[Update] – Please note that whilst WinToFlash is still a great tool, I have found that it is far easier, faster and simpler to use Rufus instead to do this. Please see my latest article here.
In this tutorial we will look at how to install a copy of Windows XP or Windows 7 via a USB using a free program called WinToFlash. I will be showing you how to do it for Windows XP in this article, but it is very similar for Windows 7. WinToFlash has been tested to work for:
- Windows XP/2003/Vista/2008/7/8
- Supports both 32 bit and 64 bit versions of Windows
This can be a very good way to get around certain issues that you may come up against when installing/ re-installing Windows onto your PC, like a broken CD drive or no CD drive at all.
The first time I had to do this was a few years ago when having to re-install XP onto a friends netbook due to them playing around in the registry, without backing it up first and also having zero experience of the registry in the first place (Tip: Stay away from tinkering in the registry unless you know what you are doing as it’s very easy for something to go wrong)
Now her Netbook didn’t have a CD Drive and I didn’t have an external Optical Drive to hand, but luckily the netbook supported booting via USB. (as most modern systems do these days) To find out if your system does, reboot the system and go into your BIOS and have a look at the boot order options. If it does you will see ‘Boot Via USB’ or something similar. Here is a great place to find out how to access your BIOS depending on the PC you have; e.g it press F2 or ESC whilst booting (post screen) or whichever button you should. You will probably see this when you first boot the PC as it will say something similar to ‘Press *** to enter set up’
OK, so I am now assuming that you have the following:
- A Windows Disk
- A USB stick (minimum 4GB when creating a Windows 7 USB, XP is about 2GB minimum)
- A copy of Novicorp WinToFlash (it’s portable and free to use for non commercial use only) I am using the Beta version 0.7.000
- The ability to boot via USB (You can check this in your BIOS)
- A cup of tea (as this can take a while depending on your system)
To create the bootable USB simply plug-in your stick and double-click on the WinToFlash.exe that you previously extracted from the .zip download and you will be greeted with this window:
Simply except the agreement (please note that this is free to use for Non Commercial use only) You will then see the next window:
Now for me I wanted to create a bootable Windows 7 USB so I have to tell the program this information. To do this click on the ‘Advanced’ tab and you will see this window:
Now click on the drop down menu where you will see the different options available to you. For a Windows 7 disk, please choose the 4th one down ‘Transfer Windows Vista/2008/7 Setup to USB’ and then click on ‘Run’
After clicking on ‘Run’ the next window you will see is the path option screen. This is where you specify the location of the Windows CD that you are copying and the pathway to your USB stick. By default these are D:/ and E:/ respectively, but this will vary depending on your system. For myself I had to change the location of my USB stick to F:/
You will then have a warning screen pop up to let you know that any data on the USB drive will be written over as the program will format the disk (this is why it’s a good idea to make sure that you don’t have any other USB’s attached to your machine and have selected the correct path file in the step above.
Once you are satisfied that the program is pointing to the correct pathway to your USB stick, simply click ‘OK’ and let the program work its magic.
The time that the program takes will vary depending on the system that you are using. It took me about 15 mins to complete in total. Once it is finished it will tell you as seen in the screen below:
That’s it. You’re done!
Please note that this program is Windows only and supports the following languages that are accessible via Service>Options>Interface and select the language you wish via the language drop down box
Note: Make sure that when using this USB on the machine you are going to do the install on that you have correctly changed the boot order in the BIOS so that the first boot device is ‘via USB’ Further documentation can be found on the WinToFlash website here
When you have successfully installed and the computer wants to reboot during the process, take the USB stick out or change the boot order back to HDD as first boot device or the system may want to boot to the USB stick again (which you don’t want, so take it out when it’s about to reboot)
If you want to create a Universal Windows 7 disk, then see this article.
If you want to know where to download all versions of Windows 7 for free and legally, then see this article.
I hope this was of use and if you have any questions or suggestions, please leave them in the comments.