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Installing Windows 7 Without a DVD

written by: Nicholas•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 3/24/2010

Looking for an easy way to install Windows 7 without a DVD. This is a common request for netbook users, MacBook Air users, and desktop computer users having install troubles in which the CD/DVD drive is not detected. There are a couple of ways to install Windows 7 without using a DVD.

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    Flash Drive Method

    Wondering how to install Windows 7 without a DVD? Simple, use a flash drive. Flash drives are the simplest and easiest way to install Windows 7 without a DVD. However, you will need a high capacity flash drive, at least 4 GB in size, in order to use this method. If you do not have one, don't worry. Flash drives are relatively inexpensive. However, it is recommended that your purchase a flash drive from a bargain PC site such as Newegg or Tiger Direct, as they often sell items at a considerable discount. You can get a flash drive for under $15.00.

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    Create a bootable flash drive from an existing Windows 7 disc

    win to flash 

    If you have a Windows 7 disc:

    If you have a Windows 7 disc, and are simply trying to install Windows 7 on a computer without a CD/DVD drive, you will need to use another computer to extract the Windows 7 files. Once you have found another computer, insert the Windows 7 CD/DVD into the disc drive. Windows 7 will likely auto discover and load the installer. If this happens, exit out of the install Windows 7 screen. From there, click the start menu and navigate to Computer.

    You should be able to click on your CD/DVD ROM drive. Most likely, this is the D: drive. Double click it to open the Windows 7 install disc. From here, there will be several folders. We will simply copy these files to your flash drive using a utility. Go get the WinToFlash utility.

    After you have it downloaded, you will not need to run any type of installer to use it. Rather, create a folder on your desktop and name it Windows 7. Extract all files from the WinToFlash ZIP file to this folder.

    After you have done that, go ahead and run the WinToFlash application by double clicking the WinToFlash application icon, located in the Windows 7 folder.

    From here, the process is very simple. Make sure that you have the flash drive inserted into an available USB port. Select your Windows 7 install DVD (D:), select your USB flash drive, and WinToFlash will create a bootable USB drive.

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    Create a bootable flash drive from an ISO file or Windows 7 Download

    usbdvd download tool 

    If you do not have a Windows 7 disc:

    If you do not have a Windows 7 disc, you most likely have a downloaded copy of Windows 7. In that case, you should have an ISO file. If you do not have an ISO file, but rather a setup folder, containing several Windows 7 files, use the method above to create your bootable flash drive.

    If you do have an ISO file, you can use Microsoft's USB DVD Download Tool to convert the ISO file to a bootable USB flash drive. We actually have a tutorial that will walk you through the process.

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    Booting from Flash Drive

    Now that the hard part is over, all you have to do is configure your PC to boot from the flash drive. Most PCs have a default boot order which is: hard drive - CD/DVD - other devices. This simply means that when the computer starts up, it will first look for Windows on the hard drive. If Windows is not present, it will look for an install disc. If there is no install disc, it will look for other devices. This boot order needs to be changed, so that the PC looks for other devices first. In turn, it will find the flash drive immediately.

    To configure the boot order, you need to boot into your computer's bios. This is not very difficult at all. Make sure that the USB drive is ready to go. Restart your computer. As soon as you see the loading screen, which may say Dell, Gateway, etc... push the key that activates the bios. Every computer is different, but for the most part, this will be an F-command key. For example, Dell computers are F12.

    Once you are into the bios, find the boot order options. Set your computer to boot from USB.

    That's all there is to it. Exit the bios and Windows 7 will boot from flash drive. Hopefully, this article taught you an easy way on how to install Windows 7 without a DVD. There are some other methods out there that require typing command prompts, modifying Windows files, etc... However, the two apps mentioned in this tutorial make the process simple for just about everyone.