How 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:
- A blank USB thumb/flash drive of at least 1GB in size
- A Windows XP Bootable ISO image created from Microsoft’s bootable floppy images (freely downloadable from their website).
- The UNetbootin utility for Windows.
Create The Bootable USB Thumb Drive
- Plug in your blank USB thumb/flash drive
- Launch UNetbootin by double-clicking the file that you downloaded. You should see the screen below.
- Select the Diskimage radio button.
- Select ISO from the drop down menu.
- Click the button to the right and locate the Windows XP Recovery Console ISO file you downloaded in the section above.
- Select USB Drive in the Type field
- Select the drive letter of your inserted blank USB flash/thumb drive.
- Click OK
- A few minutes later your bootable USB flash/thumb drive should be complete and you can choose to restart your computer.
- As your computer restarts be sure to select to boot from USB!
- 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.