How-to: Create a bootable Windows 8 USB flash drive

How-to: Create a bootable Windows 8 USB flash drive

Summary: Bootable USB flash drives are far more convenient than DVD discs.

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This has become a popular question as of late so I thought I'd throw a quick page up outlining how to do it.

Note: This procedure also works for Windows 7.

I'll warn you in advance that there are a lot of steps involved to do this! Also, you'll need an 8GB or larger USB flash drive.

  1. Download the Windows 8 .ISO from the Microsoft website.
  2. Mount the .ISO file as a drive ... if you don't have a tool to do this, I suggest SlySoft's Virtual CloneDrive - it's free! Alternatively, you can burn it to a DVD using a tool such as ImgBurn and pop the disc in your drive.
  3. Format your USB flash drive ready like this: - Insert a USB flash drive into your computer - Start a Command Prompt as an administrator (right-click on the entry and select Run as administrator) and type diskpart and then press ENTER - Next, type the following BOLD lines a line at a time, pressing ENTER at the end of each line after the command has completed: DISKPART> list disk DISKPART> select disk X Note: X is the number for your USB flash drive you obtained from the list command from the previous step. DISKPART> clean DISKPART> create partition primary DISKPART> select partition 1 DISKPART> active DISKPART> format FS=NTFS DISKPART> assign DISKPART> exit
  4. Next you need to make your USB flash drive bootable. Start another Command Prompt as an administrator and navigate to the boot folder of the Windows 8 ISO image then type the following: bootsect /nt60 X: Note: Where X is the drive letter for your USB flash drive
  5. From a Command Prompt type the following: XCOPY X:\*.* Y:\ /E /J /H Note: Where Y is the drive letter for your USB flash drive and X is the drive letter of your mounted Windows 8 .ISO file
  6. Boot your PC up from your USB flash drive. If your PC won't boot from your USB flash drive then you'll need to dig out your motherboard manual and twiddle with the boot device settings.

And you're done!

Topics: Hardware, Microsoft, Windows

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23 comments
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  • RE: How-to: Create a bootable Windows 8 USB flash drive

    I wonder if UNetbootin would also work. The program was able to make a bootable Ubuntu USB flash drive from an ISO. I am not sure, but I think that UNetbootin performs the steps that you have outlined.
    dtrebbien@...
    • Unetbootin does not work for creating a bootable USB Windows 8

      Tried it creating a bootable windows 8 USB with UNetbootin and had a host of issues pop up. Finally gave up and followed the instructions above and the install went swimmingly.
      shadyseth@...
  • RE: How-to: Create a bootable Windows 8 USB flash drive

    adrian - ya got the drive letters reversed in step 5.
    other than that - nice, useful post.
    BitBanger!USA
  • Same old NT6 trick....

    Nothing to see here, move along~~
    cym104
  • Inciting Intellectual Property Theft

    Is this legal? It seems to me the Windows EULA clearly states you are only allowed to make "one copy on one machine", and that Microsoft "reserves all rights not expressly granted". in other words, if they don't say you are allowed to copy the software onto additional boot media, then you are committing Intellectual Property Theft by doing so.
    ldo17
    • I think you have that wrong

      @ldo17

      The instructions are for copying installation media onto a different installation media type. What you are referring to is the actual installation. You aren't allowed to have multiple installs as a multi-boot option using the same license. The wording you are talking about is in the EULA, but these steps refer to OEM or System Builder licensing terms.
      Joe_Raby
      • Re: Inciting Intellectual Property Theft

        @Joe_Raby Doesn't matter how you phrase the actions described, the point is if they're not "expressly" permitted by Microsoft's licence (i.e. spelled out in so many words), then they are Intellectual Property Theft.
        ldo17
      • You don't get it

        @Ido17

        No, it isn't, because that wording is not even mentioned in the OEM or SB license agreement, and that is the only license agreement that coincides with the install bits, which is what these instructions are for. Microsoft has different licensing terms for the installation software than it does for the actual product bits.

        If you want to read the SBLA, go to the regular OEM website.

        A system builder or non-contract OEM can use any copy of Windows to install from. The rule is that the must include the original hologram media as a deliverable, AND there must be some way for the end-user to reinstall the product. A hard drive recovery partition is allowed by the system builder, but they are not allowed to deliver any removeable discs for reinstall aside from the original hologram media. I asked about systems without optical drives, and they said so long as the hologram DVD is included and there is a recovery partition, the conditions are met. There is another way to include reinstallation media though: on a desktop, you can take a USB thumbdrive, customize an install image and recover option to run from it, buy a USB female type-A to motherboard header adapter, and pop the thumbdrive in the case. That also meets the "non-removeable" requirement.

        End-users are allowed to make backup copies of the installation media, just as system builders can (you'd have to otherwise you couldn't use software like the OPK, WDS, AIK, and MDT for deployment). However, you just can't transfer that customized removeable media to a third-party. THEN it would be breaching the license agreement.
        Joe_Raby
      • Re: Inciting Intellectual Property Theft

        @Joe_Raby If you look at that OEM licence, you'll find it says you're not allowed to do an installation for your own use, you have to pass it on to a third/unrelated party.

        So all you're doing by switching licences is trading one form of Intellectual Property Theft for another.
        ldo17
    • It is perfectly legal

      @ldo17
      The Windows 8 developer preview is free to use in this way (but time limited).

      The final Windows 8 will also allow <i>Windows to Go</i> as Microsoft has dubbed this. There is actually a little more to it than just placing it all on an USB stick - e.g. Windows 8 will allow accidental removal of the stick - as long as you plug it in again within 60 seconds.
      honeymonster
  • Just FYI

    I used the Windows 7 USB Tool that Microsoft provides, and it works fine.

    Also, I never have had to use the BOOTSECT command because the DISKPART ACTIVE command is supposed to resolve the boot sector for you.

    Also FYI to anybody asking: Windows 7 doesn't support boot from removeable disks like USB thumbdrives or SD cards. Windows Embedded Standard 7 does though, but I've tried it, and it's SLOOOOW. It isn't like booting a WinPE image....
    Joe_Raby
  • RE: How-to: Create a bootable Windows 8 USB flash drive

    One thing I noticed in the instructions; you listed the xcopy command with *.* As BitBanger said "adrian - ya got the drive letters reversed in step 5. other than that - nice, useful post." I have to agree. Thank you for posting this how-to.
    Jimmy5208
  • RE: How-to: Create a bootable Windows 8 USB flash drive

    So for all us non-legal/lawyer types, what is the answer from the author of this blog? Mr. Kingsley-Hughes, what is your response? Thank you.
    plandok@...
  • RE: How-to: Create a bootable Windows 8 USB flash drive

    I'm not a legal type, so what is the answer? Perhaps the author could render an opinion about whether this should be done or not.
    plandok@...
  • RE: How-to: Create a bootable Windows 8 USB flash drive

    It looks to me like all you are doing is to create a bootable version of the installation files on a USB drive. If that is all you are attempting here there is a much simpler way to do it. UltraISO, $29.95 from EZB Ststems will allow you to do all this from the iso file with one click.
    bobbenedetti
  • Correction: Step 5's X and Y definition are reversed.

    The correct step 5 is:
    From a Command Prompt type the following:
    XCOPY X:\*.* Y:\ /E /F /H
    Note: Where Y is the drive letter for your USB flash drive and X is the drive letter of your mounted Windows 8 .ISO file
    SaadHusain
  • RE: How-to: Create a bootable Windows 8 USB flash drive

    will not be buying windows 8 or iphone 7 it is the same they taking windows 7 on the iphone and that is crap and now they are going make it windows 8 for the pc that is crap microsoft is losing it and they know it they can not make a safe windows like xp now all of vista and windows 7 and windows 8 are crap
    ttx19
  • RE: How-to: Create a bootable Windows 8 USB flash drive

    I agree with Joe Raby, the MS Qidnows 7 USB DVD tools works just fine without having to jump thru any hoops short or just downloading the free tool from MS

    John
    johncrea
  • Seriously? Burn a DVD?

    Why burn the ISO to disk just to put the contents on a flash drive?

    You can use 7-Zip to extract the contents of the .iso without having to waste a DVD or the time to burn one
    air-run
  • RE: How-to: Create a bootable Windows 8 USB flash drive

    I use Windows 8 To Go. To install it, follow the instructions in the article for DiskPart and BootSect to prepare the disk. Pop in the Windows 8 DVD and choose the USB drive when it asks you where to install your new system.
    PMSWitch