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Windows 7: Boot Win7 on USB Flash drive only?

21 Dec 2010   #1

Win 7 x64
Boot Win7 on USB Flash drive only?

I have Win7 Ult-64 installed on my desktop. I made a USB flash drive with the installation files, so I know I can boot using a flash drive. I would like to be able to boot into Win7 using only a flash drive (no hard drives connected). Is this possible? Is there a good tutorial for this?

My System SpecsSystem Spec
21 Dec 2010   #2
Microsoft MVP


The easiest method I've found to create a bootable flash stick installer is to install UltraISO trial version, on File tab open Win7 ISO, on Bootable Tab, Write DIsk Image, choose Format, then Write to stick.

Boot stick under USB or HD's in BIOS setup Boot Order or one-time BIOS Boot menu.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
21 Dec 2010   #3

Win7 Enterprise, Win7 x86 (Ult 7600), Win7 x64 Ult 7600, TechNet RTM on AMD x64 (2.8Ghz)

Are you asking if win7 can be booted as the operating system on a flash drive ?

Not just as the install media ?
My System SpecsSystem Spec

21 Dec 2010   #4

Win 7 x64

I'm not sure I understand. I used MS Download tool to make a stick that is bootable with the Win7 install files. I think that is what you describe using UltraISO, but that is not what I want to do. I want to have a USB stick that I can insert in any computer (that's able to boot from USB sticks) and boot into Win7. That is, I want to install W7 onto a USB stick.

I tried using a DVD disk with install files, thinking I could just install onto the USB stick, but when Win7 got to the point where it asks you where you want to install, the USB stick does not show up. I then clicked on browse for installation drivers, and I could browse to the USB stick, it just did not show up as a drive to install win7 onto. Hope that makes sense - I think there must be something different I need to do in order for Win7 install files to see the USB stick as a drive to install to.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
21 Dec 2010   #5

Windows 10 Education 64 bit

Can't be done, not easily anyway and not without a lot of work. By default it won't let you install to a removable thumb drive. I think its been done on XP but its not an easy process by any means. Even if you could do it, it would be painfully slow, even on a fast thumb drive, and it would likely kill the thumb drive due to all the reads and writes. On top of that it would really only work on the one PC. As soon as you tried it on different hardware it would de-activate and start looking for drivers for the new hardware. Need I say more.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
22 Dec 2010   #6
James Colbert


That's not possible or practical for Windows AFAIK (unless it's Windows PE or RE), but the question that begs to be asked is 'why do you want to?'.

You could, however, install a live Linux ISO to a USB key and it will boot up to a desktop, where you can perform various functions, not the least of which is accessing the HDs of the machine you're using. You can also do much of what can be done in windows.

In fact, depending on the size of the key, you can easily install a legion of linux builds, diagnostic and rescue programs, AV, etc, all accessible and can be boot into via a menu:

Boot Multiple ISO from USB (MultiBoot USB) | USB Pen Drive Linux

Apologies if I've taken this in the wrong direction, but the link is an interesting read regardless.


Edit: I guess I should add (for the uninitiated) that this type of 'rescue' key can be used for repairing windows. In example, if someone is experiencing a problem accessing their drives from within windows, you could boot to a Linux build and move files off of any partition. Or, you could check for a virus upon booting from the key, meaning that the virus could be removed without posing any threat to your USB key. You can format, partition, rescue, remove viruses, etc. The possibilities are numerous.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
28 Jan 2011   #7

Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit Service Pack 1 and Ubuntu Linux 10.10

You could make a bootable linux drive and install VirtualBox on it.
By this I mean doing a full installation of Linux onto a flash drive, then installing VirtualBox onto the OS on the flash drive.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Boot Win7 on USB Flash drive only?

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