How to Make a Bootable USB Key

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If you've ever encountered a catastrophic system failure that left your computer unable to boot, you know the frustration of even beginning to work on a fix. A non-booting computer is probably the worst problem your everyday computer user can encounter, but thankfully it is easier to fix than you might imagine. With the use of a bootable USB key you can boot to a fresh system install and get your computer back in action. In reality, a bootable USB key is nothing more than a regular USB flash drive that has been specially formatted with the correct structure and data to boot independently. Thanks to a free program from Microsoft, you can make your own in less than half an hour.

Things You'll Need

  • Windows Installation CD or Disk Image
  • USB drive (minimum 4 GB)
  • Navigate to the Windows ISO Tool Download link located in the resources section of this article.

  • Download the most recent revision of the ISO tool for your operating system

  • Install the ISO tool to your local hard drive.

  • Open the Start Menu and select the "Windows USB/DVD Download Tool" from the list of installed programs.

  • Click "Browse" next to the "Source File" box, and select your Windows 7 Disc Image, or installation CD.

  • Select "USB Device," then locate the USB drive you will be turning into a bootable USB key from the drop-down menu.

  • Click "Begin Copying" to start the copying process. When the process has completed, your USB drive will be properly set up to boot from.

Tips & Warnings

  • Depending on your computer, you may need to adjust your BIOS boot priority. This can be done by entering the BIOS menu during your system start-up. Instructions vary by manufacture, so check your user manual or the manufacturer's website for more details.

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