Bootable USB stick with Windows 7 Installation Files

A few months ago, I received the nice HP Mini 2140 netbook. It’s a pretty neat machine that has proven to be very useful, particularly on vacation.

I installed Windows 7 RC on it, from a USB DVD-drive and I’m very happy with it. However, a few days ago, the machine refused to boot. The culprit was Acronis True Image. That backup package contains a Startup Recovery Manager that is supposed to “Boot your computer after a failure to start the recovery process simply by selecting the F11 key, even if your operating system has failed.”¬†Unfortunately, after activating that, my system become unbootable, i.e. just the opposite of what it was supposed to do. The boot sector was corrupt (*).

I eventually got it all working again by using the System Recovery Options on the Windows 7 Install disk. But I wondered “What should I have done when I had been on vacation, without access to a USB DVD-drive?”. I wanted to have the Windows Installation files on a USB stick, that I would be able to boot from in case of disaster.

There are a lot of guides on the net that describe how to make a USB stick bootable but none of them seemed easy and straightforward. Eventually I found WinToFlash, a tool  to transfer your Windows XP, Windows 2003, Windows Vista or Windows 7 setup from CD or DVD to flash memory in just a few mouse clicks.

The tool worked fine, except that after using it on a 4GB USB stick, my netbook still refused to boot from it. All the needed files were on the stick, including the bootmgr file, but somehow the stick still wasn’t bootable. I had to use the bootsect program from the Windows 7 Installation disk to make it bootable. Assuming D: is the DVD with the Installation disk and E: the USB-stick, use the following commands.

With that, my USB stick now is bootable with the installation files and recovery options for Windows 7.

Thanks to where I found a reference to WinToFlash.

(*) Note: I know that Acronis True Image is not (yet) supporting Windows 7, so I guess I can’t blame Acronis, but still it was highly ennoying.