How to boot and install Windows (XP/Vista/7) from a USB stick

So you want to put Windows XP/Vista/7 onto a USB stick but are a little bit unsure on how to get it done? Well look no further, this guide will help you to do just that, no matter how inexperienced you may be using computers.

This can come in real handy if you need to reinstall Windows but don’t have an installation CD or maybe your using a notebook that doesn’t have a CD/DVD drive. Or maybe you have a Windows installation CD but want to make a back-up of it incase the disc gets damaged.

Things you will need:

1). A USB stick (preferably up to 4GB, although my Windows Xp SP3 was only 622 MB’s roughly so a 1GB stick would have work fine – Windows Vista and 7 will be bigger in size). Note – if your USB stick has any files on it just now, back these up as all data on it will be erased during the process.

2). WinToFlash ( – This is an excellent freeware program that has worked flawlessly for me time and time again and can be downloaded here, or from the downloads section of iTech Online.

3). A Windows installation disc – If you do not own a Windows disc you can also burn a .iso image file to the USB. Once you have your .iso file you can either burn it to a CD (if you have a CD/DVD drive) or if you are using a notebook (with no CD drive), please download and install Daemon Tools: ( (this will act as a virtual CD/DVD drive and will allow you to copy the Windows installation files from the virtual drive onto the USB stick as explained in the steps below).


Follow the steps below and you’ll have Windows XP/Vista/7 on a USB stick in no time at all. If you are a notebook user follow the steps below directly.

However, if you are a PC user with a CD/DVD drive then please replace the words ‘virtual drive’ with ‘CD/DVD drive’ and ‘.iso’ with ‘Windows CD’ and follow the steps directly – taking note that if you have a CD/DVD rom drive, then downloading Daemon Tools is not necessary.

Step 1). Insert USB device into the USB slot on your computer.

Step 2). After downloading & installing WinToFlash and Daemon Tools (links above), open WinToFlash and Daemon Tools, then mount your .iso file to your virtual drive using Daemon Tools.

Step 3). Once the .iso file is mounted on your virtual drive click on ‘my computer’  – you should see your ‘virtual drive’ with the Windows .iso file mounted to it (as shown below).

Your .iso mounted to virtual drive

Your .iso mounted to your virtual drive

 Step 4). Now open WinToFlash – once open click the box with the large green tick inside it, this will take you to the following screen…

Tick the box to always start in 'Wizard mode' then click 'next'

Step 5). Now click select (see below) and select the ‘virtual drive’ that your mounted Windows Xp/Vista/7 ‘.iso’ file is on (in this example, the virtual drive I mounted the Windows XP .iso file on was, (E:), so I will select the (E:) drive – you do not need to click on the files, only click the drive letter. Now do the same for your USB drive – select the drive your USB is listed under (for this example my USB was ‘Removable Drive (G:)). Once complete, click ‘ok’ and move onto step 6.

Select the drive letter that has the Windows .iso file mounted on it. Do the same for your USB stick, then click next to start the transfer.

Step 6). Accept the terms and license agreement and click ‘continue’.  A warning will now display alerting you that ‘Formatting will erase any files you have stored on the target disk’, i.e the USB stick. So make sure you back up any important files you have on the USB before continuing. If the USB stick has no files on it or you have already backed the files up, then click ‘OK’…
This starts the process of transferring the Windows setup to the USB stick. I highly recommend making a cup of tea or  having a beer during this process as it can take a while, I’d say approximately 30-40 minutes for XP.
Step 7). Once the transferring process is complete, your done. XP/Vista or Windows 7 will now be on your USB stick!.
In order to install windows XP/Vista/ 7 from the USB, you must restart your computer and press F2 (or whatever button takes you into the BIOS setup), then change your boot order (using the + and – keys) so that your ‘external device’ or ‘usb stick’ is at the very top. Press F10 to save these settings – now when the computer restarts, instead of booting from your hard-drive, it will boot from the USB stick and the following screen will appear, just like a normal windows install…

Press Enter on Option 1 'text mode setup' and then select where to install your OS.

Step 8). Press ‘ENTER’ on option 1 – ‘textmode setup’ and then on the next screen (which will be blue) choose a location to install the Operating system to and press ‘ENTER’. You can also delete partitions if you wish on the first blue screen by pressing the ‘D’ key. It is recommended that you do a clean install of Windows, thus eliminating any potential errors with the install. Once you have selected the drive (or partition) you want to install Windows to, the following screen will appear for you to format the partition before the install….

Format the partition


Step 9). Once formatting has complete, you will be taking to the screen below…

Press ‘ENTER’ on the ‘2nd, GUI setup’ and Windows will pretty much do all the rest for you.

Now select '2nd GUI mode setup' and windows will do the rest...

If you follow all the steps precisely you will have no problems installing Windows from a USB stick. I have used this method personally and it works flawlessly every time and I hope it does for you too.

About smellslikevictory

BEng (Hons) graduate in Electrical & Electronic Engineering. Enjoy travelling, working out and all things techy

Posted on August 26, 2011, in How-to-Guides, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great guide, got it done no problem. Many Thanks 🙂 David.

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