Seven steps to a bootable Windows 7 thumb drive

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					Seven steps to a bootable Windows 7 thumb drive
by Doug Aamoth on January 21, 2009

I’ve been playing with Windows 7 Beta for a the past week or so and after loading it up on
multiple machines I’ve learned a few things:

1. I hate waiting for DVDs to burn ISO images.

2. Half of my computers don’t have optical drives and I don’t want to buy an external one.

3. Creating a bootable USB thumb drive with Windows 7 loaded onto it is more complicated
than it needs to be, but once it’s done it’s a great tool to have.

There are plenty of great tutorials out there that basically contain the same information as this
one, but I thought I’d try to put together a how-to guide that made everything as simple as
possible for people who might like the idea of Windows on a thumb drive but aren’t necessarily
super comfortable with the actual process.

The only tangible thing you’ll need is a USB thumb drive with at least 4GB of capacity. I found
a SanDisk Cruzer Contour worked best, while a Kingston DataTraveler was a bit fidgety at first
but worked after a couple of tries.

It’s all pretty easy once you get going, so let’s begin.

Step One: Download Windows 7 Beta
Head over to and jump
through all the hoops to begin your download. For the sake of this exercise, we’ll assume that
you’ll download the ISO file to your desktop. The download might take a while depending on
your connection speed – set aside an hour to be on the safe side. Meanwhile, take a break.
You’ve earned it!

Step Two: Download and install WinRAR
I hate guides that make me go download a bunch of software just to accomplish a task, so I
apologize for making you do the same thing. I promise this will be the only third-party software
that you’ll have to download and install, though, and it’s a great program to have on your
computer anyway if you don’t already.

Head over to and click on the WinRAR 3.80 link to download
the software. Once downloaded, install it.

Step Three: Extract the Windows 7 ISO file
Once Windows 7 Beta has finished downloading, you should see a file on your desktop with a
bunch of gobbledygook in the name like “7000.0.081212-1400_client_en-us_Ultimate-
GB1CULFRE_EN_DVD” or something cryptic like that. Right-click on that file and choose
“Extract to [gobbledygook]” as shown in the above picture. When the smoke has cleared, you’ll
have a gobbledygook folder on your desktop. I’ll continue to refer to this folder as “the
gobbledygook folder” for the rest of this guide.

Step Four: Format a 4GB USB thumb drive
Head into “Computer” or “My Computer” and locate your USB thumb drive. In this instance,
we’re dealing with the F: drive. Right click on the drive and choose “Format…” Then, we want
to format the drive using the NTFS file system with the default allocation size, so make sure
those two things are selected from the dropdown menus. You can check the Quick Format box,
too, if it’s not already checked.

Step Five: The tricky BootSect.exe part

Now we’re going to go back to our extracted “7000.0.081212-1400_client_en-us_Ultimate-
GB1CULFRE_EN_DVD” gobbledygook folder and open the “boot” folder, inside which we’ll
find a file called “bootsect.exe” that we’ll need to use.
If you’re comfortable navigating folders in DOS, then you can skip this particular step. If you
don’t like DOS or haven’t used it much, we’re going to copy this bootsect.exe file into an easy-
to-access location. Copy the file (CTRL-C) and then open up “Computer” or “My Computer”
and double-click your C: drive.

We’re going to paste (CTRL-V) that “bootsect.exe” file right into C: so we can easily access it in
a moment. See it there? Fifth file from the bottom, all safe and sound?

Step Six: Do some Ninja-like stuff in DOS
Now we’re going to open the Command Prompt. If you’re using Vista or Windows 7, you’ll
have to do the “Run as administrator” thing or we won’t be able to deploy our sweet flanking
maneuvers that are coming up. So go into Programs > Accessories and then right-click on
Command Prompt and choose “Run as administrator.”

Once we’ve got the Command Prompt up, we’re going to switch to our top-level C: folder by
simply typing “cd\” without the quotes and hitting Enter (If you skipped Step Five above, then
navigate yourself to the “boot” folder inside the extracted ISO folder on your desktop).
We should then have a straight-up C:> prompt. At this point, we’ll type the following (without
the quotes):

“bootsect /nt60 f:”

We’re assuming the drive letter of your USB thumb drive is F:, so replace “f:” in the above
phrase with whichever letter is assigned to your particular thumb drive. Hit enter and you should

Blah, blah, blah your bootcode is something something. This just means that the thumb drive is
now ripe to auto-load when you boot up your computer.

Step Seven: Copy the Windows 7 files to the thumb drive
This is it! The final step! Open up your extracted Windows 7 gobbledygook folder and copy the
files over to your thumb drive. You should be copying five folders and three files to the thumb
drive. That is, don’t drag the gobbledygook folder over; open it up first and drag the stuff inside
of it over instead.

It’ll take maybe about ten minutes for everything to copy over. Take another break! You’ve
earned it!

When all is said and done, reboot your computer with the thumb drive in place and you should
be greeted with the Windows 7 installation menu. If you’re not, you might have to tweak your
BIOS settings to allow your computer to recognize a thumb drive as a bootable device.

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Description: A very well explained guide to create a bootable Windows 7 thumb drive