Installing Windows off USB

I sure wish I’d seen Wintoflash a few weeks ago.

It’s simple. Insert a Windows CD or DVD (anything from XP to Windows 7). Plug in a blank USB flash drive (or one you don’t mind erasing). Answer a couple of questions, and after a few minutes, you have a bootable USB stick that installs Windows. It will be much faster than CD or DVD because flash media has much faster seek times.

So what could be better? Well, slipstreamed and customized Windows of course.First, go get ctupdate and run it to get all the current hotfixes and service packs for whatever version of Windows you use.

Next, use Nlite to easily slipstream in all those service packs and hotfixes. While you’re at it, you can remove whatever non-optional inessentials you want. All the games, Media Player, Movie Maker, Outlook Express, and stuff like that are fair game. If you feel brave, you can even (horrors!) remove Internet Explorer.

Rebuilding a PC used to take most of a weekend to do, but with an up-to-date installation on a USB stick, I think the task could take an afternoon, as long as the target computer is new enough to support booting off USB.

And to a tinkerer, it could be very nice. Speeding up installation and modification would allow a tinkerer to be more aggressive with Nlite in terms of changes. Make a fatal change, and it’s no big deal–just back out of the change and reinstall, and in about 15 minutes you’re up and running with a new configuration.

One thought on “Installing Windows off USB”

  1. This works, but running Nlite against a USB flash installation of Windows caused me trouble. Your mileage may vary. It worked better for me to copy the XP disc to the computer (the i386 directories and the other individual files in the root), then run Nlite on them. I didn’t burn the CD; when Nlite finished, I just pointed WintoUSB at the modified installation files.

    The initial text-based portion of the install was slow for some reason, but the GUI portion was fast.

    I built up the computer I’m typing this on from a freshly formatted OCZ Vertex in a couple of hours, installing all the software from a USB flash drive. It might take a little longer with a conventional hard drive.

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