Creating your own Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 USB install device

Win8USB256A lot of servers and clients, nowadays, are no longer equipped with an optical drive. While this leaves room for extra drives and allows for smaller form factors, it can be a hurdle when you try and install the Operating Systems of your dreams (in this case: Windows 8) to the device of your dreams.

Tip!
This procedure can be used to create a USB install device for:

  • Windows 8
  • Windows Server 2012

Microsoft offers a tool to convert the *.iso file of a Windows installation disk to a bootable USB drive. The Windows 7 USB/DVD download tool is available for free from the Microsoft Store. In four simple steps, this tools allows you to create a bootable DVD or USB drive from a downloaded *.iso file. No fuzzy ISO tools or command prompt nerding needed. Perfect!

I recommend using this tool to create your bootable Windows 8 USB install device.

Unfortunately, in my case, this tool couldn’t be used to create a bootable USB drive with Windows Server “8” Beta. I received the following error:

We were unable to copy your files. Please check your USB device and the selected ISO file and try again.

Not a big problem, since I have a procedure to make a USB drive bootable. It’s a simple five step procedure, that gives you great control over the final USB Flash Drive you come to rely on for the deployment of Windows Servers and Windows clients:

 

Step 1: Download the ISO

The first step is to get hold of the ISO of your favorite Windows Operating System.

You can download the Windows 8 Consumer Preview in 32bit and 64bit here.
(scroll down for the table with direct links. Scroll down more for localized downloads)

You can download the Windows Server “8” Beta (64bit-only) here.
(scroll down, click on the green Get Started Now button below Download the 64bit ISO)

 

Step 2: Prepare the USB device

To create a USB install device for Windows 8, you will need a USB device with a capacity of at least 4GB. Be sure to pull any files you need later on from the device and then open an elevated command prompt to enter the following commands:

diskpart.exe

DISKPART> list disk

Select the USB device from the list and substitute the disk number below
when necessary

DISKPART> select disk 1
DISKPART>
clean
DISKPART>
create partition primary
DISKPART>
select partition 1
DISKPART>
active
DISKPART>
format fs=fat32 quick
DISKPART>
assign

You should now see your empty USB device pop with a drive letter.

DISKPART> exit

 

VirtualCloneDriveStep 3: Mount the ISO

Windows does not have a built-in capability to mount files with the *.iso file extension. For this purpose I use a free program:
Slysoft VirtualCloneDrive.

Although the performance isn’t great, it’s a simple 1,5 MB tool that doesn’t requite a restart after installation and is not laced with ads. Alternatively, WinRAR can get the job done a lot faster, but then you’ll need to take the filepath where you extracted the ISO into account.

After you’ve installed VirtualCloneDrive, simple right-click on a file with the *.iso extension and select Mount from the context menu. In Windows 7 this option is also available from the ribbon.

 

Step 4: Copy the contents of the ISO

Now that you have the ISO and the USB install device mounted, you’re about to contents of the DVD image to your USB device. Open a command prompt and issue the following command line for that:

xcopy X:\*.* /s/e/f Y:\

where X:\ is your mounted image and Y:\ is your USB device

You should now see the contents of the Windows 8 DVD scroll by. Copying the install.wim file will take longest. Only if it takes more than an hour, worry whether your computer has frozen up.

 

Step 5: Make the USB device bootable

To make sure the USB device is bootable, issue the following command after you’re done copying (Step 4):

X:
cd boot

bootsect /NT60 Y:

where X:\ is your mounted image and Y:\ is your USB device

Now you’re done creating your Windows 8 install device.

Use it to install the Operating System of your dreams to the hardware of your dreams! Winking smile

11 Responses to Creating your own Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 USB install device

  1.  

    format fs=fat32 it will work ?

    i am using fs=ntfs

  2.  

    Yes,

    Actually, the fat32 formatting is preferrable, since I’ve seen problems with ntfs-formatted USB sticks. Also Fat32-formatted USB sticks will install Windows faster.

  3.  

    If you want to use GPT partitions and UEFI then NTFS is out of the question. You have to use FAT32. The problem with this is that it has a file size limit of 2GB and one of the installation files on the Windows 8 DVD is 4.3GB! disk:\sources\install.wim

    Have any suggestions on how to get around this problem? I have a 128GB SSD as my primary and a 2TB SATA as a secondary drive. I absolutely have to use UEFI if I want to use my SSD to it’s fullest capabilities. Plus any other file system is bad for the life of the drive.

  4.  

    Hi Pierre,

    The question raised was which filesystem is preferred for formatting the install media, not the destination disks where you’d install Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012 into: Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 will automatically format their destination disks with NTFS.

    Pierre Loubert said:
    You have to use FAT32. The problem with this is that it has a file size limit of 2GB and one of the installation files on the Windows 8 DVD is 4.3GB! disk:\sources\install.wim

    Fat32 supports files up to (2^32)-1 bytes (this is one byte less than 4 GB).
    Source: 314463 Limitations of the FAT32 File System

    Indeed, the largest file on the Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 install media is install.wim, but this file is less than 3GB in size. (The entire install media is less than 4GB in size.)

    Pierre Loubert said: 
    Have any suggestions on how to get around this problem? I have a 128GB SSD as my primary and a 2TB SATA as a secondary drive. I absolutely have to use UEFI if I want to use my SSD to it’s fullest capabilities. Plus any other file system is bad for the life of the drive.

    What problem, Pierre?

  5.  

    You are incorrect when it comes to Windows 2012 R2 – the WIM file is over 4GB. What do you do then?

    • The install.wim file on my Windows Server 2012 R2 installation media weighs in at 3,578,055 KB. (3,41 GB according to Windows)

       
  6.  

    Unfortunately this method did not work for me as the size of install.wim on my copy of Windows Server 2012 Standard R2 was 4.44 GB (4,769,873,716 bytes)

    Copying the file to USB failed

  7.  

    Mine is 4.4GB.
    Keep in mind that some of us are MSDN members and have therefore access to the “updated” Version with only 180 initial updates to load.

  8.  

    My install.wim weights in at 4,660,111 Kb according to windows, and is causing me every headache known to man. So I am still looking for an answer to the question “what do you do then”?

  9.  

    This is wrong. The install.wim is 4,769,873,920 bytes (Windows Server 2012 R2), so you cannot use fat32.

    The problem is that most of physical server are not able to read NTFS filesystem natively and cannot boot from USB, so I’m still at the beginning.

  10. If your install.wim is larger than 4096MB, you cannot copy the file to the drive, because FAT32-based partition have a limitation on the maximum file size at 4GB. The solutions to this is to split the file into smaller files.

    Split *.wim file using dism.exe:

    dism /Split-Image /ImageFile:X:\sources\install.wim /SWMFile:Y:\sources\install.swm /FileSize:4096

    Change drive letters appropriately.

     

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