Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm considering to avoid purchase new machines with optical drives. The only caveat is the OS installation which can be messy - to open the case and temporarily hook up DVD which often does not worth the trouble comparing to the price of a drive.

Has anyone tried to install an os from thumb drive? What are the pitfalls? Which tools/guides did you use?

Please also mention the hardware(motherboard etc.) you used

share|improve this question

Lots of linux distros have 'Live' images that will boot off of flash and allow you to install from them.

If you just want to cut down on optical drives, you could get a USB optical drive and boot off of that (presuming machines with relatively modern BIOS).

Installing off of flash drives can still be handy though - USB optical drives don't fit too comfortably on your keychain.

share|improve this answer

I installed Windows Vista from a 320 GB Western Digital Passport Elite to an optical-less GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3P system not long ago. I followed these simple instructions and the install went without a hitch. The main drawback was the install was quite slow (rough guess maybe 3-4x slower), before the initial splash choice I was beginning to consider the system had hung. I would recommend a much faster drive (and maybe newer/alternative OS :).

share|improve this answer
Are the big WD drives not just pre-filled HD enclosures? I thought the asker meant real flash drives? I'm not sure, this should be clearer. – Lucas Jones May 1 '09 at 15:19
@person-b Oh you're quite right. I interpreted it as USB-bootable (portable too), maybe from the motherboard inquiry. I'd have followed the same instructions for a Flash drive, though perhaps my results would differ. – Christopher Galpin May 1 '09 at 15:29

I have successfully installed Windows 7 (Beta and RC) from a flash driver, its easy and quick.

share|improve this answer

You can turn most ISO's into a bootable flash drive using this project unetbootin it has worked really well for me

share|improve this answer

Yep, I have installed a couple of flavours of Linux from Flash disks in the past, although to be honest they weren't that much quicker.

share|improve this answer

I regularly install Linux distros from the flash boot options. A few windows install have also been done from USB keys too although they can be messy if you are using small keys requiring tftp servers.

share|improve this answer

I have done both Vista and Windows Server 2008 from a USB drive. It was pretty simple to get setup. You can Google for lots of sites that have How-Tos for making a USB key bootable.

The motherboards I've done it on are a couple of recent ASUS boards and a SuperMicro server board (don't have the model handle, but pretty new one). I think most recent motherboards (2 year and newer) should have a boot to USB option in the BIOS.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.