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Install Windows 8 From a USB Drive, Dual-boot with XP, Vista and 7

Back when the Windows 8 Consumer Preview hit the Web, we offered a basic guide on configuring a virtual machine. With Windows 8’s Release Preview available and the final version inching toward completion, we figure it’s a great time to offer a similarly easy step-by-step walkthrough on installing Windows 8 with a USB drive.

If you’re familiar with the process, there isn’t much for you to see here, but this should serve as a quick confidence booster for anyone who hasn’t installed an operating system recently.

Step One

Download Windows 8 and the Windows 7 USB/DVD tool

If you’re not sure what version of Windows 8 to download, we’d recommend the 64-bit build, especially if your system is relatively modern. You can read more about the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems here and the download page linked above provides system requirements for each architecture. The short of it: Windows 8 64-bit requires an extra 1GB of RAM and 4GB of storage — negligible for most users. Also, before you ask, the Windows 7 USB/DVD tool will work fine with Windows 8.

Step Two

Create a bootable Windows 8 USB drive

Naturally, to create a bootable USB drive, you’ll have to insert one and it needs to be 4GB or larger. Install the Windows 7 USB/DVD tool. Once the utility opens, you should be able to browse for and select the Windows 8 ISO you downloaded as well as the USB drive you inserted. It’s worth noting that your USB drive will be wiped, so save anything important. The process takes about five minutes depending on the speed of your drive. You’ll see a message that reads “backup completed” when it’s done.

Step Three

Install the Windows 8 Release Preview (key: TK8TP-9JN6P-7X7WW-RFFTV-B7QPF)

Needless to say, back up anything important before proceeding. If you plan to upgrade or overwrite your installation of Windows XP, Vista or 7, open the root directory of your USB drive in Windows Explorer and launch Setup.exe to begin. You’ll get to choose between the two. Windows 7 users should have a painless upgrade as programs, Windows settings as well as user accounts and files are imported. However, Windows 8 won’t save programs from Vista and it won’t save programs or Windows settings from XP.

If you want to dual boot Windows 8 with your existing operating system, you’ll have to install a second storage device or create a new partition. The former is relatively self-explanatory, just attach the drive and choose it during the installation process. The latter, however, requires a little more effort. Vista and 7 users can create a new partition with Windows’ Disk Management application (Start > search for Disk Management). Once the application loads, you should see your operating system’s drive. Follow these steps:

  • Right click the drive that you want to house Windows 8 and choose “Shrink Volume” (Windows 8 64-bit requires at least 20GB, so shrink your current partition accordingly)
  • Right click the new “Unallocated” space and create a “New Simple Volume”
  • Choose the next available drive letter and quick format the partition with NTFS (you can name the volume anything, but we’d suggest something like Windows 8 RP x64)

Windows XP users will have make partition adjustments with a third-party tool such as Partition Logic, but you’ll do the same thing: shrink one volume to create another. It should be smooth sailing from here as Microsoft’s installation process guides you through everything. Just boot off your Windows 8 USB drive, choose a custom installation and select your newly created partition. If you’re having trouble launching the USB drive, you probably just have to put it ahead of your system drive in the BIOS (look for boot options).

If you want to get rid of Windows 8, load your primary OS and launch partition software (again, Disk Management for Vista or 7 users). Delete the Windows 8 volume and extend your remaining partition into the freshly unallocated space. Removing Windows 8 could screw up your bootloader and prevent your original OS from starting properly. Don’t panic, this is a simple fix. Windows Vista and 7 users can use the automatic Startup Repair, while Windows XP users will have to get their hands a little dirtier.

 

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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Tips

 

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How to create a bootable Windows 7 USB flash drive

The USB flash drive has replaced the floppy disk drive as the best storage medium for transferring files, but it also has its uses as a replacement for CDs and DVDs. USB drives tend to be higher in capacity than disc media, but since they are more expensive, they cannot (yet) really be used as a replacement. There are reasons why you would, however, choose a USB device over a DVD disc, and bootable software is definitely one of them. Not only is it faster to copy data such as setup files from a USB drive, but during usage the access times are also significantly faster. Therefore, installing something like Windows 7 will work that much faster from a USB drive than from a DVD (and of course, is particularly useful for the PCs without an optical drive; this isn’t something we should just leave for the pirates to enjoy).

This guide will show you two different ways to create a USB flash drive that works just like a Windows 7 DVD. In order to follow this guide, you’ll need a USB flash drive with at least 4GB of free space and a copy of the Windows 7 installation disc.

Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool

You are normally given this tool when you purchase from the online Microsoft Store.windows_7_usb_1.png

The easiest way to turn a USB flash drive into a bootable Windows 7 installer is by using the tool Microsoft offers, cunningly named the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool. To get started, download the installer [exe] from Microsoft.com and follow the basic steps to put it onto your computer; you can put it on the computer you plan to install Windows 7 on or another one, it doesn’t matter.

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Once it is installed, it should create an icon on your desktop, so double-click that to open. If you can’t find it, use the search function in the Start Menu with a keyword like “USB.” Launching it should give you the above screen, and step one is to find the Windows 7 .ISO file. The tool only accepts .ISO images, so we recommend that you convert yours if it’s in a different DVD image format.

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Step two is straightforward: simply choose USB device.

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In step three, all you have to do is make sure that you are choosing the correct USB device. If you have other data on the device, move it to your hard drive, another USB device, or somewhere else before proceeding.

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The tool will prompt you if it detects data on the device. Once your data is backed up elsewhere, click Erase USB Device.

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You will get another prompt warning you that all the data will be wiped. Click Yes to continue.

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The format will be very quick, while the copying of the files will take a little bit more time (about 10 to 15 minutes).

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Once the process is complete, you should get the above confirmation message. At this point you can close the tool and use the USB drive to install Windows 7. Remember that you’ll have to choose to boot off the USB drive. Before doing so, you may want to open up the USB drive and double click on setup.exe to see if everything looks okay. If you want to be able to do this manually, see my other post on this.

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2012 in Tips

 

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