Using Win to Flash to make a bootable USB Drive

Using Win to Flash to put a Windows Installation CD data on a pen/flash usb drive.

Lately I have had a lot of questions about putting a Windows Operating System on a USB Pen or Flash drive.

Why put a Windows Operating System on a USB Pen or Flash Drive?

Because more and more computer manufactures are not including the installation media (cd or DVD) with the computer but on a separate "recovery" partition on the hard drive.

Some computers don't even have an optical drive or room for one (such as a netbook or tablet). The answer is a pen drive with the installation media that works!

This in itself presents a problem when your hard drive fails.

One way around this problem is to back up the recovery partition, with an imaging program such as Ghost or True Image then make a DVD or CD with the manufactures applications.

In most cases the partition is hidden, most programs can not access this recovery partition making it a catch 22.

You will need to download the program before Using Win to Flash, this is the publishers web site, be aware that there are some fake files out on the web with viruses that have the same file name - scan what you download!

The program I have found that does the deed is WintoFlash.exe or Win to Flash however there is something you need to know before you use this program.

What you need to know and do before you start your project using Win to Flash to make the boot usb drive:

  • If you have a pen/flash drive that has the U3 System on the drive you have to remove it before using Win to Flash. You can download the U3 System Removal program for Sandisk drives and remove the U3 System with this utility.

  • Using the Win to Flash will only create a bootable usb drive if the cd/dvd is a installation cd/dvd. To make say an ERD Commander or BartPE bootable drive you need to use a utility that writes the boot sector to the usb device such as HP's Drive Key or Leveno's first. (By putting the boot record or sector of a floppy on the pen drive first then the program can over write the floppy boot record with the Windows NT boot record).

I made an ERD boot disk by using a Ghost image of the ERD CD, it did not boot. Then I made another one with the Win to Flash program using a BartPE cd, it did not boot either.

After fussing with it for a couple of minutes I used the HP Drive Key program to write the boot sector then both of the pen drives will boot my computer.

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I am still looking at why the program will write the boot record from an OS installation cd and not the Win PE boot record.

One thing I will point out is to be very careful with this program if you decide on using Win to Flash. It will wipe your hard drive if you fail to insure that the USB drive you want to install the OS on is selected.

This is what happened to me - I set up the program to copy the source files from the 'F:' drive which had the XP cd and to install the boot and source files on the 'L:' drive which was the usb drive.

However I decided to look at the options before I proceeded and after checking them went back to the start page. I did not check the drive letters and the default drive (the drive the program is installed on) was in the installation drive. I pressed the start button and walla... The program wiped my data drive! (Another reason to back up your data on a scheduled basis!)

Using WintoFlash - If you choose the wrong drive you will format it when you click the next button!

So what I am warning you is to double check the drive that you are about to install the OS on, it does format the drive.

Using Win to Flash instructions:

After you download the program extract the files to a directory you want to work from. There isn't an install in the normal sense. Once you have extracted the files then run the wintoflash.exe. Answer yes to the license agreement and you are ready to load up your OS on the pen/flash drive.

Here is the sequence of pages that you would go through with Win to Flash to make the Bootable USB drive with an OS on it:

Click the check box to start the wizard.

Using WintoFlash - The wizard that gets you started.

Select the type of installation they are:

  • Transfer Windows XP/2003 setup to USB Drive
  • Transfer WinPE XP/2003 to USB Drive
  • Erase disk
  • Transfer Windows Vista/2008/7 setup to USB Drive
  • Transfer WinPE Vista/2008/7 to USB Drive
  • Create Windows XP/2003 Emergency bootloader USB Drive
  • Create bootable MS-DOS USB Drive

Select your deisred installation

If you want to turn the wizard off check the box other wise click next.

You can turn off the wizard here or leave it on.

Select your source drive and the target USB drive, read my warning above about the target drive!

Selecting the source and target drive, read the warning!

I tried to use this format warning for security but it has a bug, all the answers I gave it did not work, I left it off.

The security feature for formatting the drive.

Now your drive is formatted and the source files are copied to the drive.

Formatting and writing the source files to the target drive.

All done, as with any boot device test it before you rely on it!

All done. If you make the USB Drive be sure to test it!

A couple of thoughts about putting the OS install cd on a USB drive:

It is slower than a CD/DVD because the newer cd/dvd drives are running at about half the speed of a mechanical hard drive.

Using a usb drive for your emergency repair device means you can add programs to the drive as you learn about repairing computers, be careful on how you add them.

Always boot the USB drive and add your programs from that OS. Do not add programs or files to the USB drive from a normal OS - Doing so Will Corrupt the drive!

A usb drive will out last a cd/dvd that is used on regular basis because no matter how careful you are with a cd/dvd it will get scratched or damaged, where as a USB Drive will not.

Have fun using Win to Flash, and don't forget to test the drive when you finish making it.

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