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I have:

  • ISO image of Windows 7 install media
  • 4 GB USB flash drive
  • no DVD drive
  • Linux installed
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5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

You can accomplish this with dd.

Open up a terminal, your going to need to find what device is your pendrive. If you have the drive mounted you can find the name of the device by typing "mount" and looking at it's entry. Something like the following:

/dev/sdb1 on /media/USBDISK type vfat (rw,nosuid,nodev,uhelper=hal,uid=1000,utf8,shortname=mixed)

In this case the first partion of /dev/sdb is mounted at /media/USBDISK. Open a root shell and unmount the drive.

umount /dev/sdb1

Go to the directory where your ISO is stored in a root shell and type in the following: (Replace windows7.iso with whatever the iso is called, and /dev/sdb with the device id of your usb stick).

dd if=windows7.iso of=/dev/sdb

If your motherboard supports booting off of a pendrive it should be able to boot off it. This will get the installer on the pendrive not the OS itself.

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11  
Doesn't work for me. –  bytesum Jun 2 '10 at 16:41
    
Does your motherboard support booting from USB? That'll be the ultimate deciding factor of whether this approach will work or not. –  TrueDuality Jun 4 '10 at 14:46
7  
Doesn't work for me either and my machine does support USB booting just fine. Maybe this approach can work on machines that can boot DVD-style USB-storage but most BIOSes assume HDD-style layout on USB (meaning 512 byte MBR with boot code in it). On thing worth a mention: Fedora CD/DVD images, unlike W7, do in fact have such MBR with boot code and partition table on them, making them suitable for HDD/USB boot too. –  Tronic Aug 28 '10 at 17:35
5  
This does require that your motherboard is able to boot USB-CDROM not just USB-HDD –  TrueDuality Oct 5 '10 at 12:43
6  
This solution is missing the MBR-installation step, and will typically not work unless it magically is there already. The solution by @Gunthers is complete. –  stolsvik Dec 25 '11 at 1:30

OK, after unsuccessfully trying all methods mentioned here, I finally got it working. Basically, the missing step was to write a proper boot sector to the USB stick, which can be done from Linux with ms-sys or lilo -M. This works with the Windows 7 retail version.

Here is the complete rundown again:

Install ms-sys - if it is not in your repositories, get it here. Or alternatively, make sure lilo is installed (but do not run the liloconfig step on your local box if e.g. Grub is installed there!)

Check what device your USB media is assigned - here we will assume it is /dev/sdb. Delete all partitions, create a new one taking up all the space, set type to NTFS (7), and remember to set it bootable:

# cfdisk /dev/sdb   or   fdisk /dev/sdb (partition type 7, and bootable flag)

Create an NTFS filesystem:

# mkfs.ntfs -f /dev/sdb1

Write Windows 7 MBR on the USB stick (also works for windows 8), multiple options here:

  1. # ms-sys -7 /dev/sdb
  2. or (e.g. on newer Ubuntu installs) sudo lilo -M /dev/sdb mbr (info)
  3. or (if syslinux is installed) sudo dd if=/usr/lib/syslinux/bios/mbr.bin of=/dev/sdb

Mount ISO and USB media:

# mount -o loop win7.iso /mnt/iso
# mount /dev/sdb1 /mnt/usb

Copy over all files:

# cp -r /mnt/iso/* /mnt/usb/   ...or use the standard GUI file-browser of your system

...and you're done.

After all that, you probably want to back up your USB media for further installations and get rid of the ISO file... Just use dd: # dd if=/dev/sdb of=/win7.img

and reverse if/of next time you want to put the Windows 7 installer onto USB.

As always, double check the device names very carefully when working with dd.

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1  
Would be nice to mention the numerical partition type to use in cfdisk as well (7, 86, 87?) –  Johan Dahlin Sep 5 '10 at 21:03
1  
It worked with type 7 –  Ropez Sep 15 '10 at 20:56
1  
Just a note: If your ntfs filesystem gives weird permission errors when you write to it even as root, make sure you've installed ntfs-3g. –  Jeremy Salwen Jun 24 '11 at 6:32
1  
I tried this directly onto a hard drive, and I got the error "windows cannot access the installation sources" once I booted up from it. –  Jeremy Salwen Jun 24 '11 at 7:21
1  
Ubuntu PPA for ms-sys (12.04): ppa:berkon/ppa –  Dmitry Verkhoturov Jun 5 '12 at 18:15

PCambell's suggestion is good but you will also want to clear the MBR, the linux equivalent is below

I tried this and it worked (I'm not sure why the dd method failed but seems the partition had to be ntfs?):

  • work out which /dev/device is your usb flash drive and unmount it
  • clear the MBR: dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/device bs=446 count=1
  • run fdisk /dev/device
  • remove all partitions and create 1 primary partition, make it bootable then save the changes
  • run mkfs.ntfs /dev/device1 (partition 1)
  • copy the entire contents of the windows install iso on to the partition you created
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If you could manage to do all these tasks from within your linux desktop, you'll be rocking the house.

I think the toughest part would be fiddling with all the operations that Windows' Diskpart does. Making the partition marked as 'active' and 'boot', 'primary', etc.

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I think GParted (gparted.sourceforge.net) can handle all the partition flags just fine. See e.g. gparted.sourceforge.net/screenshots.php . And I haven't tested but it looks like rsync can substitute for robocopy in that checklist. –  Matthew Flaschen May 10 '09 at 2:47

Instead of

dd if=windows7.iso of=/dev/sdb

you write as root,

dd if=windows7.iso of=/dev/sdb1 

(ADD 1 at the end or whatever your USB drive is placed at.)

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2  
No, the of=sdb is correct as per the previous answers. –  James Broadhead Aug 13 '11 at 21:00
    
This is just plain wrong. –  lukad May 24 at 10:31

protected by Chris S Jun 16 '11 at 17:55

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