Vista tip: Using the DiskPart Command to Create a Bootable USB Flash Drive

Hat tip to Philip E. for this one!

One often needs to flash a BIOS with a boot disk.  Back in the day, this was done with floppy disks, but there are more and more problems in doing this.

For one, many BIOS images will not fit on a 1.44M floppy;  at best, you need two floppies, one to boot and one to hold the image.  (Similar to the old Linux boot/root floppy pair.)  Secondly and most importantly, the floppies are slow and none too reliable.  I have never bricked a computer from a bad BIOS flash and I would not miss it if I were to never experience this!

HP had a utility that would let you make a USB disk bootable if you provided a boot floppy (such as one made in XP), but it seems to have disappeared from their site.  The utility can be found here:  http://www.bay-wolf.com/usbmemstick.htm.

But Vista has an easier way.  The diskpart utility now supports flash drives!  From a command prompt do:

    • On a Vista system plug in the USB flash drive to an available USB port (ReadyBoost compatible is best)
    • Start–>diskpart [Enter] (UAC Prompt)
    • list disk (USB flash drive will show in the list – Disk 1 for this example)
    • sel disk 1
    • clean
    • create par primary
    • sel par 1
    • act
    • format fs=fat32 (note that USB HDD’s will need to be NTFS)
    • exit

You’ll then have to copy system files from the floppy (MSDOS.SYS and COMMAND.COM), plus any files you need to flash.  I have one USB stick that I keep a boot sector on to use for flashing machines.  (I don’t routinely reformat any of my USB sticks.)

Original:  MPECS Inc. Blog: Windows Vista – Using the DiskPart Command to Create a Bootable USB Flash Drive