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How do I create a bootable flash drive for installing Windows 8.x or 7?

If you have a Windows 8.x or 7 installation disk but do not have an optical (CD/DVD) drive on your computer, you can create a flash drive to use in the installation instead. To do so, your flash drive must have at least 4 GB of space, and you'll need the valid product key that came with your Windows 8.x or 7 software. You can create a bootable flash drive on either a Windows or Mac OS X computer.

Warning: The process in the steps below will delete any data currently on the flash drive. Before continuing, be sure to back up your flash drive's data by copying it to another flash drive, your computer, or an external hard drive.

As part of the process, you'll need to obtain a Windows 8.x or 7 .iso file, which gathers all the individual Windows files into one. You cannot simply copy this file to a USB drive, but must use special software to write it properly.

Acquiring a Windows 8.x .iso file and creating a Windows flash drive installer on a Windows computer

Note: You need to have purchased Windows 8.x on disc or have received a product key to obtain the .iso file. Also, you'll need to complete these steps on a Windows computer with administrator privileges.

  1. Visit Microsoft's Upgrade Windows with only a product key.
  2. Click either Install Windows 8.1. or Install Windows 8.
  3. You will be prompted to download a program. Do so, and then run the program.
  4. Enter your product key in the appropriate field and click Next.
  5. After your product key is verified, you will see the version of Windows for which you entered the product key. Click Next.
  6. After the download completes and is verified, click Install by creating media, and then click Next.
  7. If you have an available flash drive, click USB flash drive and click Next. If you would rather obtain the .iso file and let Boot Camp create the flash drive, click ISO file and then Save.
  8. Choose the flash drive you wish to use and click Next.
  9. You will be warned that the flash drive will be formatted; choose Yes. Wait while Windows creates the bootable flash drive; this will take a few minutes.
  10. Verify that the information is correct on the next screen, and then choose Finish.

Creating a Windows 7 flash drive installer on a Windows computer

You can no longer download legal .iso files for Windows 7 Ultimate. If you need a Windows 7 Ultimate .iso file, UITS can provide one to you at the IUB or IUPUI walk-in locations. Bring a blank flash drive with at least 4 GB of storage.

  1. From the Microsoft Store, download and install the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool.
  2. From the Start menu, open the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool Setup Wizard.
  3. When prompted, browse to your .iso file, select it, and click Next.
  4. When asked to select the media type for your backup, make sure your flash drive is plugged in, and then choose USB device.
  5. You'll likely be prompted to insert the USB device even if the flash drive is already inserted. Ignore this, and simply choose the USB device you'll be writing to.
  6. Click Begin Copying. If prompted, confirm that you wish to erase the flash disk.
  7. The .iso files will start copying to the flash drive (the process can take several minutes). When finished, close the wizard and eject and remove the flash drive.

Creating a Windows flash drive installer on an OS X computer

Note: In Mac OS X, the option to create a Windows 8.x or 7 flash drive will only appear if the computer you're using does not have an optical drive. On Macs with optical drives, the option will be either missing or grayed out.

  1. From the Finder, open the Applications folder, and then Utilities.
  2. Open the Boot Camp Assistant, and then click Continue. The next screen should give you a list of options.
  3. UITS recommends making the USB drive installer first. You don't need to install Windows or download the support software at this time, as it will be easier to do both later. To proceed:
    1. Verify that the USB drive you will be writing to is plugged in.
    2. Uncheck the Install Windows 7 or later version and Download the latest Windows support software from Apple options.
    3. Check Create a Windows 7 or later install disk and click Continue.
  4. Your USB drive should be listed in the "Destination disk" area. Use the choose button to browse to your .iso file; after selecting it, click Continue.
  5. If prompted, confirm your action and/or provide an administrator's password. The process of writing the .iso file to the USB drive can take 20 minutes or longer.

This is document bciz in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2015-03-23.

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