Els's blog

Friday, July 07, 2006

Booting from USB Stick

Most computers don’t have floppy drives anymore these days. But every now and then, I bet you still wish you had one!

A USB stick is a great and far better alternative, but you can’t boot from your stick. And in some cases that is exactly what you need.

After some searching and testing, I now have a bootable USB Stick. I use it to boot into Windows PE and from there you can start a complete OS install, troubleshoot a system, install additional drivers, …

First thing you need: a number of freeware tools.

Step 1: Format a floppy as DOS boot disk

Don’t worry; you don’t need a real physical floppy drive. Instead we will create a virtual floppy using ‘Virtual Floppy Driver’.

Install the Virtual Floppy Driver:

c:\VirtualFlop\vfd.exe install

c:\VirtualFlop\vfd.exe start

c:\VirtualFlop\vfd.exe link a /L

c:\VirtualFlop\vfd.exe open c:\flop.img

When the system asks you to create the file, say yes.

If you check Windows Explorer now, you should see the A: drive. Rightclick drive A: and choose format. Format the floppy as a DOS startup disk.

Step 2: Format your USB stick as a bootable device

Install the HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool. Then run the tool with the following options:

Device: USB Device

File system: FAT 16

Deselect Quick format

Select Create a DOS startup disk using DOS system files located at A: (virtual floppy drive)

Step 3: Copy Windows boot files to the memory stick

This depends on the version of Windows that you would like to boot in of course.

For XP, Windows 2003 and Windows 2000, you need the following boot files:

  • Ntldr
  • Ntdetect.com
  • Boot.ini

For Vista, you need the following files:

  • Bcd
  • Bootfix.bin
  • Bootmgr

Then copy Bootpart to your memory stick and the Windows PE image that you want to boot into.

Step 4: Set your BIOS to boot from USB

Make sure your USB stick is plugged in, restart your computer and enter the BIOS. There move USB device to the top of the boot order list.

On most Dell systems you can simply press F12 during the Dell screen and the list of available boot devices will show up. Select your USB device and press enter.

At this moment you are booting from your USB stick, but since you made a DOS boot stick, you boot in DOS.

To boot in Vista or XP or Windows 2003: at the DOS prompt, go to the bootpart directory and type the following:

C:\Bootpart\bootpart <part_type> boot:c:

where <part_type> is DOS622 – Win95 – Winnt – Vista. This will rewrite the bootsector on the C: drive to boot under the OS that you need.

Reboot your machine, boot from the USB stick again and the Windows boot process will start.

By the way, I am blogging in Word 2007 here. Pretty cool, isn’t it?

Just open a new document, choose new blog entry. Then select your blog provider from the list. You will be asked for your blog credentials and when you are ready you can just publish your blog!


I’ll do that now.


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    By Blogger David, at 9:15 AM  

  • Thanks David!

    In Vista, it is even easier to make a USB stick bootable. You won't have to use this long procedure anymore.

    Just insert the usb stick and use Diskpart (on a Vista machine!) to create a primary partition and format the stick.
    Then mark your partition as active.

    Now put on some boot files and you are ready!

    By Blogger Els, at 9:38 AM  

  • Can someone please explain in more
    detail what the following means

    Then copy Bootpart to your memory stick and the Windows PE image that you want to boot into.

    What does the "Windows PE image that
    you want to boot into" mean? Is that the program I want to run or is this some sort of additional software I need to put on the stick before I can execute an application.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:38 AM  

  • Wouldn't it be a bad thing to rewrite the boot sector for C:\? How would we undo that?

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:01 PM  

  • i have old sony laptop and dosen;t have cd and floppy drive and i don't want to buy extrernal one. well i do have usb 4 GB drive and USB 120 GB drive. so now i need to format that sony laptop and reinstall winxp which i have in my USB harddrive.so who can i install win xp in my laptop ? can you please help me.

    By Anonymous donibrp, at 7:16 AM  

  • I can't ever get diskpart to work on USB drives. I always get "DiskPart cannot delete volumes on removable media."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:19 PM  

  • For google:

    "DiskPart cannot delete volumes on removable media."

    Use the "clean" command in diskpart. Afterwards create the partition.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:32 AM  

  • Thanks these instructions worked for me, I wanted to create a bootable Vista CD from XP! so I had to download BootSect.exe (can't remember where I got it from) and then I ran "BootSect.exe /nt60 g:" (G: was the USB drive).

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