How to Create a Bootable USB, CD or DVD to Install Windows Using an ISO File

By | February 27, 2022

Have you ever formatted a hard drive, only to find that the computer doesn’t have a DVD or CD drive? And now you need a bootable USB flash drive? Or maybe you think the computer can be booted from a USB drive, but the BIOS version doesn’t allow it?

What is ISO

That’s a fair question. Any file that ends in .iso is generally referred to as an ISO. An ISO file is a sector for a copy of all sector data from a disk. It is a virtual copy of a CD or DVD, with the same file structure and the same data. Think of it like a perfect photocopy of a photo. The copy will have all the original colors, shadows, and shades. Maybe that’s why the ISO copy is referred to as the original ‘image’.

Having an ISO disk is also useful for sending disk copies from one computer to another. With it being a perfect duplicate, nothing is lost in copying or compression. You will often see ISO files of programs and operating systems on bit torrent directories or other file sharing sites. Maybe you want to make your program mount the disc into an ISO file.

What Does Bootable Mean

Any media, whether it’s a USB flash drive, CD, or DVD is bootable if you can use it to boot your computer from a USB drive or disc, instead of the computer’s hard drive. When installing Windows, the media you use must be bootable.

Windows ISO

Windows you need. Let’s take a look at Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10. All available from Microsoft via download include tools for creating bootable media.

Windows 7

The official way to create recovery media is via the Microsoft Software Recovery page. Before you go there, make sure you have your Windows 7 Product Key.

Be aware, for this method to work, you cannot use an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) key. It should be from the Windows installation disc or from a previously downloaded ISO purchased from Microsoft. If your keys are from elsewhere, there are still ways to get a proper and secure ISO, which we’ll look at in a few paragraphs.

You can find your Windows Product Key either with the original installation media, or in an email from Microsoft since you purchased it. If you don’t have one, you can recover your Windows key from your computer using a product key finder software.

There are several to choose from, but for this article, let’s use KeyFinder Magical Jellybean. The free version will do. After completing the installation, it will immediately display your product key. This is a 25 character key labeled CD Key. It’s a good idea to write it down somewhere safe, in case you need to refer to it later.

Armed with your product key, go to the Microsoft Software Recovery page, and follow the instructions there. At the end of the process, you will have an ISO of your version of Windows and the tools to create a bootable USB drive or DVD.

Download Windows 7 ISO

Softpedia is another site where you can download Windows 7. While it may not be a Microsoft-approved download, Softpedia has a reasonable reputation for providing secure software. You can find several versions of Windows 7 there, or just use the handy referensi provided below:

The download will take a few moments. The x86 version (Windows 32-bit) is about 2.6GB and the x64 version (Windows 64-bit) is about 3.1GB. Depending on your Internet speed, this could take a few minutes or hours.

Windows 8.1

Say you need a Windows 8.1 ISO. Does not matter. You can get it. Navigate your browser to the Microsoft Create Installation Media for Windows 8.1 page. Note that if you are not running Windows 8 or 8.1 on the computer on which you are trying to create media, you will need to provide a product key. The instructions there will walk you through the process of creating either a bootable USB flash drive or DVD version of Windows 8.1.

As you go through the process on the Microsoft page, you can choose to create a bootable USB or DVD. If you go the USB route, you will need a USB flash drive that is at least 4GB in size and with no files on it. Anything on the drive will be erased by the process. The USB method also requires a USB drive to be plugged in to start the process.

Windows 10

The latest, and most powerful version of Windows, can be downloaded as a Windows 10 Technical Preview ISO from Microsoft. Note, this is a Technical Preview – meaning it may not necessarily be stable or will run properly on your computer. If you’re going to do this, make sure you have a backup of your current operating system, or maybe install Windows in a virtual machine on your computer. As it seems, you probably don’t want to use Windows 10 as your primary operating system, just yet.

Create a Bootable USB Flash Drive

Now that you’ve got your ISO ISO, it’s time to put it on a DVD or USB flash drive and make it bootable. Let’s start with a USB flash drive.

There are some good utilities to help you turn your ISO into a bootable USB. Probably the simplest to use is Rufus.
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Rufus does require you to have Administrator level access on the computer you are using it on. Once downloaded, right click on it and select Run As Administrator.

After Rufus opens, you will see the following window:

In the Device field, make sure you have selected the specific USB flash drive you want to use. Note that the capacity must be at least 4GB. If you’re not sure which flash drive it is, it’s the safest to delete everything from your computer, except the one you want to use.

Don’t worry yourself with the next four areas. They will automatically sort themselves out when you select the ISO you want to use. Make sure that the Quick format, Create bootable disk using, and Create file boxes labeled with labels and icons are checked.

Right next to the label. Create a bootable disk using, there is a drop down box. Click and select ISO Image. To the immediate right of that, there’s a button that looks like a DVD on the front or a hard drive. Click that and navigate to the location of the ISO file you want to use. Double click on the ISO file to select it to use.

Look at Rufus now. See how some things change automatically? That’s a good thing.

To start the process, click the Start button.

The process will take quite some time. Rufus not only makes the flash drive bootable, it also writes several gigabytes of data to your USB flash drive. Depending on different hardware factors, expect this to take around 10 minutes.

Once the process is complete, you have a Windows Flashable USB Flash Drive. Use wisely.

Create a Bootable DVD or CD

For this section, we will use the term DVD instead of DVD and CD. If you want to install Windows Vista or XP, and are lucky enough to find ISOs of both, the process is pretty much the same for both media.

Before you begin, make sure your computer can write to DVDs or CDs. Many newer laptops no longer have a DVD/CD player in them, and older computers only have a CD reader. Make sure it’s a new, blank, writable DVD to use and that it’s on your computer.

Find yourself a software utility that can help you create a bootable DVD. There are many different bootable DVD creation utilities out there. For our purposes, we will use CDBurnerXP to create a bootable DVD.

If you want to try something different, ImgBurn is also a DVD burning app.

Let’s assume that you have already downloaded and installed CDBurnerXP. If you haven’t, just get started! Note that when installing CDBurnerXP, it gives you the option to install another piece of software called Wajam.

Now, let’s get to the business of burning our Windows Bootable DVD.

Open CDBurnerXP. In the first window, you will see several options. Each option works like a configuration wizard. Choose the job you want to do, and the program will guide you through it. Let’s select Burn ISO Image, then click the OK button. Now is a good time to make sure you have the DVD on your computer.

CDBurnerXP wants you to choose which DVD burner the ISO file is to burn. Chances are you only have one, so it will be pre-selected. If you have more than one CD/DVD burner on your computer, use the drop-down menu labeled Target device: to select which one you want to use. CDBurnerXP may make some minor adjustments to its settings, depending on the CD/DVD burner you have selected. It does not matter.

Now click on the Browse button and navigate to your ISO file. Once you find it, double click on it to select it.

To start the burning process, click the Burn disc button. You will see a progress window like below.

Once done, you’ll see a completion window showing how long it took to burn and the average bit rate burned. Somewhat interesting.

The burning process for this example only takes 7 minutes and 1 second. That’s pretty fast

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