Installing Windows Vista using a USB flash drive

It’s fairly simple to create a USB flash drive that can be used to boot a computer and install Windows Vista (assuming that the computer that you want to install on can boot from a USB flash drive). To get your USB flash drive ready you need the following:

  • USB flash drive of the appropriate size (I used a 6GB drive)
  • Windows Vista install DVD
  • Computer that has Windows Vista installed, a DVD drive and has a free USB slot (for use with the USB flash drive)

Open the command prompt on the computer that is already running Windows Vista (cmd.exe) and start “diskpart” (Yes, Windows XP also has diskpart, however the version I had on my XP box didn’t allow me to make flash drives bootable). diskpart gives you it’s own command prompt, identify the flash drive by typing “list disk”. Once you have determined which disk is the flash drive type “select disk x”, where x is the number in the list returned by diskpart. Type the following commands:

  • clean
  • create partition primary
  • select partition 1
  • active
  • format fs=fat32
  • assign
  • exit

The above commands will remove any existing partitions from the selected disk (which is why it is important that you are absolutely certain that you selected the correct disk, if you mess this up any data that was on the drive is gone!), create a new primary partition, make it bootable, format it as a FAT32 disk, assign it a drive letter, and then exit the diskpart program.

Open Windows explorer to identify what drive letter the USB flash drive now has. Insert the Windows Vista installation DVD in your DVD drive. Go back to the command prompt and type the following command: “xcopy x:. /s /e /f y:” (where x is the drive letter of your DVD drive and y is the drive letter of your USB flash drive). Once the xcopy command is complete your USB flash drive is ready!

Note: When installing Windows Vista on a computer with multiple hard drives Windows Vista will refuse to install on any other disk than the first (in my experience at least).

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