How To Use a USB Stick to Install Windows Home Server or anything else for that matter

Continuing the “How To….” guides, this guide looks at using a USB key to install Windows Home Server, either on a machine that doesn’t have a DVD Drive or just because you can use a USB stick.

WHS USB Key

In fact, once you have configured the USB Stick, you could use it to install or run anything – Windows Home Server, the WHS Client Restore disc, Windows 7, anything!

All you need for this is a USB Stick with enough space for whatever you need (in the case of Windows Home Server you could get away with a 1GB stick) and a copy of Windows Home Server (or whatever it is you want to install or run).

There are three stages to the process – preparing the USB stick, copy the files to the USB stick and installing the software from the USB stick.

PREPARING THE USB STICK

Plug in the USB stick to your computer/

You need to open a command prompt, but you will need to be acting as an “administrator” to perform these functions. There are two ways of doing this.

The first is to click Start, click Accessories and hover over Command Prompt.

Starting a command prompt

Press the right mouse button and click Run as administrator.

Running as administrator

The other way is to click Start, type in CMD and hold down CTRL and SHIFT together and press Enter.

When you are at the Command Prompt, type diskpart.

This will start the built in Windows disk partitioning software.

diskpart 1

The next thing you need to do is determine which disk is your USB Stick, so type list disk. In my case I used an 8GB USB Stick so it is showing as Disk 7.

listing disks

You need to specify that disk, so type select disk 7 (or whatever number the USB Stick is for you).

disk selected

You then need to clean the USB Stick, so type clean.

clean disk

You need to create a primary partition so type create partition primary.

create partition primary

You then have to select this partition, and as it is on the only partition on the USB Stick it will be the 1st one, so type select partition 1.

select partition 1

You now need to make that partition active, so type active.

active

Nearly there – so it’s time to format the USB Stick, and for speed and compatibility reasons its best to go with FAT32 rather than NTFS, so type format fs=fat32.

format the drive

Depending on the size of your USB Stick this may take a few minutes, so be patient.

format completed

The last thing you need to do is assign a drive letter to the USB Stick, so type assign.

assign

Autoplay will also probably kick in at this point and tell you Windows has round a removable disk, in my case Drive M.

autoplay new drive

Just type exit to finish and then close the command prompt window.

exit diskpart

COPYING THE FILES TO THE USB STICK

Put the DVD into your computer and then copy the files from the DVD to the USB Stick (in my case it is the M drive).

WHS disk contents

INSTALLING THE SOFTWARE FROM THE USB STICK

So now that you have your USB Stick with the relevant software on, it’s time to plug it into the machine you want to install Windows Home Server (or whatever) on. You will need to tell that computer when it power’s up to boot from the USB drive, so check the manual that came with the computer to see how to do that (it is often ESC, or F12, or something similar), you could also change the boot priority in the BIOS, but they you may need to set it back again afterwards so it is often easier just to select the drive at boot time.

And if all goes well you should now be starting the Windows Home Server installation. Just follow the onscreen steps to continue the installation. Good luck!

  • JohnBick

    Great instructions … EXCEPT that they don't work under Vista/32 Ultimate OR on the WHS Desktop. even in Administrator mode. "List", "Select". etc. are "not recognized as an internal or external command,

    operable program or batch file."

    What version of Windows were you running?

    (FYI, I do see the logic behind the command mode steps so I can probably actually do this. But it would have been nice to do it so simply in a command window.

    • http://usingwindowshomeserver.com Andrew Edney

      John – I used Windows 7 for the walk through, but it certainly works fine under Vista, I use it all the time, and in fact I just created a new USB stick on Vista/32 Business Edition. I am not sure why this is not working for you. What are the exact steps you performed on your Vista machine? Also I dont understand your last comment? Everything is done from the command prompt.

    • John Brown

      John, you need to enter “diskpart” first.

  • Bob Salvador

    John – nothing to do with Windows version, diskpart has been around since Win98. Pretty sure you're getting unrecognized commands because you're not in the

    Disk Partitoner utility.

    Run command prompt as Admin & type "DISKPART"

    before anything else – everything after that will work.

  • Brad

    Thanks Andrew. I've seen a lot of sites with this information but none have it as concise and well laid out. Bookmarked for future use!

  • Tommy

    What if i dont have vista? how can i do this in xp, please answer fast.

    • http://usingwindowshomeserver.com Andrew Edney

      Tommy, you do the exact same thing in XP, it works fine.

  • Tommy

    All my usb sticks are not listed in "list disk" becouse my usb pstick is "take away disk". how can i change this?

    • http://usingwindowshomeserver.com Andrew Edney

      Tommy, I dont understand what you mean by a "take away disk"? If Windows cannot see your USB stick then obviously you cant follow the steps.

  • Stan

    If List Disk doesn't work and doesn't show your USB stick you can try List Volume, then Select Volume 2 or whatever number your volume is.

  • Aaron

    Now to make this even easier in the future. Go download nLite and slipstream your windows key into whs and select unattended install and go watch some tv.

    • John

      If you try nLite you would have the same problem… Booting from a CD. We are talking about an USB Solution

  • AHitler

    This doesn't work in Windows XP. Windows XP cannot see USB disks as drives in DISKPART.

  • Sam

    it works not in XP. I have do it in VirtualBox with Vista

  • dejdejos

    Can someone say that i am possible to boot from USB?

    My motherboard is a asus cusl2-m: http://support.asus.com/download/download_item.as

  • Black

    Thanks! Great instructions ;-)

    Best regards!

  • peter

    Do you know if it is possible to install Windows Server 2003 ON an usb stick?

    I am running several Ubuntu server on HP Thinclients (1Ghz CPU, 1GB RAM, 16GB-usb sticks) without any problems for years…

    • Andrew Edney

      Peter

      You should be able to install Win 2003 from a memory stick, but I cant say I have tried to install it to a memory stick, but I assume you meant from?

      Andrew

  • peter

    First thanks for your quick answer.

    And: no, I meant installing Win Server 2003 ON a USB stick.

    As far as I have googled there had been guys succesfully installing it on a USB stick, but got blue screens after the first system restart.

    Do u have any more hints?

    • Andrew Edney

      No, sorry, never tried it, never really needed to either.

      Let me know how you get on though.

      Andrew

  • Andy

    Well, XP (SP3, SP2, others?) does have DISKPART, but it's version of DISKPART will not list USB memory sticks, and DISKPART under XP does not have a FORMAT command.

  • Grumpy

    try this site for an all-in-one solution…

    http://wintoflash.com/home/en/

    If it works for you, let the world know!

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  • Justin

    Will just copying an ISO image of WHS to the flash drive work for this purpose? If I set my bios to boot from USB (mine only has the USB FDD, USB ZIP, and USB HDD options), with that ISO on the drive will this work?

    • Andrew Edney

      Justin

      No – you need to copy the files from the ISO to the drive for it to work.

      Andrew

  • http://www.timnormanphoto.com Tim

    This worked like a charm for me. I'd tried a few other sites how to in doing this but totally forgot about having to run as administrator and they never mentioned it. You reminder worked like a charm. Thanks!

  • RIchard

    Mmm, when I try this my computer says cannot book from this disk (when trying to boot from the USB).

    No boot partition on the USB I guess. The USB drive does show as USB-HDD (and not ZIP)

    Any ideas? How to get a boot parition on.

  • Jon

    Bravo Andrew, many thanks for a job well done.

    Jon

    • http://usingwindowshomeserver.com Andrew Edney

      thanks Jon

  • Rafael

    You're telling me you can install things from a USB stick WITHOUT using Bootsec?

    • Andrew Edney

      If you follow the steps above you can install Windows – yes.

      Andrew

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  • Paul

    I tried following the described steps, but still ran into a problem.

    I did the following on a Vista 64 system. Find my USB stick.

    diskpart

    list disk

    My USB stick was disk #1.

    select disk 1

    clean

    create partition primary

    At this point I got the following error message. "There is insufficient free space to create a partition at the specified size and offset. Specify different size and offset or don't specify either to create the maximum sized partition."

    However, after doing the following commands.

    select vol 1

    clean

    create partition primary

    It succeeded in creating the partition and then I was able to format it. So it appears that the order of the commands should be (assuming that your USB stick is disk #1).

    select disk 1

    clean

    select vol 1

    create partition primary

    select partition 1

    active

    format fs=fat32

    assign

    exit

    Disclaimer: I didn't go back and try this from scratch, but it's an approximate recounting of what I did.

    • Andrew Edney

      Paul

      I have followed my own steps countless times and never had a problem or needed to select a volume.

      In your steps you listed above (the last batch) how can you select vol 1 (3rd line) because at that point you shouldnt actually have a volume!

      Does your pen drive have any U3 software or partitions on it? Basically something that makes the drive have multiple volumes even after the clean?

      Andrew

      • Paul

        Sorry, really late reply.

        It’s a SanDisk 4GB Stick, not U3. I made sure not to get a U3 stick to do this with.

        It’s been so long I don’t recall the exact sequence of things that I did to this stick. I may have tried to format it in WinXP prior to finding this article.

        Just figured I’d put this out here in case anybody else ran into the same issue.

    • Francois

      Thanks Paul,

      Your solution save me.

    • Henrik

      Thanks Paul, I’ve been looking everywhere to solve the same problem.

      Please should be a little careful with simply typing select vol 1 though… make sure you do a “list vol” first to help you make sure you select the correct volume.

      • Paul

        You are correct. Though I did say it was an approximate recollection of what I did.

        I most likely did a “list” to verify what was there before doing the create and format.

        I’m not sure why I had to do the “select vol”. All I know is the listed commands in the original article weren’t working for me, so I started trying things and happened upon that sequence that worked.

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  • Rex

    I've tried this on two laptops and I get the same blue screen. I've tried NTFS and FAT32 formatting. Both laptops have boot from USB Storage Device but I still get the blue screen. I've copied the files including folders from the WHS Restore cd to include "Bootmgr and Autorun.inf". I can see the laptop reading from the usb drive (usb light activity) then the Microsoft Corporation GUI Progress bar comes up indicating that it's not booting from usb but has moved to the HD to boot, then the blue screen. The blue screen is " A problem has been detected and windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer". Any ideas?

    • Andrew Edney

      Rex

      Can you post your question in our forums please so that others have a chance to respond?

      thanks

      Andrew

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  • http://ctincorporated.com David Wilson

    OK, first great article. Thank you.

    Second, where in the world did you get the cool looking Windows Home Server USB Stick?

    • http://usingwindowshomeserver.com Andrew Edney

      thanks David

      The stick was a gift from the Windows Home Server team at Microsoft last year :-)

      • http://ctincorporated.com David Wilson

        Priceless!

        • http://usingwindowshomeserver.com Andrew Edney

          I wish I had some more of them, believe me!

  • Dan

    It seems that Windows XP makes this process very difficult. If I type list disk, it only shows disk 0. In order to see my USB drive, I have to type list volume. It shows my USB drive as volume 7, but I am unable to perform any of the commands on a volume, only a disk. Since it won't show my USB drive as a disk, you can't make it bootable. Any suggestions?

  • jack

    Hi DAN i face the same problem .did u get any solution.please email me on jack_rosan@yahoo.com..

    regards

    jack

  • deepanjan

    hi,

    can anybody help me. i'm using sandisk cruzer blade 4gb for win7 installation.using win vista ulltimate.when im giving the command "create partition primary" it giving an error – "There is insufficient free space to create a partition at the specified size and offset.

    Specify different size and offset values or don't specify either to create the

    maximum sized partition."

    i have followed all the steps correctly and i also did installed my win vista in this manner but that time i had sandisk u3.how can i overcome this error?

    thank u.

    • http://usingwindowshomeserver.com Andrew Edney

      Hi

      Sorry, Im not sure what to suggest – the only time I have had similar problems was with a drive that I couldnt change the partition on – so I just used a different drive.

      Andrew

    • J3ANP3T3R

      Andrew wasn’t expecting all possibilities. he neglected to inform you that some of the steps he made can be skipped. the reason why you are getting the “There is insufficient free space” error message was because your USB disk already has a Primary partition and that primary partition was your entire USB disk capacity ( you can type LIST PARTITION to verify this and it will show you the partition with its size) . which means you can no longer add a new partition and that you can just skip “Create partition primary” step and proceed with “format fs=fat32″ step and continue from there.

  • Frank L

    Thank you very much for this tutorial. I used it successfully to copy my ISO image of Windows 7 Professional. For some reason, the Microsoft ISO to USB tool would not work.

    • http://usingwindowshomeserver.com Andrew Edney

      glad I could help :-)

  • Mark

    I’ve just downloaded the demo ISO of WHS from Microsoft, has anybody tried using Linux Multiboot and the ISO directly to install WHS?

    • http://usingwindowshomeserver.com Andrew Edney

      I cant say I have heard of anyone trying that – why not ask the question in our forums?

      Andrew

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  • ImTheTypeOfGuy

    I have a 16 GB drive and would like to put multiple partitions on it. Plan would be for a partition for WHS 2011, one for Server 2008 R2, one for W7 Ultimate, and then one for regular files. Is it possible to do that and then I would choose the partition I want to install. If yes, what would the steps be to create four partitions?

    • http://usingwindowshomeserver.com Andrew Edney

      Great idea, I just have no idea if that would even be possible – sorry!

    • obi

      Must be possible… i saw a stick with 30 different boot-CDs on it and a startup-menu to choose what disk to boot.
      Whan i have to make a guess it should be possible to do something like that using a bootmanager like GRUB…

  • Bullfrog

    Depending in the size of the USB flash drive it may also be advisable to perform a quick format, rather than a full format, by typing “format fs=fat32 quick”. The difference between a full format and a quick format is that a quick format skips the scan for bad disk sectors. As this is irrelevant on a flash drive anyway you lose nothing by running the quick format and save a not inconsiderable amount of time in so doing.

    • Bullfrog

      Sorry, I meant to prepend that with “Thanks, that’s a good walkthrough” :-)

      • http://usingwindowshomeserver.com Andrew Edney

        thanks Bullfrog – thats a really useful addition to the article and I will use that myself from now on.

  • MO

    Thanks Bullfrog and Andrew. Worked great for me. I tried format like Andrew said and after 1 hour was only 25% complete. Quick format worked in 30 seconds!

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  • Tony Greer

    Forget the total noob question but when installing WHS2011 on a HP Proliant do I connect the server to my PC or to a standalone monitor?

    • http://usingwindowshomeserver.com Andrew Edney

      the server will be connected to a monitor, mouse and keyboard to perform the installation

      • Tony Greer

        Thanks for that Andrew.

  • Joe Dancsi

    Nice guide. Helped me to install WHS 2011 to HP Proliant Microserver. Thank You very much.

  • http://twitter.com/titlerequired Robert Pearman

    Dont forget to use an Answer File!

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  • misterwho

    hi buddy i tried to boot windows xp sp3 but i cant boot from the usb need help