How to Run Windows From a USB Flash Drive

By Ruri Ranbe

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.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.

Things You'll Need

  • 4GB+ USB flash drive
  • Windows Vista installation DVD

Step 1

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 2

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 3

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

Step 4

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

Step 5

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 6

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:\").

Step 7

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

Step 8

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

Step 9

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

Step 10

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

Step 11

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.

Step 12

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.

Step 13

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

Step 14

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 15

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 16

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.

Tips & Warnings

  • Contact your motherboard's manufacturer before creating a bootable USB to make sure that your BIOS is capable of booting to USB.
  • Check your USB's documentation or contact the manufacturer to make sure the USB can be converted to a bootable drive.
  • If you are not sure how to access your computer's BIOS setup screen, check with your manufacturer for more assistance, since this process varies depending on make and model.
  • To create a bootable copy of Windows Vista, you must be the legal, licensed owner of the Windows Vista DVD.
  • Formatting your USB drive will erase all files and folders on the drive.