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Why Doesn't Windows 7 Allow Us to Format a USB Thumb Drive as Bootable? RRS feed

  • Question

  • Why doesn't Windows 7 allow us to format a USB thumb drive as bootable?  There's a Format Option to "Create an MS-DOS startup disk" on the format dialog box, but there's no way to select it with a USB thumb drive as the target.  I assume that option would be available for things like floppies (if anyone had those any more).  I spent most of yesterday scouring the web for a way to do this.  The last time I did it, I used HP's old USB Disk Storage Format Tool.  But, it looks like they've removed it from their site (I do have a copy of it, I'm just mentioning that it's been removed).  Anyway, what's the problem with giving us this option within the format tool included with the OS?
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 4:02 PM

Answers

All replies

  • Diskpart
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 4:12 PM
  • At one point, I had also used the (Diskpart based) instructions at:

    http://kmwoley.com/blog/?p=345#idc-ctools

    to create a bootable USB thumb drive.  But, that results in a WinPE environment with the entire Windows 7 installation disk taking up most of the space on the thumb drive.  I imagine it's possible to mess with that process a bit and end up with just a bootable WinPE stick, but I'm not sure that's suitable for things like firmware updates (i.e., a DOS environment).  Also, it's silly to force people to search out those types of instructions, find suitable boot materials, and follow those kinds of steps when there should just be an option under Format when right-clicking on the thumb drive.
    Wednesday, October 28, 2009 12:53 AM
  • Because now we could simply boot to Win PE from USB flash drives, we do not need to make MS-DOS on USB drives. We can only put Win PE on the flash drive. When boot, choose to boot from USB device and you will boot in WinPE.

    Walkthrough: Create a Bootable Windows PE RAM Disk on a USB Flash Disk 


    Arthur Xie - MSFT
    • Marked as answer by Arthur Xie Monday, November 2, 2009 4:13 AM
    Wednesday, October 28, 2009 9:22 AM
  • Arthur,

    Thanks for that link.  That information is useful and I'll be giving it a try.  But, the point is that no one could expect a normal, everyday person to be able to set up that "Technician Computer" and follow those steps.  If Microsoft's position is that we no longer need to use DOS to boot a USB flash drive (i.e., we should use WinPE), then why don't they just include the necessary stuff to run the Copype.cmd command noted in your link, and put a check box in the Format dialog to do run it (i.e., "Create a WinPE Startup Disk")?  Is it a licensing problem regarding WinPE?

    As an aside, I'd also like to ask about the steps that are specified across the internet to prepare USB flash drives for making them bootable.  Specifically:

    diskpart
    select disk 1
    clean
    create partition primary
    select partition 1
    active
    format quick fs=fat32
    assign
    exit

    As far as I can see, all that does is format the drive as FAT32 and gives it a drive letter.  What's wrong with just right-clicking on the drive, selecting Format, and telling it to format the drive as FAT32?  Why go through Diskpart for that?  After the drive is formatted, just copy the necessary boot files over as specified in the various instructions.
    Wednesday, October 28, 2009 3:58 PM
  • Ignoring the "why" of it all, I used an HP utility available free that makes (for example) my 16mb memory card bootable.
    The article I probably found out about it is http://forums.pcper.com/showthread.php?t=421469
    sp27213




    I guess my point is that it's a lot easier to do than Microsoft, the same guys who think Booti.ini is way better than Config.sys, BCDedit is cooler than "boot.ini"
    and 031E4825-7B94-4dc3-B131-E946B44C8DD5 means something (you need a library to figure it out) is easy to remember

    Wednesday, October 28, 2009 7:03 PM
  • Because now we could simply boot to Win PE from USB flash drives, we do not need to make MS-DOS on USB drives. We can only put Win PE on the flash drive. When boot, choose to boot from USB device and you will boot in WinPE.

    Walkthrough: Create a Bootable Windows PE RAM Disk on a USB Flash Disk 


    Arthur Xie - MSFT

    You guys are missing a lot of the point here.  While your information is helpful and it's generally pretty easy to create a bootable USB drive, MANY firmware updates still require booting to DOS (not WinPE) to run.  I think booting a flash drive to WinPE is great, but it's totally useless for the BIOS update I'm in the process of trying to do.  Good luck finding a machine with a floppy drive anymore, and using a CD for this is both wasteful and not exactly environmentally friendly.
    Sunday, November 8, 2009 8:08 PM
  • Pick up a USB Floppy drive, they're cheap. I got one at a thrift store for $4.
    Rich
    Sunday, November 8, 2009 8:24 PM
  • As Andrew said, all of these workarounds are missing the point:  they're workarounds for something that should be so easy and available that anyone could just do it.  Why doesn't Microsoft just add the capability to format a USB thumb drive as bootable?
    Monday, November 9, 2009 5:14 PM
  • As Andrew said, all of these workarounds are missing the point:  they're workarounds for something that should be so easy and available that anyone could just do it.  Why doesn't Microsoft just add the capability to format a USB thumb drive as bootable?
    Hi David

    The real point here is that we do technical support (how to fix or workaround an issue) not designing, development, or programming. As soon as someone asks the "why" question this goes beyond the scope of a technical support forum.

    The best we can do is pass along requests, recommendations, and other feedback from forum members, and we do this often, but the decision to actually implement a change is made at a different level.

    Thanks for understanding.

    Thank You for using Windows 7

    Ronnie Vernon MVP



    Monday, November 9, 2009 6:28 PM
  • Hewlett Packard has a USB format tool that does it. It's dandy for BIOS updating. 

    http://www.softpedia.com/get/System/Hard-Disk-Utils/HP-USB-Disk-Storage-Format-Tool.shtml
    • Edited by ONE ZERO Monday, November 9, 2009 6:33 PM
    Monday, November 9, 2009 6:31 PM
  • Unfortunately, for windows 7 there are many mysteries  like why is there an option on the format dialog "Create an MS-DOS startup disk" that is always grayed out. Not only is there a spelling issue "a" not "an" but a lack of information on what needs to be done to un-gray the option. If the Microsofties here could only shed some light on how to un-gray this option then the answer to the original question would be simple and straight forward, rather than indirect and convoluted.
    Sunday, August 29, 2010 3:24 PM
  • Bootsect.exe is somewhere on the install disk.

    The command is:

    bootsect.exe /nt60 f:

    substuitute f: for the letter assigned to youre thumbdrive to make it bootable.

    That old interface to make dos startup disk is outdated.

     

    Sunday, August 29, 2010 8:06 PM
  • OK, since you've been picky, I'll be picky too.  There's nothing wrong grammatically with "an MS-DOS startup disk."  If you imagine that people will pronounce it "em ess doss" it is correct to precede it with "an."  If you expect people to think of "MS-DOS startup disk" as "Microsoft-DOS startup disk" then preceding it with "a" would be correct.  So, in this case, either "an" or "a" works.
    Saturday, November 13, 2010 8:47 PM
  • Hello,

    As to why the option is greyed out, this only works with a floppy disk.

    So the option is available if you are formatting a floppy disk in a flooy drive.


    Thanks, Darrell Gorter This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights. VAMT - Volume Activation Management Tool - Download link http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=ec7156d2-2864-49ee-bfcb-777b898ad582&displaylang=en
    Monday, November 15, 2010 10:08 PM
  • Because now we could simply boot to Win PE from USB flash drives, we do not need to make MS-DOS on USB drives. We can only put Win PE on the flash drive. When boot, choose to boot from USB device and you will boot in WinPE.

    Walkthrough: Create a Bootable Windows PE RAM Disk on a USB Flash Disk 


    Arthur Xie - MSFT

    Wow Arthur. You marked this as the answer by abusing your moderator access?

    Not only is this absolutely NOT the answer, you diverted the original question to something you were familiar with. All because you have no idea what you are talking about here.

    The answer is that you can not create a USB bootable disk from windows 7 or 8 using the format dialog box. You need to use diskpart and the bootsect program which should be on your windows based system already.

    Open a cmd prompt as admin (right click, run as administrator). Replace the ? below with the drive that you determine is the one you want after listing the disks (below). 

    diskpart

    list disk
    select disk ?
    clean
    create partition primary
    select partition 1
    active
    format fs=ntfs quick label="enter the name you want for this disc here"
    exit

    Leaving DiskPart...

    Now do the following, from the same command prompt window. Where E is your usb drive letter.

    cd C:\Windows\system32
    
    bootsect /nt60 e:
       Target volumes will be updated with BOOTMGR compatible bootcode.
       Bootcode was successfully updated on all targeted volumes.
    exit

    You should now have a proper bootable USB drive. From here you can copy any files you want to the USB drive and they will be available at boot (useful for BIOS updates, maybe copy the contents of your windows 7 recovery drive to the USB key and use the USB key instead of an optical disc, etc).

    Now ARTHUR XIE do the right thing and mark this as the answer and remove your ridiculous reply that is both irrelevant and not helpful.  

    • Proposed as answer by RWalke Friday, February 3, 2017 5:18 PM
    Friday, March 7, 2014 3:00 PM

  • bootsect /nt60 e:
       Target volumes will be updated with BOOTMGR compatible bootcode.
       Bootcode was successfully updated on all targeted volumes.
    exit

    You should now have a proper bootable USB drive. From here you can copy any files you want to the USB drive and they will be available at boot (useful for BIOS updates, maybe copy the contents of your windows 7 recovery drive to the USB key and use the USB key instead of an optical disc, etc).

    Now ARTHUR XIE do the right thing and mark this as the answer and remove your ridiculous reply that is both irrelevant and not helpful.  

    Open Your Source, Open Your Mind,

    Thank you for your answer to this dilemma.  I have been searching high and low for a way to do this.  HOWEVER, although most of your directions worked flawlessly, once I got to the "bootsect /nt60e:" command, the wheels simply fell off.  After several attempts i get the following error each time:

    'bootsect' is not recognized as an internal or external command, operable program or batch file

    Any suggestions? 

    FYI I am using Windows 7 Pro
    • Edited by RWalke Friday, February 3, 2017 5:45 PM Added information
    Friday, February 3, 2017 5:28 PM
  • Create bootable USB drives the easy way: Rufus

    Carey Frisch

    Saturday, February 4, 2017 5:51 AM