If you’re using a computer without an optical drive, or simply wish to rid yourself of compact disks once and for all, fear not: You can easily Install or Repair Windows 7 using only a USB drive.
To create your Windows 7 Installation Drive, you’ll need a few things. First, you’ll need the original Windows 7 Installation disc, or an .iso file that you can mount using a program like Virtual Clone Drive. Second, you’ll need a flash drive big enough to accommodate the files (4 GB should suffice). Make sure the flash drive is empty, as this process will wipe the drive clean of all data.
Finally, you will need a free utility called WinToFlash. Once you’ve downloaded it, unzip the files and open WinToFlash.exe. For creating a Windows 7 Installation “Disc,” we’re just going to use the “Windows Setup Transfer Wizard.” Go into the Advanced Mode if you want to create an installation disc for a different version of windows, or create a bootable MS-DOS flash drive.
At this point, your USB Drive should be plugged in, and the Windows 7 disc should be in or mounted as an .iso file. Open the Transfer Wizard. Select the appropriate directories for your Windows disc and your jump drive.
If a “Windows License Agreement” pops up, read and accept the terms.
WinToFlash will warn you that the process will wipe your USB Drive of all existing data. They’re not joking, so make sure all your personal data is backed up. Click OK. WinToFlash will now format your drive, then transfer all of your Windows files over to it. This could take between 5 and 20 minutes.
When it’s done, restart your computer and access the boot menu. How you access the boot menu varies from computer to computer, so consult your machine’s reference manual. At the startup screen (where your computer’s manufacturer logo appears) it should give you a number of options in the lower left hand side of the screen, including which F key to hit to access the boot menu. Hit the appropriate key.
When the boot menu appears, select your USB drive and hit enter.
And then? Then you’re ready to go. Begin installing or repairing Windows 7 as you normally would from a disk. Remember: While you can always reformat the USB drive to use it for personal data again, it might be helpful to save in case you ever need to reinstall or repair Windows.