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How To Install Any Windows In Your System Using A USB Flash Drive

Updated on August 11, 2012

We all know that optical drives and optical media are slowly becoming obsolete; of course, we all still use them, for back up, keeping our data sorted, for movies etc. Truth is however, that you cannot rely on them much; they tend to get dirty and scratched and after a while they are not playable anymore. Sure, you can always try methods to retrieve the data out of them even if dirty, but in discs like software and in particular operating system installations, keeping them in perfect condition is not always easy.

When it comes to Windows, there is a better way; why not use your everyday inexpensive reliable USB drive to format your system and install Windows on it?
Installing Windows through USB drive is convenient for everyone, but actually it is necessary for those cirucmstances when an optical drive is not present, for example netbooks and small laptops. Without optical drive, of course you cannot use a DVD to install Windows and that is when USB Windows installation needs to be performed.

An easy way to install Windows on your USB drive is through WinToFlash. This free application is used to transfer all necessary Windows installation files on a USB drive and formatting it in such way that it will be bootable; that means, the system will be able to start/boot from it as if it was a bootable DVD. All that needs to be done is a setting to be adjusted in BIOS so that the system can boot from USB port, if this setting is not already enabled.

WinToFlash initial wizard.
WinToFlash initial wizard.
The process will erase all data existing on the USB drive so be sure to back it up.
The process will erase all data existing on the USB drive so be sure to back it up.

The Process

Download the tool from the link shown in previous step. The software needs no installation on the system, just extract it and run the executable. You will be asked to indicate where the windows files are located; you can browse to your Windows DVD in your optical drive, or to a folder which will contain all those files and be somewhere in your system. You will also have to show the USB on which you want to perform the installation.

Accept the terms of use and you will come across a major warning window. Installation of the files on your USB will erase all files in there. You would not want to lose crucial data, so be sure to back this up first!

The transfer of the installation files will begin. The time which will be needed is relative to the size of the files to be transferred, their number, the speed of your USB pen drive and its condition (long used and abused USB flash drives tend to go slow). If you receive any kind of error, it might indicate that the USB drive is accessed by another application, so close other windows and restart the whole process. When the transfer is done, click on Next and exit the program.

WinToFlash includes additional settings for those who know exactly what they want to do; the file system of the USB can be adjusted to FAT16 or FAT32; and actually, it might be necessary to do it in some occasions. If Windows installation complains that there is not enough free space to perform the Windows installation, quit it and use WinToFlash again. This time use Advanced Mode and not the wizard and select to format the USB into FAT16 CHS.

It is to be noted, however, that not all computers support booting from USB. If your system is less than 5 years old, it possibly will. Try check around in BIOS to see options to enable USB Booting or External device booting. If you do not find any mention of USB boot, then your motherboard probably does not support USB installation of Windows, so you will be forced to use the standard method of DVD.

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