How to Create a Bootable Windows 8 Flash Drive the Old Fashioned Way

Our Max Cherney dishes a simple How To — perfect if you want to create a bootable Windows 8 flash drive the old-fashioned way. Nothing like carrying an entire OS in your pocket. – Regardless of whether you’re jumping to Windows 8.1 when it comes out later this month, or if you’re using a different version of Windows, or any operating system for that matter, you need a bootable flash drive. That way you’re able to boot from it if something goes awry or even reinstall the system. It’s easy to do. Here’s how to create a bootable Windows 8 flash drive — the old-fashioned way.

The simple way would be to use the application Microsoft provides to create a Windows USB install stick. But when I tried that method, the program froze over and over in the process. Here’s why. That said, I found two easy ways to create a bootable Windows 8 flash drive.

What you need:

  • Bootable Windows 8
  • A copy of Windows 8 (ISO disc image or DVD)
  • A flash drive larger than 4GB
  • A copy of the freeware Universal USB installer

First, download and install the Universal USB Installer

You need the Universal USB Installer first. The program was made for Linux USB installation, but it supports Windows 7 and 8, too.

Next, insert an empty flash drive. Note the drive’s letter — you will need it — and run the Universal USB Installer.

After that, you’ll see a drop-down menu with operating systems to select. Scroll most of the way down to find Windows 8. Then locate the Windows 8 image on your HDD. Lastly, select the correct letter for your flash drive.

Check the Format Drive option when prompted. Hit Create, review your options and watch the program run.

Or don’t. Instead go grab a cold one, because the Window’s 8 USB installer takes about 20 minutes. Good job, you did it.

An alternate way —  use the Command Line method. If you don’t want to download freeware, or enjoy a more hands-on approach, this is a better way to create the Windows 8 USB Installer.

First open the Windows Command Prompt app with a right click. Run it as the Administrator.

At the prompt, type: diskpart

Microsoft’s disk utility should now be up.

Administrator Command Prompt, Windows 8 Stick Installer

Image Credit: Microsoft

Now type: list disk.

This displays all available disk drives in a list. Make sure to note the USB flash drive’s number — I usually locate it by the size of the flash drive. Make sure it’s the correct drive number, as you could overwrite or augment a different drive.

Now type: select disk X

Here X denotes the flash drive letter.

To wipe the disk, at the prompt type: clean

Then type: create partition primary.

This will create a new primary partition.

Select the new partition by typing: select partition X

Make it active by typing, believe it or not: active

Now format that newly-minted drive with the command: format fs=fat32

Now grab another cold one. And maybe eat something. It look at least 90 minutes on my first test.

Once the wait is over, type into the admin command prompt: assign

Give the flash drive a letter. Close the Command application.

Finally, copy all the Windows 8 files from your ISO or CD onto your flash drive. Presto, a functioning, bootable Windows 8 in your back pocket.

Happy installing!

Based in San Francisco, Max A. Cherney is a tech journalist. He contributes tech info and articles here at Email questions or tips to: