How to install Windows 7 from a USB flash drive

Seriously, who uses DVDs and CD’s anymore?  Most Ultrabook laptops don’t even have integrated optical media drives anymore which is a harbinger that the technology is quickly becoming archaic.

I see two responses to this dearth of optical drives: we can either rue the technology trends and lament the changes or we can acquiesce and get on board because, let’s face it: devices will inexorably continue to get thinner and lighter.

Even if you dissent with the direction of technology it’s still helpful to know how to install Windows 7 from a USB drive because USB media is rapidly becoming cheaper and is steadily rising in popularity.

I mean, heck, you can buy a capacious 8GB USB stick for less than $10 bucks on Newegg.com.  Sure, that still costs more than a 25 pack of blank DVDs but it’s a lot more portable and arguably easier to use than bulky DVDs (try slipping those in your pocket).

In this guide I’m going to show you how to turn those inert USB drives laying around your house into media drives that you’ll use to install Windows 7.

Say goodbye to DVDs.  We need to do two things:

  1. Download the Windows 7 ISO
  2. Download and initiate the USB tool

1. Get the ISOs

First we need to get the Windows 7 image file colloquially known as an ISO.  Fortunately, Microsoft allows us to legally download the Windows 7 ISO for free so getting the ISO won’t be a problem.

The ISOs are generally between 2 and 3 GB in size so it could take an hour to download but that’s contingent on your internet connection of course.

2. Get the Download Tool

Click over to the Microsoft Store and download the Windows 7 USB/DVD download tool.  Don’t worry, it’s free, and is less than 3MBs so you’ll probably have it in a few seconds.

Double click the file and download the .NET framework if asked.

Dot net is just a voluminous collection of code libraries that gives various programming language the ability to communicate with each other.  You can, and should, install it when prompted.

Download the NET framwork

Give the download about 15 minutes to download… after the green bar fills you’ll have to wait for what feels like ages before you can move to the next step.  It’ll seem like the download is frozen or unresponsive but just wait because it’ll eventually finish.  I should take a total of no longer than 15 to 20 minutes max.

Downloading required files for NET

Go ahead and close the installation wizard when it finishes.

NET framework installed

The Windows 7 USB/DVD download tool will automatically pop onto the screen.

Click Next

Windows 7 USB download tool

and kick off the installation process

Windows 7 USB Download Tool Installation

It’ll zip to the finish line at the speed of light.

Now all we need to do is open the Download tool and browse to the Windows 7 ISO we downloaded earlier.

Windows 7 USB Download Tool Source File

Click Next and hit the USB device button.

Windows 7 USB download tool choose media type

Plug in a USB drive with at least 4GB of unclaimed space then click Begin copying and wait for the file transfer to finish.

There’s one imperative here: ALL DATA on the USB drive will be irrevocably erased so make sure you keep that in mind.  Once you click Begin copying you probably can’t recover any data on your USB drive, but you can still try.

Windows 7 USB Download Tool Begin Copying

Depending on the size of your USB drive it could take a while to finish formatting and copying everything.

Windows 7 USB Download Tool Creating bootable USB device formatting

But that’s really all there is to it.

Once it finishes you’ll have a complete bootable version of Windows 7 on your USB stick.

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