Boot Windows from Usb

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 12, 2005
Updated • Apr 30, 2013

Tom's Hardware published a guide today that may come in handy for some users of the Windows operating system. I mentioned yesterday that I protect my external hard drive by encrypting it using the excellent True Crypt application and that I made the recommendation to encrypt the full system and boot the operating system from USB to protect all of the data.

The article gives a 14 pages tutorial on how to create bootable Windows operating system on a 256 MB usb stick. You can of course use a bigger one and add more utilities that you need (like True Crypt for example) to make things easier for you and get more options when it boots. Everything is well explained and you should not encounter lots of problems.

All that's needed is a bootable USB Flash drive with at least 256 MB of storage capacity and a Windows Setup CD. Using the program Bart PE Builder (Freeware), you can install Windows XP on the flash drive, along with other software as needed (and as available space permits).

Make sure you take a look at the requirements, especially the USB Flash Drive requirement of at least 256 Megabytes and a maximum of 2 Gigabytes as this is the maximum that the Fat16 file system supports.

Update: Please note that the guide only covers moving the Windows XP operating system on a USB stick or drive. PE Builder is used for that purpose (PE stands for Preinstalled Environment). The program has not been updated since 2006, which indicates that it won't be compatible with more recent versions of the Windows operating system.

An alternative is SARDU which has been created more as a rescue and repair environment, as it can add security and repair utilities to the installation right away.

The whole guide works only with Windows XP though, and while there are tools out there for Vista and newer versions of Windows, users need to consider that these operating systems require more space on the USB drive.

Update 2: The guide is no longer available.


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