How to Create Bootable USB Drive of Windows Setup without Using Any Software?

As you know, a bootable USB drive comes handy in many situations such as re-installing Windows operating system or recovering from critical errors (like refreshing your PC, etc). There are several free tools available such as A Bootable USB, Rufus and Microsoft's official Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool to create bootable USB drive to install Windows as mentioned in following article:

Ultimate Collection of Best Freeware to Create Bootable USB Drive to Install Windows

But did you know you can create bootable USB drives of Windows setup without using any extra software? Yes, you heard it right. By following a few simple steps, you can make your own bootable USB drive to install Windows OS without any 3rd party software.

This manual method requires only 3 steps:

  • STEP 1: Format USB drive (optional)
  • STEP 2: Mount or extract Windows setup ISO file
  • STEP 3: Copy Windows setup files to USB drive

Please note that this method can be used to create bootable USB drive of Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows8/8.1 and Windows 10. This method doesn't work for Windows XP bootable USB drive.

So without any further delay let's start the tutorial:

STEP 1: Prepare USB Drive as Per Requirements

If you want to make Windows Vista or Windows 7 bootable USB drive, a 4GB USB drive will be sufficient. But, if you want to make a bootable drive of Windows 8, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10, you'll need an 8GB USB drive.

Now format the USB drive using FAT32 or NTFS file system. We recommend formatting the USB drive using NTFS file system for better compatibility with newer Windows versions.

To format USB drive, attach the drive to your computer system, open Windows Explorer, right-click on the USB drive icon and select Format option.

Format_USB_Drive.png

This step is optional. If you don't want to format your USB drive, you can skip this step but make sure there is enough free disk space on your USB drive to copy Windows setup files.

STEP 2: Mount or Extract Windows Setup ISO Image File

Now you'll need to extract all files from Windows setup ISO. You can extract the files using a file archive software such as 7-Zip, WinRAR, etc.

If you are using Windows 8 or later, you don't need to use any file archive utility, you can direct mount the ISO file as a virtual drive in Windows Explorer. You can do this by right-clicking on ISO image file and then selecting "Mount" option.

ISO_VHD_Mount_Feature_Windows_8.png

It will immediately mount the ISO file of Windows setup as a virtual DVD drive in Windows Explorer.

STEP 3: Copy Windows Setup Files to USB Drive

Now you just need to copy all files from extracted or mounted Windows ISO to your USB drive.

Copy_Setup_Files_from_Mounted_Windows_ISO.png

That's all. You have successfully made a bootable USB drive which can be used for all purposes as mentioned in the beginning of the tutorial.

About the author:

This is a guest post written by "Snehith A Shenoy" who is a B.Tech student at MIT India and a regular reader of AskVG.com.

Feel free to share your feedback about this tutorial and if you also have some tips-n-tricks to share, you can send us using contact page and we'll try to feature them at AskVG.





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Posted in: Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows 8 / 8.1, Windows Vista, Windows XP


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Comments

  • You think simple extracting or copy/paste to USB will do the trick? There is no need to replace the MBR? Be sure enough! The least you need to do after copying to USB is on CMD\bootsect /nt60 U: (U: referred as USB drive)

    Debates are welcome...

  • If we assume that Formating the USB is optional, so what if my USB MBR is Linux/Grub oriented, by just extracting on such drive will work out?

    No extra files like menu.lst or relevant files are required?

    lol

  • All latest BIOS(at least mine) are automatically detect windows setup files and launch it.(no additional files, MBR setting are required), i try it thousand of times, its never fail with me.

  • I agree with VV^^ above.
    That will simply create the USB but bootable, not sure about that.
    why not use the hassle free W7 USB/DVD tool instead does all the process automatically.

    VG would certainly like your viewpoint on whether the USB thus created using the procedure will be bootable or no ?

  • I call bullsh*t on this one. Would you have us believe that it was this simple all along, when Microsoft made their own tool and so did many others to create a USB install? There are even files one must add to the Microsoft tool if one wants to make a 64-Bit USB installer while on a 32-Bit machine. MAYBE this works on Windows 8 ( I will never know, because I will never ever use Windows 8), but I am quite certain this fails miserably on Windows 7.

  • works less than half of the time..not reliable enough

  • Well I can confirm this works as I have been doing this for a long time. You can also open the .iso file using WinRAR and extract the contents of the .iso directly to the USB drive.

  • Now you'll need to extract all files from Windows setup ISO.

    Where IS the "Windows setup ISO" found?

  • VG

    Guys

    Everything is personally tested and confirmed by me before posting here. I have already tested it before creating article for this trick. It worked for me without any problem. I know it looks unbelievable but it works. I tested it for all Windows versions mentioned in the topic i.e. Windows Vista, 7, 8, 8.1 and Windows 10.

    @Frank
    You'll need Windows setup ISO file for creating bootable drive. It would be a single file having .ISO extension.

  • This can only work if you boot in UEFI/EFI mode, because you can't copy the MBR like a file. That's the reason why this doesn't work on Windows XP or BIOS-based systems.

  • @Vishal Vodro​​
    i agree with you. we need to have a valid MBR on USB.

    http://www.askvg.com/rufus-yet-another-free-portable-tool-to-create-bootable-usb-drive-to-install-windows-and-linux/

    is what i use.

  • Hi Vishal, fellow readers,

    Maybe not relevant here, but simple extraction of the ISO to a desired folder and running Setup.exe also works in installing a fresh copy of windows (this can be an upgrade, or a clean install without formatting of the Drive).
    Steps:
    1. Extract ISO to desired folder, preferably not the drive you want to install Win 7, 8, 8.1 so if I want to install in C, I'll extract files in D...
    2. Run Setup.exe from the extracted folder.
    3. The installer will load files and then ask for what to do - Upgrade or clean install.
    a) Choosing Upgrade is simple and it will upgrade your OS to the version you want to upgrade to.
    b) Choosing Fresh/Clean install option is the magic here - It will ask for a location to install OS. If you choose a drive in which your current OS is installed, it will say something like "Make a windows.old folder with old data and do clean install", say "yes" to that and continue setup.
    This will essentially be a fresh install and you don't really need to format the drive to install a brand new OS in this case.
    Note: after you've clean installed, you can remove old OS from the cleanup wizard - it will list "clean old installation of windows as an option", the sys files from the Windows.old folder cant be deleted by yourself.

    Benefits of this method:
    1. No need for USB or DVD
    2. No need for bootable media
    3. No need for formatting a drive
    4. Your personal files are not lost when performing a clean install - they are safely located in Windows.old folder and you can move them at will!

    Caution: Ensure you have around 12~15 GB free if you are doing the clean/fresh install, as the new windows will take up that much space, and you can safely delete your old OS files later.

    VG, if you've already mentioned this somewhere, Sorry! This has been my personal experience and I would really like for you to share this with others as this has been a very easy way to upgrade even my very old laptop and my friends' (yes, plural!).

  • @Aditya Sharma
    one can not install fresh copy by clicking "setup.exe".
    and windows.old folder will keep viruses of previous installation also.

  • LOL how sometime we can't try simple ways . We downloaded windows 7 bootable iso makers & now we found simple copy paste will also do it . :p Working fine here with windows 10 .

    VG How to install dotnet 3.5 on windows 10 offline ? Dism command failing at 98.5 % for cab file of dotnet3.5 from windows 10 iso .

  • Hey Vishal
    How to Create Bootable USB Drive of Windows Xp. I have Read all your articles and tried every software provided on your website but nothing works. Can you please Post a article on creating bootable USB drive of Windows Xp.

  • Windows XP is an old OS. Almost no one care about it.
    As far I know, there is no official way to make a bootable USB for installing Windows XP but there are some 3rd party tools for doing this.
    How to Setup Windows XP from USB drive?
    poweriso.com/tutorials/how-to-make-winxp-bootable-usb-drive.htm
    Hope this Helps.

  • man just use rufus for xp.. and any os e.g. 7 8 linux

  • Dear Vishal, thanks for getting back. You u replied that I would need the Windows setup file ISO. OK, yes, we know that already. But...question still remains, where IS it? How do you find it? Did a search...nothing. Is this something everyone has on their computer, and only I don't?

  • @Frank
    You can download official Windows setup ISO from Microsoft's official website.
    Then follow this tutorial to make bootable USB drive.
    However, the official ISO will a trial-version and
    you need to enter license key and activate it online after installing windows.

  • Anybody can suggestme some software for making bootable usb for windows XP.I have a HP 520 notebook.I have tried rufus but during installation it says "no previous version of win xp detected"
    please help!

  • @vasu then you got to press enter to continue. i think you are doin it first time. you can check how to install xp on net.

  • You guys just figured this out? I have been doing this since Vista was first released, And yes it does work just fine with BIOS systems.

    People sure love to call bull without trying even tho it's such a simple thing.

  • @someguy
    yes,iknow it is very simple and even i done it many times on several laptops but i got this error on my particular laptop that's why i am asking.

  • @anuj
    hi anuj,when i got the above mentioned error then i have the only option to press F3(to quit) as enter already gets inavctive(faded) with the error.

  • how to add multiple iso i.e window XP, 7, 8, 8.1 hiren etc....... in one 16 Gb pendrive

  • ^^Having multiple ISO on single USB Drive is not possible because, you cannot have two setup files in same USB( and Folder conflict isssues )

  • @Lana
    Ofcourse its possible search for YUMI software
    another one : WinSetUpFromUSB

    both work great and support not only multiple Windows iso but beyond like custom iso,linux and etc.

  • well, this works and i am using this simple technique for around 2.5 years. simple formatting for usb drive to NTFS and copying the extracted windows files to usb will make it bootable. works on windows 7 and above.

    now boot the computer and choose the drive to boot from. it will take you to the installation window.

  • Hi,

    A NTFS formatted usb stick won't boot from a UEFI environment, it has to be formatted as FAT32. You must also disable Secure Boot and enable Legacy Support (or whatever it's called in your particular case) to enable it to boot. UEFI is implemented since Windows 8 came out, so any machines that run it must have Secure Boot enabled, which prevents third party environments to run before Windows is operational ie. Rootkit viruses, etc.

    Rgds,

    Juan

  • no need to active partition for usb drive? :S

  • hey guys i need help .... i formatted my entire hard drive into one partition of 1 tb now i tried to install windows 8.1 using my dell windows disk which they provided .. but every time i reach the partition screen and click on next it jus gets stuck .. can i know what the problem maybe

  • VG

    ^^ You should try to install the OS using a different disc. It might be possible that the CD you are using is a recovery disc and its detecting that the partition table has been changed. So its not going further.

  • Hi to All,
    Please help me i want to store two windows setup in one bootable pen drive is it possible?
    please suggest any one expert....
    and how to set path at the time of booting for selection of windows installation (Windows-7 or Windows-8) ....

  • VG

    ^^ Check following:

    http://www.askvg.com/ultimate-collection-of-best-freeware-to-create-bootable-usb-drive-to-install-windows-and-linux/

  • Hi VG and to all readers,
    I have a question related to Bobo 's comment. If you will be using a 64 bit iso, do you need to do this on a 64 bit system? Or will it be ok to use a 32 bit system to created a bootable 64 bit usb drive. This used to be a problem when creating a bootable usb Windows 7 from a 32 bit windows xp.

    This may have been answered before, I'd rather confirm it here with VG. Thanks in advance.

  • VG

    ^^ It doesnt matter which Windows edition (32-bit or 64-bit) are you using.

  • at the very least you need to mark the usb drives partion as active.... much less mbr files or a boot loader such as grub

  • thanx!
    i copied all windows 8.1 files to my usb but when the copy progress rich to 80% the system hang up . when the file install.esd begin to copy why?
    .............................
    and the system hang too when i use bootable maker software .

  • can i use my usb afterwards by deleting the windows files??????please reply fast.....thanks in advance

  • VG

    ^^ Of course.

  • I have tried all of these but did not work.

  • I forgot my admin password and I don't have the recovery disks .Can I recover my password any other way so that I can download an app. please write help!

  • hi, reading the above is it possible to extract the iso in a partion in windows 8 and do a clean install of windows 10 with the licence key for windows 8?

  • Good one!!! But might not work for GPT partition. It's applicable only fpr MBR partition hard drives.

  • i fortmatted my hp mini system reserve by mistake and after i restarted it showed BOOTMGR is missing. And i dont have a portable USB DVD Drive. What can i do

  • VG

    ^^ Which Windows is installed in your system?

  • Thanks for testing this method for us.
    I always wondered if it worked, but never had time to test.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------
    Ideas I still have:

    1: Copy Vista > USB > Will it boot?
    2: Rufus > Bootable W7 USB > Del W7 > Copy XP to USB > Will it work?
    3: Rufus > Bootable W7 USB > Copy XP to USB, overwriting W7 setup with XP
    4: Modify 7 setup to install XP instead (stability/easier to use USB install)

    Many ideas to try...

  • I suspect Cut and Paste method works when old boot sector code is still on the USB drive from previous use as a boot drive and the drive is set Active.

    (Tested on my two BIOS laptops after DISKPART and CLEAN ALL)

    For peace of mind, always use proper methods (eg Rufus)

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