /nt60 g:. This will copy the Boot Sector information from the Windows 7 DVD to the USB flash drive. In this case I assumed that your USB flash drive is G:. If yours is different just be sure to put the appropriate drive letter in the command.

Step 8: Close Command Prompt and open Windows Explorer and go to your DVD drive where the Windows 7 DVD is located. Copy all of the files and folders from the Windows 7 DVD to the USB Flash drive by selecting all of them and dragging them to the USB flash drive in Windows Explorer. This can take several minutes.

Step 9: Take your freshly minted USB flash drive from you Vista PC and put it in your netbook or other PC that you are wanting to upgrade. Boot it and enter the BIOS or boot option. Usually this is F2, F10 or F12. Every PC is different so you will need to consult your instruction manual to find out exactly how to change the boot order on your PC.

That’s it! Now you can install Windows 7 on your netbook or other PC without a DVD drive.

Disclaimer: Neither I nor Gear Diary take any responsibility for any data loss following this process. This information is for educational purpose only and we are not liable for any issues it may cause.

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About the Author

Clinton Fitch
Clinton is the owner of and has been writing about mobile tech since 1998. You can follow Clinton on Twitter @clintonfitch. When not writing about tech, Clinton is an avid baseball and F1 fan and is a ski bum in the winter.

2 Comments on "Making a bootable USB stick to upgrade to Windows 7"

  1. [Windows 7, Netbooks] How To: Make A Bootable USB Stick 2 Upgrade To Windows 7 (Netbooks). Access To Other PC Required

  2. | October 31, 2009 at 11:45 am |

    ClintonFitch News Making a bootable USB Flash Drive to upgrade to Windows 7: Making a bootable..

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