How To's & GuidesHow To Use a USB Stick to Install Windows...

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


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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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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!

Andrew Edney
Andrew Edney
I am the owner and editor of this site. I have been interested in gadgets and tech since I was a little kid. I have also written a number of books on various tech subjects. I also blog for The Huffington Post and for FHM. And I am honoured to be a Microsoft MVP since January 2008 - again this year as an Xbox MVP.


  1. 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.

    • 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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

  7. 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…

    • 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?


  8. 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?

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

      Let me know how you get on though.


  9. 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.

  10. 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?

    • Justin

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


  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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.


    list disk

    My USB stick was disk #1.

    select disk 1


    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


    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


    select vol 1

    create partition primary

    select partition 1


    format fs=fat32



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

    • 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?


      • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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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  15. 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?

    • Rex

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



  16. 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?

  17. 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 can i overcome this error?

    thank u.

    • 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 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.

  18. 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.

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

  20. 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?

    • 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…

  21. 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.

  22. 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!

  23. 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?

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

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