Microsoft to ease Windows 7 upgrades to netbooks with USB key solution

Remember the rumors earlier this year that Microsoft was going to deliver Windows 7 on a thumb drive? Well, the rumors were correct -- sort of... On October 22, Microsoft announced it will enable netbook users who want to upgrade from XP (or Vista) to Windows 7 to use a special version of Windows 7 preloaded on a USB stick.

Remember the rumors earlier this year that Microsoft was going to deliver Windows 7 on a thumb drive? Well, the rumors were correct -- sort of...

On October 22, Microsoft announced it will enable netbook users who want to upgrade from XP (or Vista) to Windows 7 to use a special version of Windows 7 preloaded on a USB stick.

(I have no idea whether this has any connection to the rumored "StartKey" project I wrote about back in 2008. StartKey, the way it was originally portrayed to me, was more of an initiative to put Windows and Windows Live settings on a USB stick.)

Microsoft officials confirmed to News.com that it will make available an online tool, starting on October 22, "that will walk users through the process of moving a downloaded copy of Windows 7 onto a USB drive, be that a memory stick or portable hard drive."

Microsoft officials sent me the following statement when I asked for more details on the new tool:

"A recurring question is whether we’re going to provide any special tools to help customers install Windows 7 on PC’s that lack a DVD drive, such a netbook PC. Today, Microsoft is announcing the upcoming availability of a free tool to help our netbook PC customers (without DVD drives) install Windows 7. Once a customer has purchased and downloaded their copy of Windows 7 from the Microsoft online store, they can use the tool to create either a bootable USB drive or a DVD using the download. This new resource, known as the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool (WUDT) will be freely downloadable from the Microsoft Store as well as the Microsoft Download Center beginning on October 22nd.

"This tool will be available to support localized versions of Windows 7 including Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese. Customers who want to learn more about the USB/DVD Download Tool can visit www.microsoftstore.com/win7usb."

There's more information about and a screen shot of the new tool in this Windows Team Blog post, as well.

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