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Create Bootable USB Thumb Drive From ISO Image File (Windows)

Create bootable USB thumb drive from ISO imageHow to make a bootable USB thumb drive from an ISO file in Windows

Note:  These instructions are for Windows users only.  If you’re using Mac OS X, see this article.

An ISO file or image is an archive file containing the exact contents of an optical disc such as a CD or DVD.  It includes the entire disc’s contents including the file system.

Usually ISOs are used to distribute CD images such as distributions of operating systems such as Linux.

In this case I’ll be creating a bootable Windows XP Recovery Console USB flash drive using a custom made ISO file and a free utility called UNetbootin.

When finished you will have a bootable USB thumb drive with the Windows XP Recovery Console on it to be used for troubleshooting.  This will not create a full Windows XP installation.

You’ll Need The Following:

To create the bootable USB thumb drive you’ll need the following:

    1. A blank USB thumb/flash drive of at least 1GB in size
    2. A Windows XP Bootable ISO image created from Microsoft’s bootable floppy images (freely downloadable from their website).
    3. The UNetbootin utility for Windows.

Create The Bootable USB Thumb Drive

  1. Plug in your blank USB thumb/flash drive
  2. Launch UNetbootin by double-clicking the file that you downloaded.  You should see the screen below.
    Unetbootin Windows Recovery Console Bootable USB Flash Drive
  3. Select the Diskimage radio button.
  4. Select ISO from the drop down menu.
  5. Click the button to the right and locate the Windows XP Recovery Console ISO file you downloaded in the section above.
  6. Select USB Drive in the Type field
  7. Select the drive letter of your inserted blank USB flash/thumb drive.
  8. Click OK
  9. A few minutes later your bootable USB flash/thumb drive should be complete and you can choose to restart your computer.
  10. As your computer restarts be sure to select to boot from USB!
  11. You will then see the Windows XP blue setup screen and will eventually be presented with the Windows XP setup choices.  Press ‘R’ for the Recovery Console.

This example used the Windows XP recovery console ISO file but you can create a bootable USB thumb drive with any valid bootable ISO image such as a Linux Live CD ISO image.  Looking for more boot disks?  Check out allbootdisks.com

Updated June 27th 2012:  Fixed download links.


Wow, 17 Comments! We've got a conversation going now. Join the discussion below!

  1. wildnsk says:

    UNetbootin only for Linux ISO!!!

  2. Katie says:

    I must be doing something wrong. When I choose to boot from the flash drive, a black screen with a blue box that says unetbootin at the top and down below it says press tab to change settings and below that it informs me that it will automatically boot in 10 seconds but after it counts down it just starts over. Please help I’m very confused, trying to solve the ntldr is compressed alt ctrl delete to restart problem but I’m afraid I’m in over my head!

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  3. Rosco says:

    Hi Katie,

    A few people are having problems with Unetbootin. Please try creating the bootable CD/DVD with a new piece of software that I’m trying out to replace the Unetbootin software.

    It seems several people are having trouble with it so will you try to download and create your bootable USB flash with Passscape ISO Burner (available here: https://www.easy-share.com/1917464076/pib.zip)

    1. Unpack the zip file.
    2. Launch ISO Burner .exe
    3. On the first screen choose burn ISO to CD/DVD
    4. Select the ISO image file by browsing to it
    5. Insert a blank CD/DVD and select the drive you’d like to burn the ISO to
    6. Click Burn/Create button.

    Also, what ISO file are you using? Is it one of the Windows Recovery Console ISO’s available on this website?

    When the CD/DVD has been created try booting your dead PC with it.

    If this doesn’t work, try the USB Flash option using the above method.

  4. usb says:

    I seriously like how you’ve got approached this subject. Will you be increasing upon it quickly? Subscribed!

  5. rraallvv says:

    anybody succeeded with this?

    1. theBluesman says:

      I tried the Unetbootin and PASScape Iso Burner. Using a 1 GB flash and Desktop running XP SP3. I liked PASScape and I had an ISO image of a bootable CD [ XP SP1 ]. I’ve used the image to create a CD and rebuilt a Vista laptop to downgrade to XP. The second laptop has broken DVD/CD so I needed USB boot. After loading the ISO image using PASSCAPE, it loaded very fast and when I explored – no files. I tried to boot with it – not good. I repeated the process ( and I think I ‘double loaded’ the Master Boot Record files/info because I got the error “can’t find NTLDR”. Tried to reformat flash drive but it now has the partition. I used a slick utility that is free and reminded me of Partition Mgic, called MiniTool Partition Wizard. I was able to Clean up the flash drive and format.
      I used a second tool – WinToFlash – for burning images / files to flash drives. The iso image file did not load correctly to the flash drive, BUT, when the Bootable CD was selected as the source ( the cd was created from the ISO file) then the files loaded to the flash drive. Stuck it in and XP launched setup screens – completed the XP install on a Presario F761US that has Vista on it. hope this helps anybody … trying to lose those horrid Vista memories !

      1. Marcos says:

        So, conceivably, one could mount the XP Recovery Console ISO via Daemon Tools Lite, and then point WinToFlash to use that virtual drive as the source, USB drive as destination?

        1. theBluesman says:

          Note sure about the Daemon tools Lite and a Virtual Drive as the source. You can test.. or burn the image on a CD as Plan B.

        2. Lotta says:

          Tohuwdocn! That’s a really cool way of putting it!

  6. Troy says:

    This worked flawlessly the first time when i was trying to create a bootable disk for an VMware – ESXi install. Software could not have been easier, Thank you!

  7. edwin says:

    ░░░░░░░░░░░░▄▄░░░░░░░░░░░░░░ ░░░░░░░░░░░█░░█░░░░░░░░░░░░░ ░░░░░░░░░░░█░░█░░░░░░░░░░░░░ ░░░░░░░░░░█░░░█░░░░░░░░░░░░░ ░░░░░░░░░█░░░░█░░░░░░░░░░░░░ ██████▄▄█░░░░░██████▄░░░░░░░ ▓▓▓▓▓▓█░░░░░░░░░░░░░░█░░░░░░ ▓▓▓▓▓▓█░░░░░░░░░░░░░░█░░░░░░ ▓▓▓▓▓▓█░░░░░░░░░░░░░░█░░░░░░ ▓▓▓▓▓▓█░░░░░░░░░░░░░░█░░░░░░ ▓▓▓▓▓▓█░░░░░░░░░░░░░░█░░░░░░ ▓▓▓▓▓▓█████░░░░░░░░░██░░░░░░ █████▀░░░░▀▀████████░░░░░░░░

  8. GTSI says:

    the link to the file no longer works. The website says the file has been deleted. Do you have any other suggestions?

  9. RAMESH says:

    when i tried to boot using the usb just done, it says

    BOOTMGR is missing
    Press ctrl alt del to restart


  10. Jody says:

    So much info in so few words. Tolotsy could learn a lot.

  11. I am not good at balancing my life. Right now I give my kids all of me and do every single thing I can for them and that leaves pretty much no time for myself unless they are sleeping. They are still little at 1 and 5 and I know in time things will get easier but for now my world just revolves around them.

  12. the link to the file no longer works.Do you have any other suggestions?

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