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Install Windows 7 from a USB Memory Stick

by Steve Wiseman on September 1, 2009 · 11 comments

in Boot,Flash Drive,Windows,Windows 7


About a year ago I purchased a nice little machine from ASUS.
It is an Atom N270:

When I opened the box, the machine was preloaded with Windows XP. It performs well with XP, and has 1 GB ram, and a 160 GB hard drive. A big mistake I made was installing Vista on it – Very slow.

It only took about a week of pain before I switched back.

So, after hearing all of the big excitement over Windows 7, I wanted to see if it was any better, or faster on this less than powerful machine.

A problem with that is that I do not have a USB DVD/CDROM drive right now, and as you can see from the picture – there are no drives built into that machine.

This means I need to install from a bootable USB memory stick.

I was able to do it, and while I was at it I wrote down what I did so you can too.

What you need:

Copy of Windows 7, and A running version of Vista, Windows 7, or 2008, and a Memory Stick that is at least 4GB in size.

Preparing the USB Memory stick

First, the memory stick needs to be prepared. Make sure you don’t have anything important on it since it will be totally erased.

Put your USB disk in the computer, and wait for it to be recognized. Then get to a command line (Make sure you run that as an administrator)



This will launch the disk partition program. You need to be real careful here since you can blow away partitions and drives of any drive on your system. Start out by listing the current drives on your system


You should be able to identify your drive from this list:

So looking at the list, I know that DISK 1 is my flash drive. Make sure you properly identify your drive, or risk destroying important data.

Next, lets run the commands that will prepare your drive.

Note that disk1 is what we determined before. If by chance you have a nice fat USB hard drive sitting on your desk and it happens to be disk 1, and not your flash drive – you will erase everything!

Be careful!

Type this into DISKPART:

select disk1
create partition primary
select partition 1
format fs=fat32

Now your flash drive is bootable.

Copying the Install Disk

Now the disk is bootable. Get your Windows 7 Install disk and copy the entire disk to your flash drive. With my computer, F: was the flash drive, and G: was the DVD ROM drive with the install disk. Copy the files from the command line like this:

xcopy g:\ f:\ /s/e/f 

Installing From Flash

Now, reboot and go into your BIOS and make sure it is set to boot from flash devices. I wish I could create a nice tutorial for this but there are so many different BIOS menus it would be difficult. Here is what mine looks like:

So make sure it is the first boot option, and you should be ready to install Windows 7 right from a flash drive. Save your changes, reboot…and install goodness will commence.

So you may be asking. How fast is it? Is it slow as Vista or Better than XP? I will let you know next time 🙂

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Graham Thompson September 2, 2009 at 9:54 am

Thanks Steve, it’s always good to get more info out there!

I am impressed with the speed increase between Vista SP2 and Win7 RTM on the N270 chips. Not sure I would deploy just yet though!

One thing to mention is that if installing the OS via an external drive you may encounter issues later on with updates etc looking for the i386 folder on that drive letter.

To circumvent the above issue you need to edit the default OS i386 drive path via the registry. The key is: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Setup. Edit the String named ‘SourcePath’. I would usually copy the i386 folder to the local drive (space permitting) and point the String to it.

Hope this helps.

2 Steve Wiseman September 2, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Thanks for the tip. Very good idea. If I remember, ASUS did the same when I had the machine fresh (Except with XP).

3 Joshua Hamlett September 3, 2009 at 7:35 am

Left out something necessary on some USB Flashdrives like the Sandisk U3 Cruzer:

First of all, you need a Windows NT 6.x setup disk like the one you are copying the files off of or if you are installing an x64 OS but are prepairing the disk on a x32 machine, a 32-bit Win NT 6.x setup disk (you can also get this from the WAIK I think), and in the boot folder you will find a program called “bootsect.exe.”

You will need to in the command prompt run these commands where o is your optical drive and f is your flash drive:
cd o:\boot
bootsect /nt60 f:

Note: These commands should be run immediately after the ones described in the email. The bootsect.exe might be in the boot folder of your computer already, in which case you can simply ommit the drive letter of the optical disk in the command above.

4 David Goodman October 23, 2009 at 6:30 pm

I found the format bit to be *very* slow doing it the command window.So, after leaving it for 20 minutes (only did 17%) on my external 60GB USB hard drive, I unplugged it and went to Windows and did a Quick format, which finished in about 20 seconds.

Can I also as what the e: bit is in the xcopy?

I did

xcopy g:\ f:\ /s/e/f

which worked.

Thanks for the info on this page. I’ve just installed Windows 7 on my Samsung NC10 using the info on here.

5 Steve Wiseman October 24, 2009 at 1:01 am

Not sure how the E: got in there…removed it.

Yes that format is slow, since it is the long format, and not the quick format…glad you got it working 🙂

6 Handpix January 6, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Another tip. You can use the command line to format and perform a quick format. Use:

format /q /fs:fat32

This has the same “20 second” format, and can be run from the command line. This is necessary if you are running 2008, or an OS that does not allow you to format FAT32 from the GUI, and you still wish to quick format.

Thanks for the great article!

7 Gary October 2, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Thank you so much for this post ! I’ve been trying for days to figure out how to boot up a windows 7 install from memory card. Other posts I found just left me with a laptop that wouldn’t even boot up at all. Now thanks to you I have a laptop running windows 7 flawlessly. Thanks again !

8 Catherine June 28, 2011 at 11:46 am

The simpler way to install Windows 7 from USB is FlashBoot utility.
It automates everything.

9 alfie August 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm

i need winndows 7

10 Steve Wiseman August 9, 2012 at 3:39 pm


That is what we all will be saying when Windows 8 comes out 😉

11 Ed October 30, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Produced the installation on a memory stick, no problem. Initial install worked fine and when all the boxes had been ticked the PC restarted, and the installation recommenced! The solution for me was to do the initial installation then remove the memory stick when the PC rebooted. I feel there is something wrong here.

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