How install all versions of Vista / 7 from a single USB hard drive
I recently had a spare 250 gig 2.5 external hard drive lying around my shop. I wanted to put it to use but I couldn’t really think of anything to use it for.
Then I thought, hmmm I wonder if it would be possible to put all the setup files for Vista 32/64 and 7 32/64 all onto the same external hard drive and install windows from that. I’ve installed all of those operating systems off an usb key at one time or another, but I would either loose the sticks or the labels would rub off and I would never be sure which usb key had which OS on it. So I would always revert back to using individual cd / dvds.
Then I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if I had 1 hard drive that when booted would give me an option as to which Operating system I wanted to install?
I knew I’d probably have to use some kind of Boot loader software. The first one that came to mind was EasyBCD. It was also free, so that was nice.
*Warning, content Beyond this point may make you wet yourself.*
The instructions in this guide pertain to Windows Vista and Windows 7 only. Windows XP is not very USB friendly. I was able to install XP off a usb stick once upon a time, but the speed was so slow, a CD would have been faster. So for this guide we will only be focusing on Windows Vista/7.
The first thing you need to do is get yourself an spare external hard drive. I recommend a USB hard drive instead of a large thumb drive because the transfer rates will generally a lot better.
Next you have to partition your USB Hard drive. If you already know how to do this, then create a partition for each Windows Install you wish to put on the drive. Make each install partition 4 gigs using the NTFS file system. Also create a 20 gig Tools partition.
For everyone else follow these instructions.
First open up “Computer Management” You can find it in the control panel under Administrative tools / Computer management. Or just open up the run box (Windows key +R) and type compmgmt.msc and press enter.
Then click “Disk Management”
This will show you all the hard drives / partitions on your system. When you select your external hard drive make SURE it’s your external hard drive. We don’t want you accidentally deleting and partitioning the wrong drive, because that would suck.
Once you find the external hard drive in the list, delete all the drives partitions. When finished you should have one giant area called “unpartitioned space”.
Now right click the unpartitioned space and left click “New Simple Volume”. Then follow the wizard. You want to make each setup Partition 4 gigs in size using the file system NTFS. Whatever is left I would leave as unpartitioned space. This way in the future you can return and make more setup partitions if you wish.
I’d also make 1 partition called “Tools” and make that quite large. I made mine 20 gigs. We will be using that partition later on.
So now that we have our drive sliced and diced just how we like it, it’s now time to put the setup files on their specified partition. The Vista and 7 iso’s don’t extract very well. So it’s easier to mount each ISO using daemon tools or something similar, and then copy each Window install cd to their designated partition.
Now download and install Easybcd using the following URL.
Download EasyBCD 2.0.2 - NeoSmart Technologies
Once installed open the application.
We will start by installing the BCD Boot manager to the external hard drive. To do this click the “Bootloader setup” from the left hand side. Then drop down “Partition” on the right hand side and select your
“tools” partition, and then click “Install BCD”. Once again make sure you've selected the partition of your external hard drive.
After a few second it should be installed. Then it will ask you if you want to work on the Bootloader you just created. Choose yes.
Now click “Add New Entry”. You will be using these steps for each of the installs you wish to setup.
At the bottom on the “WinPE” tab the type should say "WIM Image (Ramdisk)"
For the name, type the Operating system you will be installing.
In the path field, click browse and navigate to the partition of the Windows install on your portable hard drive you wish to use. Now open the sources folder and double click on “boot.wim”. Then click “Add Entry”
Now just repeat that process for every Vista / 7 setup you wish to configure
It gets even better. On the bottom you will also see an “ISO” tab. Yep that’s right, it also lets you specify and boot from ISO images. Like BartPE, Memtest or even a Linux Live cd just to name a few. This is why I created a separate tools partition. I use this partition to put all my ISO images.
How cool is that?
Once you are finished, close the application and reboot your computer.
Now tell your computer to boot from the USB hard drive. If successful your new boot menu will appear and each of the Windows Install’s you configured should show up in the list as well as any ISO’s you’ve specified.
But WAIT, there's more!
For those of you that don't want to partition your hard drive 10 ways till Sunday there is still 1 more method of doing this. It's not near as simple, but it works.
1st format your external hard drive as 1 giant NTFS partition.
Next instead of putting the setup files for each version of windows on their own partition, we will put them in their own folder (example g:\Vista\32bit)
Now we have to burn some bandwidth and download the windows Automated Installation Kit (AIK)
Download details: Windows Automated Installation Kit (AIK)
This download includes a Windows PE 2.0 WIM file.
Once installed browse to c:\program files\Windows AIK\Tools\PEtools\x86 and copy the winpe.wim file to a location on your external hard drive.
Now use the instructions above for creating a boot entry. This time you have to point it to winpe.win instead of boot.wim.
That's it. Now reboot your machine and boot from the USB hard drive.
Select Your Winpe.wim (which ever name you gave it)
Basically this will boot Windows PE 2.0 and land you at a command prompt. The only issue is Windows pe is very selective on which drive letter it gives your external hard drive. Sometimes it's K sometimes it's I, sometimes you have to go through the entire alphabet to find it. Once you locate your external hard drive you can browse to the folder containing the version of windows you want to install (Example cd k:\vista\32)
Then at the command prompt type setup and press enter.
That's it. You are now installing windows from a PE environment.