How to Run Windows From a USB Flash Drive

To run Windows from a USB drive, you must use special software to install Windows Vista pre-installed environment to the drive. A pre-installed environment is a condensed copy of an operating system. It contains many of the same functions of the original OS but usually does not include a registry or other extraneous files.

USB flash hard drive plugged into laptop, close-up
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A bootable USB drive installed with Windows Vista can be extremely useful if your hard drive ever fails or is unable to boot due to a virus infection. The USB's copy of Windows Vista will allow you to troubleshoot your hard drive and possibly fix any detected errors.

Step

Download and install the HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool. Insert your USB drive into an available USB slot, then run the HP tool.

Step

Select your flash drive from the list of devices, then select \"NTFS\" from the list of file systems. Click \"Start\" to format the USB drive.

Step

Place the Windows Vista DVD into an available DVD drive. Click \"Start,\" \"All Programs,\" \"Accessories,\" then \"Run.\"

Step

Type \"cmd\" into the dialogue box, then hit \"Enter.\" Type \":\", replacing \"\" with the actual letter of your drive (usually \"D\" or \"E\").

Step

Type \"cd:\boot\" and hit \"Enter.\" Type \"bootsect /nt60:\", then hit \"Enter\" again, to make the USB drive bootable. As in the previous step, replace \"\" with your DVD's drive letter, then \"\" with your USB's drive letter.

Step

Exit the command prompt. Download and run WinBuilder. WinBuilder will allow you to create a copy of Windows Vista. Extract WinBuilder to the main drive (usually \"C:\").

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Open the WinBuilder folder and double-click \"WinBuilder.exe\" to launch the program.

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Click the \"Download\" tab, then uncheck the \"Optional,\" \"VistaPE v.12\" and \"LiveXP\" boxes. Click the \"Servers\" tab.

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Click the \"Add a New Server\" button, located on the left side of the window. Type \"vistape.net/archive\" into the dialogue box, then click \"OK.\"

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Click \"Download.\" After WinBuilder has finished downloading the files to your computer, restart the program.

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Click the \"Scripts\" tab if it is not already selected, then select the \"Script\" button. Click the plus sign next to \"VistaPE MultiBoot v.11.\" Click \"Main Configuration.\" Do not uncheck the box.

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Click the drop-down next to \"Screen resolution\" and select the appropriate screen size for your monitor. If your monitor uses an 800x600 resolution, don't change any settings.

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Click \"Extended Configuration,\" again making sure to not uncheck the box. Check the \"Mount folder with programs as drive Y:\" box.

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Click the plus sign next to \"Finalize,\" then check the \"Copy to USB-Device\" box. Click \"Paths,\" then click the folder button next to \"Source Directory.\"

Step

Select your Windows Vista DVD from the list of drives, then click \"OK.\" Click \"Play\" to start installing the copy of Windows Vista to the USB drive.

Step

Restart the computer. Access the computer's BIOS settings to change the boot priority to USB. Save the settings and exit the BIOS. The computer should boot to the USB drive's copy of Windows Vista.