How to Create an NTFS Bootable Flash Drive

Bootable flash drives can be used to install an operating system such as Linux or Windows, or simply used to run some diagnostic tests on the computer's hard drive without loading the entire system. A bootable drive is essential if installing a new operating system on a computer that does not have a disc drive. After creating the bootable flash drive, simply restart the computer with the USB drive inserted to boot into the drive.

USB flash drive about to connect to laptop, close-up
Bootable flash drives can be used to run diagnostic tests on computers.
credit: Jeffrey Hamilton/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Step

Insert the Windows Vista DVD into the computer's optical drive. Explore the contents via Windows Explorer and navigate to the \"Boot\" folder. Copy the file \"bootsect.exe\" to the C: folder.

Step

Insert the USB flash drive into an open USB slot. Right-click the USB drive via Windows Explorer and select \"Format...\"

Step

Select the NTFS file system and format the drive.

Step

Type \"cmd\" into the Search box within the Windows \"Start\" menu. Command Prompt will return in the results. Right-click this and select \"Run as Administrator.\" Enter your administrator password when prompted.

Step

Type \"diskpart\" within Command Prompt and press \"Enter.\" Type \"list volume\" and press \"Enter.\" Make note of the associated drive letter and volume number for the inserted USB drive (designated as Removable media).

Step

Type \"select volume 1\" (replace \"1\" with the actual volume number) and press \"Enter.\" Type \"activate\" and press \"Enter.\" Type \"exit\" and press \"Enter.\"

Step

Type \"cd C:\" to change directories to the C: folder.

Step

Type \"bootsect.exe /nt60 A:\" (replace \"A\" with actual drive letter, noted in Step 5) and press \"Enter.\" When the process completes, the drive will be bootable.

Step

Insert a boot CD, Restore disc, Linux live CD or Installation disc into the computer's optical drive. Explore the contents of the disc via Windows Explorer and drag all the files from the disc onto the USB drive (made bootable in Step 8). Allow the files to copy over, and the USB drive will then be able to boot the system just as the inserted disc would. Without the proper files on the drive, you would boot into nothing.