Trust Kroll Ontrack to recover your data

Get Windows 8 Installation Files onto a Flash Drive

The Steps to Get Windows 8 on a Flash Drive

SanDisk 16GB Cruzer Blade USB Flash DriveThe need to install Windows 8 from a USB device, like a flash drive, is a common one due to the fact that many computers, especially tablets and smaller laptops, no longer have optical drives.

A Windows 8 install disc will not do you much good if you don't have anywhere to put the DVD!

If you wish to install Windows 8 from a USB device, you'll need to get those setup files onto a USB device. Unfortunately, simply copying them there from the DVD will not do.

Windows 8 is also sold as a downloadable ISO file which, if you choose to buy Windows 8 that way, requires some steps to get it properly copied to a flash drive as well.

Getting the Windows 8 installation files onto a flash drive or other external USB device will take up to half an hour depending on what format your copy of Windows 8 is in right now and how fast your computer is.

The Basic Requirements:

  • A flash drive (4 GB or more)
  • A Windows 8 DVD or Windows 8 ISO file
  • Access to a working computer, with a DVD drive if you have a Windows 8 DVD, with Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP installed.

Create an ISO file from the Windows 8 DVD

This is the procedure by which you create a single file, called an ISO image, that contains all the data stored on the Windows 8 setup DVD disc.

Note: If you already know how to create ISO files with your favourite program, often called "ripping," then do so in whatever way you're used to doing it. I used Nero Burning Software to prepare the ISO from the Windows DVD.

Put the ISO file onto your Flash Drive

Download the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool from Microsoft and then install it.

Windows 7 USB DVD tool

This free program from Microsoft properly formats your flash drive and then copies the contents of the Windows 8 installation ISO file you now have to that flash drive.

Note: Don't worry that this program has Windows 7 in the title. This program works perfectly well with Windows 8 ISO files and can be installed in Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP.

Start the Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool program. You should be able to find the shortcut on the Desktop, as well as in your Start menu or on your Start screen, depending on which version of Windows you installed the program on.

Click Browse on the Step 1 of 4: Choose ISO file screen.

Locate, and then select, your Windows 8 ISO file. Then click or touch Open.

Note: If you downloaded Windows 8 from Microsoft, check your Downloads folder or your Desktop for the ISO image. If you created an ISO image from your Windows 8 DVD, the ISO file will be wherever you created it to.

Click or touch Next.

Choose USB device on the Step 2 of 4: Choose media type screen.

Note: As you can see here, there is also a DVD option. While it doesn't do us much good in this case, since the end game is to get Windows 8's setup files on a flash drive, you could also use this tool to burn a Windows 8 ISO image to a DVD.

On the Step 3 of 4: Insert USB device screen, choose from the drop-down box the flash drive or USB-connected external hard drive you want to put the Windows 8 setup files onto and then touch or click Begin copying.

Tip: If you haven't yet plugged in the USB storage device you're planning on using, you can do that now and then touch or click the blue refresh button to make it show up in the list.

Click or touch Erase USB Device if you're prompted to do so on a Not Enough Free Space window.

If you don't see this, don't worry, it just means that your flash drive or external hard disk is already empty.

Note: If this message didn't make it apparent, you should know that whatever data you might have on this flash drive is going to be erased as part of the process of getting the Windows 8 setup files copied.

On Step 4 of 4: Creating bootable USB device, just wait for the Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool to prepare the drive and copy the Windows 8 installation files to it.

The first Status you see will be Formatting, which will take anywhere from a few to several seconds, depending on how large the USB drive is that you're using. Next will be Copying files which could take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, possibly longer, depending on which Windows 8 ISO file you're working from, as well as on how fast your flash drive, and computer are.

Assuming everything went as planned, the next screen should say Bootable USB device created successfully with a Status that says Backup completed.

You can now close the Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool program window. The flash drive, or other external USB drive you're using, now has the necessary files on it to install Windows 8 and is also properly configured to be booted from.

Boot from the USB device that you just created to start the Windows 8 install process.

Note: If the Windows 8 setup process doesn't start, it's very likely that you'll need to make boot order changes in the BIOS. See this article - Changing the BIOS Boot Order if you need help doing that.

If you have a UEFI based system and you still can't boot Windows 8 Setup from the flash drive, even after setting the USB device first in the boot order, you may need to reformat the flash drive. This is because the Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool formats the USB drive as NTFS, a file system that many UEFI based computers will not boot from when on a USB drive. To work around this issue, you'll need to copy the data off the flash drive, reformat the flash drive using the older FAT32 file system, and then copy the data back onto it.

Read more articles about PC repairs, Web design & SEO