Wh...what's this? A piece of open-source software from Microsoft that adds speed and portability to the standard Windows 7 installation process? It almost sounds too good to be true, but it's not! There really is such a utility, and it really has been delivered by the Windows 7 manufacturer itself, and it really is open-source!
I might sound a little too excited about this entire concept, but that's just because this tool--the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool --is actually a great replacement for what is otherwise a semi-complex (and hard to remember) series of console commands. If you think I'm exaggerating just for the sake of fashioning up a fun article to read, you're wrong. I couldn't tell you off-hand how to create a bootable USB drive with a preloaded Windows 7 disc. I usually just turn to this series of steps as a general walkthrough .
While the Microsoft tool isn't perfect , in that it won't automatically rip the contents of your Windows 7 CD and fashion a bootable USB key out of that, it's still an awesome way to automate this entire process using a friendly GUI. But don't think that you can just use this tool to make bootable USB keys of any ol' ISO file sitting around on your hard drive. In fact, you can't even rip the Windows 7 DVD and use the subsequent ISO file as the basis of your bootable USB key. Not without some tweaking, that is...
The Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool has been designed to work with the ISO files of Windows 7 that you download from the Windows Store. Try to use any other ISO and the utility will spit back an annoying error message. That sure doesn't help you if you're trying to make a bootable USB key from, you know, a Windows 7 DVD that you actually purchased. Here's how to fix that. Make your ISO using whatever program suits your fancy, then head on over to Rafael's Within Windows and grab the isoavdcopy tool he's created. Open up a command prompt and run isoavdcopy on your the Windows 7 ISO/rip. Now use that ISO in the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool, sit back, and get ready to enjoy your new optical-drive-free life.
Each week, Maximum PC picks a new free or shareware download as its favorite of... the week. Have a nifty application that you can't live without? Twitter David Murphy @acererak with your latest suggestions.