Why Do I Want a Bootable USB Drive?
A bootable USB drive offers the user the ability to install on a USB stick a program that can run. This is analogous to installing it on your computer harddrive, except that you can eject the USB stick and there is hardly a trace of the program existing on your computer.
This is useful for an operating system. Realistically you don’t have an operating system installed on your computer. When you want to install an operating system, one typically has a freshly re-formatted hard drive waiting for the operating system.
This is also useful for programs that you want to run before an operating system boots up. This is helpful for diagnostics tools like Memtest86, or virus scanners because when the operating system is running on a computer, some of the memory or hard disc space can become locked.
Kind of why there is a safe mode for running your operating system, none of the advanced drivers or tools are loaded.
note: another method for creating a Bootable USB drive using Windows 7 USB Download Tool can be found here.
Creating a Bootable USB Drive
Part I: Preparing the USB Drive for Formatting
- Insert your USB drive into your computer
- Open My Computer (Window+E keys)
- Right click on USB drive -> select Properties
- Observe the total capacity of your USB drive
I would advise to eject all other USB drives in your computer to make sure there are no mixups. The next procedure will completely format your USB Drive and all information/data on the drive will be lost.
Now would be a good time to cut/paste any data on the USB drive to a secure location (not on the USB drive).
Part II: Formatting the USB Drive to be Bootable
- Run Command Prompt as Administrator (Start Menu -> Programs -> Windows System -> right click on Command Prompt -> select Run as Administrator)
- type diskpart
- type list disk
- cross reference which Disk # correlates to your USB Drive. This should be identified by the disk Size, which was collected in Part I.
- type select disk # <- where # correlates to your identified USB Drive
- type clean
- type create partition primary
- type select partition 1
- type active
- type format fs=fat32 (this will take +5 minutes and will show progress)
- type assign (gives the new USB drive a letter)
- to exit type exit
So now the USB Drive has been formatted. The steps are fairly self explanatory, but if you’re looking for more information on each step, simply type help __ <- where the blank is, you type the command you’re looking to learn more about.
Part III: Adding Your Program to the USB Drive
This is the easy part, but you must make sure you’re adding the right files. A bootable folder structure typically has a folder called Boot inside it. Often times the program you’re trying to turn into a bootable USB drive will come as a *.iso file. This is an image file. ISO Image. The program I was looking to make bootable was Memtest86, the *.iso file can be found here. But an operating system can also typically be downloaded as an ISO file, and there are also other programs out there that can take your DVD/CD with a program on it, and make an ISO file from it.
These ISO files can be ‘mounted’ by various programs, but my favorite is one called Daemon Tools. There is a light version available here. With Daemon Tools you create virtual drives, which is analogous to a virtual CD/DVD drive. When you ‘mount’ the image onto the drive, you’re basically doing the equivalent of inserting a CD.
Once you’ve got your program mounted (program = ISO file), it’ll then show up as a drive on your computer you can view/explore. You’re job now is to copy all the files inside the program that has just been mounted, and pasting these files onto the new USB Drive that you just created in Part II.
Once this is done it’s time to reboot your computer and boot the program!
Typically you press one of: Esc, F8, F12 or Delete as your computer is restarting to tell your boot you want to see the boot menu so that you can select the USB drive you just created to boot.
Hope this helps!
- WikiHow | How to Make a USB Bootable