How to Copy a Bootable CD to USB

By Mark Pool

There are several reasons to copy a bootable CD/DVD to a USB stick or flash drive. Using a USB flash drive instead of a CD to install Windows, or Linux, can speed up the process. Netbooks frequently don't have an on-board CD/DVD player, so using a USB flash drive is the only way to change the operating system. Whatever the reason, copying a bootable CD to a USB flash drive is not difficult. The following procedure will work in Windows XP, Vista and 7.

Step 1

Open the "Start" menu. In the search box, type "diskpart" and press the "Enter" key. Windows XP users should click the "Run" command in the "Start" menu before typing the command. This command runs the DiskPart utility. Make sure the USB key or flash drive is plugged in before proceeding to Step 2. Note: Commands should be entered without quotation marks.

Step 2

Type "list disk" and press "Enter." Make a note of the disk number of the USB drive. For example, if your computer has a single hard drive, the USB flash drive will be Disk 1. If your computer has more than one internal drive, look at the size of the drives to find the USB flash drive; it should be significantly smaller. For example, a 4 GB flash drive will display a size anywhere from 3800 MB to 3900 MB.

Step 3

Type "select disk X" and press "Enter." Replace "X" with the disk number of your USB drive. If you drive is Disk 2, type "select disk 2." This command tells DiskPart what drive to use.

Step 4

Type "clean" and press "Enter." The "clean" command removes existing formatting and data from the USB flash drive.

Step 5

Type "create partition primary" and press "Enter." This command tells DiskPart to create a single primary partition that takes up all the space on the drive.

Step 6

Type "select partition 1" and press "Enter" to select the partition that was just created.

Step 7

Type "active" and press "Enter" to mark the newly created partition as an active system disk.

Step 8

Type "format fs=fat32 quick" and press "Enter." This command formats the USB drive using the FAT32 file system.

Step 9

Type "assign" and press "Enter." This assigns a drive letter to the newly created partition, making it possible to access from Windows Explorer.

Step 10

Insert the bootable CD or DVD that you want to copy.

Step 11

Open the "Start" menu and click the "Computer" icon. Windows XP users should click the "My Computer" icon.

Step 12

Right click the CD/DVD drive containing the bootable CD and click "Explore."

Step 13

Press the "Ctrl" and "A" keys simultaneously.

Step 14

Drag the files in the CD to the flash drive letter on the left side of the window to copy them. The USB drive should now be bootable.

Tips & Warnings

  • To use the bootable USB key or flash drive, make sure the BIOS of the computer you're using is set to boot off USB before the internal hard drive. Consult the computer manual for the specific procedure for your computer.