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Old 02-02-2010, 11:17 PM   #1
Rob Williams
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Default Using a Thumb Drive to Install Windows 7

Microsoft may be selling Windows 7 exclusively on DVD's, but did you realize that it takes very little effort to create a bootable thumb drive and install from that? We're taking a look at two popular methods of accomplishing this, and as you'll see, it couldn't be easier to install Microsoft's latest OS onto a PC with no DVD-ROM. It's faster, too!

You can read Robert's guide here, and discuss it here!
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Old 02-02-2010, 11:22 PM   #2
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Here's a bonus tip.

Unlike Windows Vista, Windows 7 removed the ability to choose which edition you want to install, due to confusion by the average consumer I'm sure. But, this is easy to fix, especially since you'll be installing the OS from a thumb drive. After your drive is completely prepared and you verify that it boots fine, boot into an OS and open up the 'ei.cfg' file under the Sources folder.

Because Windows doesn't open this by default, you can choose to open it with Notepad, or right-click the file and use the "Open With" option. Once its open, the layout will be like this:

[EditionID]
Ultimate
[Channel]
Retail
[VL]
0

Notice the "Ultimate"? That means it will default to that version of the OS during the installation. You can either change this to another version, or delete the entire file, which will cause you to see the version choice during the installer. See? Now that's an easy problem to fix!

The proper version names are:

Ultimate
Professional
HomePremium
HomeBasic
Starter
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Old 02-03-2010, 12:25 PM   #3
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Great article.

As a side tip, you can also use UltraISO to make a Win7 bootable USB drive.
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Old 02-03-2010, 05:03 PM   #4
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Ah, thanks for the tip Rob! It slipped my mind but really I should have added it in the article! With the ISO extracted it only takes a few seconds to find and edit (or outright delete) that file.
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Old 02-03-2010, 06:39 PM   #5
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When I downloaded win7 online they wanted me to pay to have a real disk sent.. PFT USB booting for the win.
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Old 05-25-2010, 08:00 PM   #6
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Is it possible to have the same flash drive do 32 and 64 bit installations?
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Old 05-26-2010, 08:13 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
Is it possible to have the same flash drive do 32 and 64 bit installations?
Interesting question. Microsoft ships Retail boxes with individual 32 / 64 bit discs inside, they aren't in fact on the same media. I am fairly sure the answer is no, given there isn't away to differentiate between which version is booted and which files are loaded when starting the bootloader itself.

Flash drives are cheap and many people have them laying around, ya could make one drive for each, though!
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Old 02-07-2011, 07:49 PM   #8
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Ahem...

Thread necro from a believer! Testify!

9 minutes from the start of the install to a useable desktop.
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Old 02-16-2011, 11:59 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Optix View Post
Ahem...

Thread necro from a believer! Testify!

9 minutes from the start of the install to a useable desktop.
Haha, the more converts the better!

Unfortunately there STILL aren't any "official" tools to do this by Microsoft. This seems to be because they are concerned about piracy. Enterprise system admins can use a program to roll out installs via this method but it's not tailored for a single user making the occasional install.

Since I made that guide I've converted my own USB key toolkit into a bootable Win 7 installer. It doesn't hurt anything to have gigabytes of random programs, data, tools, and folders on the flash drive whatsoever.
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Old 02-16-2011, 01:09 PM   #10
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I have a bootable BackTrack Linux USB drive. Me likey.

Using it to gain SYSTEM (yes you read that right) privileges on a Vista/7 machine that's password protected is lots of fun
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