Installing Windows 7 System Recovery Disc onto USB Flash Drive

Believe it or not, my old desktop computer doesn’t have an internal CD/DVD drive. I found that it is unnecessary because the 5.25″ DVD drive is too big and takes up too much space. Removing it gives more space for air ventilation. Secondly, although a DVD drive doesn’t take up much power, I know I am saving some (around 20 Watts) from not having it. I do have an external USB slim DVD writer though if I really need to use it. Everything can be run from USB nowadays such as Hiren’s BootCD, antivirus rescue discs and even installing Windows 7.

I have also started using the Windows 7 system image backup and restore feature, so there is no need to create a Windows 7 Rescue Disc in case the boot loader gets wiped off. However, seeing that I’ve already removed the internal DVD drive and try to avoid plugging and unplugging the USB slim DVD writer, I need to install the Windows 7 system recovery onto a USB flash drive. There is no easy supported method to do that from Windows itself but here are a few ways we’ve found how to do it.

System Recovery Options USB

There are other options to get the recovery files on to USB such as using the Command Prompt with Diskpart or using USB bootable creation tools such as SARDU, UNetbootin, Rufus, xboot etc, but after testing we found that not all the recovery USB functions work properly. Out of the 5 recovery tools on the “System Recovery options” menu, only the last option “Command Prompt” is working while the rest are broken. Clicking on Startup Repair shows the following error:

Startup Repair cannot repair this computer automatically.
Sending more information can help Microsoft create solutions.

Startup Repair cannot repair this computer automatically

Clicking on System Restore shows the following error:

To use System Restore, you must specify which Windows installation to restore.
Restart this computer, select an operating system, and then select System Restore.

To use System Restore, you must specify which Windows installation to restore

Clicking on System Image Recovery shows the following error:

An internal error occurred. The following information might help you to resolve the error:
The system cannot find the file specified. (0x80070002)

system cannot find the file specified 0x80070002

Clicking any of the 2 options in Windows Memory Diagnostic shows the following error:

Windows cannot check for memory problems.
An error is preventing Windows from checking for memory problems during startup. To run the Windows Memory Diagnostic manually, boot the computer from the Windows installation disc, and then select Windows Memory Diagnostic from the Windows Boot Manager menu.

An error is preventing Windows from checking for memory problems during startup

If you are getting any of the error messages above on your current Windows 7 System Recovery image installed onto USB stick, or want to create a fully working recovery USB from the off, you should use the below methods to create it as we have found that all the recovery option functions work as intended.

Step One: Creating the Windows Recovery ISO

Before you create the recovery USB stick, you must first get yourself a standard Windows 7 System Recovery ISO which can be attained in two ways. One if you have a recovery CD already burned to disc, and the second if you have no access to an optical drive. If you have a CD-RW drive the easiest method is to run the recdisc.exe tool from the Search box in the Start menu, burn the image to a re-writable CD and then follow the first method below.

First Method: From an existing Windows 7 system recovery disc.

1. Download and install the trial version of PowerISO. If you have any other software you like that creates an ISO file from a CD such as ImgBurn etc, you can use that also. Watch out for the adware during the PowerISO install.

2. Start PowerISO, then go to the Tools menu -> “Make CD/DVD/BD Image File”.

3. Select the destination file as “.iso file”, then choose a location and filename for the saved file. Make sure the source drive is the correct one. Press OK when you’re ready to create.

PowerISO Make Image File

After a minute or two, the ISO will be created ready to put onto USB.

Here’s how to create the image using another popular ISO utility called UltraISO instead if you prefer it over PowerISO:

1a. Download and install the trial of UltraISO.

2a. Start UltraISO (right click and Run as Administrator), go to Tools menu -> “Make CD/DVD Image or press F8.

3a. Click the button to choose a location and filename for the output file, make sure the drive is selected that contains your disc, then click Make. The ISO Output Format should be selected by default.

UltraISO Make Image

On Page 2 we’ll show you how to get the Recovery ISO from a system without an optical drive and write the ISO to USB.

Second Method: From a Windows 7 computer without an optical drive.

1. Download and install TotalMounter. This program creates a virtual CD/DVD drive which can actually be written to, unlike programs like Daemon Tools which are read only. Administrator privileges are required to use this program.

2. Run TotalMounter from the Start Menu (All Programs -> KernSafe -> TotalMounter -> TotalMounter) to bring up the main interface. Click Mount -> Virtual CD/DVD-RW.

TotalMounter Mount Virtual CDRW

3. In the next window, click the Browse button to select a location and file name for the ISO you will create. Leave Create Type and Disc Type alone, then click OK. A new device will appear in the TotalMounter main window, make a note of the letter the drive has been given.

Mount from Image

4. Run the Windows system repair disc creator by going to Start and typing recdisc into the search box. Once loaded, select the drive letter you noted from step 3 and click Create Disc.

recdisc Create System Repair Disc

5. Go back to the TotalMounter window, right click on the drive in the window to select it, then click Unmount. An ISO will now be created at the location and with the name you gave in step 3.

Unmount TotalMounter

The 32-bit recovery ISO will be around 143MB and the 64-bit will be around 165MB. TotalMounter can be uninstalled if you don’t want it anymore.

Step Two: Writing the ISO to USB

1. If you never used the first method from above, download and install the trial version of PowerISO.

2. Start PowerISO and then go to the Tools menu -> “Create Bootable USB Drive”. Administrator privileges are required for this function and the program will restart if it needs to elevate itself.

3. In the Create Bootable USB Drive window, all you have to do is click the button and find your ISO image you made from step one, make sure the Destination USB drive is correct, and then click Start.

PowerISO Create Bootable USB Drive

After the process has finished, the USB stick is ready to be booted from.

As with step one, UltraISO can be used instead of PowerISO if you prefer, Here’s the create USB instructions for it:

1a. Download and install the Trial of UltraISO if you haven’t already.

2a. Start UltraISO , then go to File -> Open or press Ctrl+O and open the recovery ISO image you have previously created. Once loaded, go to the Bootable menu -> “Write Disk Image”

3a. All that’s required here is to make sure the correct USB drive is selected and then click the Write button. No other settings need changing.

UltraISO Write Disk Image

Remember that these repair and recovery discs made through Windows 7 are architecture specific. A recovery disc made from a 32-bit Windows will only work on 32-bit, and 64-bit will only work on 64-bit etc.

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