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Install Windows From USB Thumb Drive

Install Windows From USB Thumb Drive

Installing Windows from a USB thumb drive is easier than you think. And despite what others may tell you, the install doesn't require a 2GB thumb drive, you can use any size...

With the new netbook trend steadily rising, the amount of optical drives being removed from these portable machines is also increasing. With so many models lacking an optical drive, you may be wonder exactly how you can re-install a fresh copy of Windows XP (or Vista for that matter)?

Well luckily enough, most modern computers come equipped with a BIOS that supports the Boot from USB feature. This means you can install Windows XP/Vista, directly from a USB thumb drive.

This method should work for any computer. I performed my install on a desktop, but the method will work with any netbook, laptop or desktop that supports the boot from USB feature.

Note: The install procedure is the same for Vista but you will need to be logged in as Administrator.

To install Windows from a USB thumb drive you will need:

  • 1 x USB Flash/Thumb drive, any size, I used an 8GB Data Traveler
  • 1 x copy of Windows XP (or Vista)
  • 1 x working PC to copy files and format your thumb drive (BIOS must support Boot from USB)
  • USB_Multiboot_10 Utility Software – download the utility at the link –

Prepare Your USB Thumb Drive For Windows XP Install

  • Download the USB_Multiboot_10 utility. Unpack the files and store the folder on your C drive.
  • Run the USB_multiboot_10 utility – Open the folder and click on the USB_Multiboot_10.cmd file.
  • usb-multiboot-10

  • Format options will appear – Select ‘ H – HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool V2.0.6. – NTFS Format – use X_CONTENT ‘ from the list.
  • Select NTFS and format your USB stick.
  • Once completed you will be taken back to the USB_multiboot_10.cmd screen. Next select option ‘ 1 ‘ and choose the location of your windows install disc.
  • You will see a prompt asking you if you would like an ‘ Unattended Install ‘, you can click ‘ Yes ‘ if you don’t mind your operating system with default labels, otherwise click ‘ No ‘ to choose your own user name, computer name, password, etc.
  • Click through the options, then go back to the USB_Multiboot_10.cmd screen.
  • Select option ‘ 2 ‘ and choose the USB thumb drive you wish to copy the Windows install files to.
  • Select option ‘ 3 ‘ and copy the files. Then the utility will then begin copying the files.
  • Click ‘ Yes ‘ for all options that pop up.
  • Once complete, you will be brought back to the USB_Multiboot_10.cmd screen. Now your USB drive is ready for the Windows install.

Install Windows XP From USB Thumb Drive

  • Plug in your USB thumb drive into the computer that requires the install, DO NOT unplug the USB drive until you have completed ALL of the instructions.
  • You will need to set your computer BIOS to boot from USB – To do this, boot your computer and press ‘ Del ‘ or ‘ F2 ‘ during start-up (before the Windows logo appears). This will take you into the BIOS where you should be able to select the boot priority of your drives. (If your BIOS does not support the boot from USB feature you can try updating it, however some older models do not support this feature).
  • boot-from-usb

  • Once your computer BIOS is set to boot from your USB thumb drive, turn on the computer and select option ‘ 1. Begin TXT Mode Setup Windows XP ‘.
  • Next run through the windows install options as usual. You can format your drive with the NTFS Quick Format option.
  • The next step is where I encountered some slight hitches – The USB_Multiboot_Utility instructions (and many of the source articles I followed to install Windows on my PC) suggest that you should boot twice with the ‘ 1. Begin TXT Mode Setup Windows XP ‘, apparently the install needs to do this to rename the drives appropriately.
  • select-txt-mode-setup

  • However after running through the first set of options in TXT mode, my computer rebooted and automatically continued the install with the ‘ GUI Mode setup Windows XP, Continue Setup + Start XP ‘ option – Although this differed slightly from the original instructions, my install was not affected.
  • But to be on the safe side, if you do get the option to boot the second time in TXT mode, I would probably suggest you do so. When you are taken to the Windows options screen, I ‘assume’ you quit the set up by pressing ‘ F3‘.
  • Edit: Shawn Knight offers a simple explanation as to why a restart may be required:
    “If you are formatting your hard drive and creating a new partition, you will need to turn off the computer immediately after the partition has been formatted (before Windows starts copying files over). Turn the system back on, boot back into TXT mode then direct Windows to leave the current file system intact…

    This is done because the flash drive can’t copy to the new partition unless the computer is restarted and the flash drive is allowed to recognize the new partition. Strange, yes, but that’s just how it works. If you aren’t creating a new partition, then just carry on as usual.”

  • Next you can boot using the ‘ GUI Mode setup Windows XP, Continue Setup + Start XP ‘.
  • Windows will then carry on with the install as usual.
  • Once the setup is complete and Windows is fully loaded, you can finally remove the USB thumb drive from your computer.

Related Posts:


  1. Shawn Knight: How To Install Windows XP From A USB Flash Drive., 05/20/2010.
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  1. Very good Tnx

  2. its working dude…thx a lot… really appeciate!

  3. Following the above directions worked…mostly. I have XP installed on my computer, but the thumb drive must remain in the computer for it to boot up. After changing BIOS settings to require the computer to boot from the internal hard drive, the computer gives an error that it can’t boot from that drive. I have to keep the thumb drive in the computer, and BIOS boot settings must include the thumb drive. What’s going on?

  4. Hi Jon,
    I have run into the same problem as you, how did you solve it?

  5. effettivamente per il mo pc desktop tutto ok ma per quanto riguarda il mio piccolo notebook nulla da fare, e vengo subito a spiegare ho formattato il tutto in quanto windows 7 non è del tutto gradito alla fine della formattazione non viene riconosciuto più il cd rom provo con tutte le maniere nulla fin quando non preparo la pen driver con ubuntu ma quando vado a dare la spunta nel bios per far avanzare o partire usb – fdd mi prende in giro con “NTLDR MANCANTE” riavviare perciò non so più cosa fare ne ho provate di tutte anche quello del cd rom esterno, si accettano tutti i consigli grazie in anticipo – giuseppe

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