As PC users, we’re conditioned to think of software as something you run from within an operating system, and an operating system as a collection of files that you save to a hard drive, and then run at boot. However, you’ve probably run into some software that breaks this mold: “Live” operating systems, which can boot from a CD or USB drive, and applications that can be run directly from a CD, without the use of an OS. These can be some of the most useful tools at a hardcore computer user’s disposal, but it can be hard to keep track of a bunch of different pieces of bootable media.
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...
By Logan Decker If Windows doesn’t feel like starting up and your files are being held hostage, booting into a DOS environment with a floppy disk or floppy emulation won’t do you much good because you can’t access NTFS partitions. This floppy-less method gives you access to all your files (provided the problem isn’t with your drive; if it is, you have our sympathies).