Curtis Johnstone Curtis Johnstone's Personal Blog

April 29, 2016

Creating a Windows 10 Bootable USB Flash Drive

Filed under: Technology,Windows 10 — Tags: — Curtis Johnstone @ 5:39 pm

Curtis Johnstone, Skype for Business MVP

Having a bootable version of the Windows 10 installer on a USB flash drive (aka USB key) can be very useful if you want to install a completely new clean version of Windows 10 on an existing device (e.g. laptop), or if you want to install a dual-boot configuration on an existing device version of alongside Windows 7 or 8.1 instead of upgrading immediately.

Having a bootable version of Windows 10 on DVD is possible and equally as good, however many laptops now do not ship with a DVD drive, and USB drives are portable, plentiful, cheap, easier to work with.

Obtain an ISO Version of Windows 10

The first step is to obtain the Windows 10 installation media. The most popular download format is an ISO file which contains all of the Windows 10 installation files in one large uncompressed image. The size of the file will depend on the version of Windows 10, but for reference, the ISO file for the Professional version is about 4 GB.

Obtain a USB Flash Drive

While any USB key will do, there are two important points to consider.

1. Make sure it is large enough to hold all of the Windows 10 installation files. The ISO image is uncompressed, so even though the individual folder and files will be extracted from the ISO image, the cumulative size will be the same as the ISO image. Whatever size the ISO file you have obtained in the previous step is, this is the size of the USB flash drive you need. It should be a minimum of 4GB and 8GB should accommodate most versions of Windows 10.

2. A second point to remember is that the USB will need to be formatted during the process of making it bootable. This means that all existing data will be erased. Ensure you backup any existing data that you want to keep before making the Windows 10 bootable USB flash drive.

Using the Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool

You now have two methods you can use to create the bootable Windows 10 USB Key:

  1. Use a free small windows open source tool (aka "Windows USB/DVD Download Tool"), or,
  2. Follow the step-by-step procedure below (which uses some native Windows utilities and the command line)

Using the Windows USB/DVD Download Tool is by far simpler and easier. I include the alternate full step-by-step method because this tool is an older unsupported open source tool, and it is unclear how much it has been tested in different scenarios with Windows 10. I have successfully used this tool with the Windows 10 Preview media, however I know other users that have had problems with this tool with specific USB keys and Windows 8.1.

I recommend you try this tool first, and if it does not work, use the step-by-step process documented in the next section.

To use the Windows USB/DVD Download Tool, follow these steps:

  1. Download the tool from here: on an existing Windows 7 or 8.1 machine.
  2. Install and run the tool.
  3. The tool is self-explanatory:
    • Select the source ISO image file
    • Be sure to select "USB device" and specify the path to the USB device (as shown below)


Once the USB flash drive is ready, the root folder will look similar to this in Windows Explorer:


If this work, you are essentially finished and can jump to the “All Finished” section at the end of this article.

Step-by-Step Process for Creating a Windows 10 Bootable USB Flash Drive

If the Windows USB/DVD Download Tool is not an option for you, this section describes a step-by-step process to create a bootable USB key from an ISO image. Word of warning: some steps require use of the command line and several native administration tools.

The high level process described here amounts to: formatting the USB flash drive and creating a new disk partition, marking the newly created disk part as bootable, and copying the individual files in the ISO file to the USB flash drive.

Mount the Windows 10 ISO Image

As previously mentioned the Windows 10 ISO file contains the individual files which comprise Windows 10. We will need to get access to those individual files to copy them to the USB drive. ‘Mounting’ is the term used to describe treating the ISO image like it was a disk drive with media in it. It will allow us to browse the individual files in the ISO image as if it was on a DVD inserted into a DVD drive.

If you are running Windows 8/8.1 computer you are in luck – it natively has the ability to mount the ISO image and see the individual files under a new drive letter. Simply right-click on the ISO file and select "Mount". A new Windows Explorer window will open with the files visible in a new drive letter.

If you are using Windows 7 or earlier), you will need to download and install a separate piece of software to mount the ISO file. There are many free software utilities to do this; I have successfully used MagicISO and 7-Zip successfully before.

Preparing the USB Flash Drive

In this step we will create and format a new primary partition on the USB flash drive and make it bootable (so that you can boot your device directly off of this USB key). Plug in the USB flash drive if you have not done so already.

Step 1: Create and Format a New Partition on the USB Flash Drive

1. Start the Command Prompt as Administrator

This can easily be done in Windows 8.1 with the Windows Key + X and select "Command Prompt (Admin)"

2. Start the DiskPart command-line utility: diskpart.exe

3. Find the disk number of the USB flash drive: list disk

Locate the disk number of the USB flash drive. The size is usually the best indicator

4. Select the USB flash disk: select disk <#> (the # is the disk number of the USB drive)

5. Clean the disk: clean

6. Create a new primary partition: create partition primary

7. Select the new partition so we format it: select partition 1

8. Mark the this new partition as active: active

9. Format the new partition in NTFS format: format FS=NTFS

This will take several minutes to finish (approximately 15 min depending on the size and type of USB drive).

10. Assign a new drive letter to the USB flash drive: assign (in Windows 8/8.1, after typing assign, a new Windows Explorer windows will open for that new drive – leave this window open – you will use it in the next step).

11. Exit the DiskPart tool: exit

12. Keep the command-line window open

Step 2: Mark the USB Flash Drive as Bootable

In order to boot a device (e.g. laptop) directly from any disk drive, it must be marked as bootable. This is basically a special signature in the first few blocks of a disk drive, the signals to the hardware that it is capable of booting an operating system.

We will use a command line tool called bootsect.exe included in the Windows 10 installation media to mark the new disk partition we created in the previous step as bootable.

1. If you still have the command prompt windows open for the previous step, you can use this. If not, start a new Command Prompt as Administrator.

2. In the command-prompt window change directory into the Windows 10 installation media files. To do this, type the <drive letter:>, where the drive letter where you mounted the ISO image file previously (e.g. "e:")

3. Now change into the boot folder directory: cd boot. You can do a directory listing in this folder (dir) and confirm there is a file called bootsect.exe.

4. Mark the USB flash drive primary partition as bootable: bootsect.exe /nt60 <USB root drive letter:>

  • Don’t forget the semicolon after the drive letter
  • E.g. if our USB flash drive is mounted on drive G:, we would type: bootsect.exe /nt60 G:
  • If this was successful, you should see a message "Bootcode was successfully updated on all targeted volumes".

Tip – if you get access denied when trying to set the USB partition as bootable, the command-prompt was likely not launched as Administrator, and the error below will be shown:

E:\>bootsect /nt60 F:

Target volumes will be updated with BOOTMGR compatible bootcode.

Could not map drive partitions to the associated volume device ob

Access is denied.

Copy the Windows 10 Installation Files to the USB Flash Drive

Start a Windows Explorer on the root of the USB flash drive. Now S=select all the files from the Windows Explorer window of the mounted Windows 10 ISO image (CTRL+A), and copy the files (CTRL+C) to the Windows Explorer window of the USB flash drive (CTRL+P).

All Finished

Your USB flash key is now capable of booting into the Windows 10 installer. You can boot from the USB flash drive and install a clean version of Windows 10 on any computer, or do install a dual-boot with another operating system.

Tip – when you power-on a computer the order of devices (e.g. hard drives, USB drives) that the computer checks to see if they are bootable is controlled by settings in the BIOS. Almost all computers have the ability to present a bootable device menu during its power-on sequence. You will likely want use this bootable device menu to select the new Windows 10 USB flash drive that you just created. This menu is invoked by pressing a Function Key when the computer is first turned on. The exact function key depends on the computer manufacturer and BIOS, but a safe bet is to try F12. Many ASUS and Dell laptops use this. A good listing of boot menu function keys are available on the internet such as this one:

August 11, 2015

Where, Oh Where, Does Windows 8.1 SoundRecorder Store it’s Files?

Filed under: Technology — admin @ 9:42 pm

So that no other human has to go through the painful process of finding where the native Windows 8.x SoundReocrder app stores your recordings, they are stored here:

> C:\Users\<User Name>\AppData\Local\Packages\Microsoft.WindowsSoundRecorder_8wekyb3d8bbwe\LocalState\Indexed\Recordings

November 11, 2013

Tips for Installing Windows 8.1


Creating a Bootable USB Drive

If you want to install Microsoft Windows 8.1 from a USB drive, you will need to make that drive bootable.

If your USB drive contains the Windows 8.1 installation files (i.e. unpacked from the Windows 8.1 .ISO file).

Option #1: A great tip is to use the Windows Diskpart command line tool (available in Windows 7 – just Start | Run | Diskpart.exe) to mark the USB partition as active.   This is required to make it bootable.  The full instructions are available on Microsoft TechNet here: Create a Bootable USB Flash Drive.  If you have already created a partition on the USB drive, you just need to do the following in Diskpart

  1. Select the disk representing the USB drive:
    • “list disk”  (and note the disk ID of the USB drive)
    • “select disk n”
  2. Select the partition
    • “list part”
    • “select part 1”
  3. Mark the partition as Active
    • “mark active”

Option #2: The Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool can be used:

This tool is used to make a bootable USB drive (or DVD) to install Windows 7 or Windows 7 applications, but it also works to take an .iso image of Windows 8 and create a USB bootable version.

Note: in Step 1 you will want to select your Windows 8.1 .iso file.  During Step 2 when the tool asks you to Choose the media type to create your Windows 7 backup – this is actually the destination of the Windows 8 bootable USB drive!  

You should get a screen like this if it all goes correctly:


Booting from a Bootable USB Drive

Newer laps might have a “Legacy” boot menu and a UEFI BOOT menu.  If you cannot boot to your USB drive, try the UEFI option.

UEFI = Unified Extensible Firmware Interface and is a newer replacement for BIOS.

Windows 8 Will Only Install on a GPT Disk

If you are trying to install on a disk, or partition of that disk, that has the older MBR partition table format, you will likely received this error:

The selected disk has an MBR partition table.  On EFI systems Windows can only be installed to GPT disks.”

You can use Diskpart (see above) to convert the disk from MBT to GPT (“select disk n” and then “convert gpt”) but you cannot do this in a dual boot scenario because when you try to convert it to GPT you will get an error: “The operation is not allowed on a disk that contains a pagefile volume” (i.e. the existing Windows 7 operating system).

See “Windows and GPT FAQ” for more information.

Some folks have found solutions to this if you are really motivated: Windows cannot be installed to this disk. the selected disk has an MBR partition tabl – Windows 8 Errors and Crashes

July 8, 2013

A Quick Overview of the Mailbox App

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , , — admin @ 10:34 am

Below is an easy pictorial overview of the user experience with the Mailbox app and a Gmail inbox. In a nutshell – this app is successful because you can deal with email in one swipe – that is: move it from your “mailbox” (your attention span) with one of 4 actions: Snooze, Archive, Delete, Categorize.

There are 4 main Swipe actions:

  1. Fast to the Right – Archive it
  2. Slow to the Right – Delete it
  3. Fast to the Left – Snooze it
  4. Slow the Left – Categorize it (into a list)

Tip: everything you do in the Mailbox app is reflected in the Gmail client.   Personally I don’t like this because it messes with my native experience, but others who buy into the zero-inbox philosophy will love it.

It Subscribes to the “Zero-Inbox” Philosophy – first run offers to “Archive Everything” to get you started.

(in the Gmail world, archiving just removed the “inbox” label from your message and it is available as a separate ‘folder’/label = All Mail)


The 4 Major Swipe Actions are Represented as Icons on the Top Bar – the drawer icon is your All View:

(brown = lists; yellow = snooze; blue = drawer (inbox); green = archive; orange = delete)

clip_image004 clip_image005

Categories (Lists) – to file messages


Snooze Options:


Easily Categorize any Message:


Main menu give an overview of the Snoozed (i.e. Later), Categorized (i.e. Lists), and Archived mail:


The Categories (Lists) match Labels in the native Gmail client (the app probably created these)


October 16, 2012

Windows Shortcut to Search Active Directory

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , — admin @ 9:10 am

I forget where I got this from, but it is a shortcut that saves a lot of time.

You can create a shortcut on your Windows Desktop to search Active Directory by pointing the shortcut to this location

> %windir%\system32\rundll32.exe dsquery.dll,OpenQueryWindow

Just enter the name of an AD user or group and hit search.

August 15, 2012

How to Check Whether a User has Microsoft SQL Administrator Permissions

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:38 am

Microsoft SQL has a fixed system administrator role named “sysadmin“.

If a Windows user (credentials) has this role, they have system administrator rights.

The sysadmin role is per SQL instance, not per deployed SQL “server”.

To check whether a user has sysadmin rights to a particular SQL instance, follow these steps (as outlined in

I will summarize them here with a couple of slight modifications:

  1. Start SQL Server Management Studio.
  2. Connect to the SQL Instance.
  3. Expand the Security node, and then click Logins.
  4. Find the Windows User and right-click the user’s name, and then click Properties.
  5. Click the check-boxes to give them these two roles:
    • sysadmin
    • public

August 14, 2012

Microsoft Hyper-V Network Types

Here is a good summary of the different types of networks you can create in Microsoft Windows Hyper-V:

  1. An External network provides communication between a virtual machine and a physical network by creating an association to a physical network adapter on the physical host.
    • This is also known as a Virtual Switch.
    • Each external virtual network is bound to a physical NIC adapter, and there can only be one external virtual network per physical adapter.
    • Any virtual machine using an external virtual network can access your entire network – including the Internet if the underlying physical network has Internet access.
  2. An Internal Network provides communication between:
    • All the virtual machines hosted on the physical server, and,
    • Each virtual machine and the physical server (host)
  3. A Private Network provides communication between the virtual machines on the server.
You can create virtual networks on the server running Hyper-V to define various networking topologies for virtual machines and the virtualization server. There are three types of virtual networks you can create:
An external network, which provides communication between a virtual machine and a physical network by creating an association to a physical network adapter on the virtualization server.
An internal network, which provides communication between the virtualization server and virtual machines.
A private network, which provides communication between virtual machines only.
The following procedures provide the basic instructions for configuring virtual networks. For more information about designing and deploying virtual networks, see Configuring Virtual Networks.You can create virtual networks on the server running Hyper-V to define various networking topologies for virtual machines and the virtualization server. There are three types of virtual networks you can create:An external network, which provides communication between a virtual machine and a physical network by creating an association to a physical network adapter on the virtualization serverAn internal network, which provides communication between the virtualization server and virtual machines

You can view the existing virtual networks available on a Hyper-V server, or create new ones, in the Hyper-V management console.  Once you have selected a Hyper-V server (physical) in the console, select “Virtual Network Manager…” either in the Actions menu on the right-hand-side, or right-click on the Hyper-V server.

See Configuring Virtual Networks for more information:

Here are a few additional Hyper-V networking tips:

How to Create a Hyper-V Virtual Network on a Physical Wireless Adapter

Now the bigger issue if you are running a Hyper-V Virtual Image on a machine with only a wireless connection (likely on a laptop), is that Hyper-V does not support creating a virtual network driver that is associated with a physical wireless adapter.

Thankfully there is a workaround that apparently is not fully supported) but works just fine. Here are two links that describe the process:

  1. Enabling Wireless Network for a Hyper-V Virtual Machine
  2. Hyper-V: How to Run Hyper-V on a Laptop (en-US)

In a nutshell you create an internal virtual adapter that is used by the VM, and then share the physical wireless adapter with it.

Hyper-V “External Virtual Network = “Virtual Switch”

You will see many references to creating a Virtual Switch in Hyper-V.  Know that in Hyper-V parlance this is the same as an External Virtual Network.

This sounds simple, but when you are trying to understand what is possible in the realm of Hyper-V networking it is easy to get confused and it help to understand they are both implemented the same in Hyper-V, but can provide functionality that mimics a physical switch and a virtual adapter that accesses a physical network.

Note: in Hyper-V you can only create one external virtual network (or virtual switch) bound to each physical NIC (adapter).


You will the reference to ‘partitions’ when you first start learning about Hyper-V and networking.

A good and simple explanation of what this means is located in Figure A of this article: Configuring Virtual Networks With Hyper-V (

Hyper-V Network Configurations In Labs

Here are some good references for different network configurations in Hyper-V for lab purposes:

  1. Building Test Labs with Hyper-V (Part 1): Base Configuration and Virtual Networks  (
  2. Test Lab Guide: Base Configuration (
  3. Test Lab Guide: Fabrikam Base Configuration  (

August 12, 2012

Allowing Ping Request in Windows 2008 R2

The basic staple of diagnosing a networking problem in windows-land is good old “ping”.  Many times, newer Windows operating systems (such as Windows 7, Windows 2008, Windows 2008 R2) block ping requests as a security measure, and is achieved through a default Windows Firewall setting (rule to block inbound ICMP requests).

In an attempted to re-enable ping requests, you might be tempted to shutdown the Windows Firewall service.  As a security measure, doing this will block any future Remote Desktop sessions – and worse – it will kill any existing Remote Desktop sessions.  It is also not a good security practice to disable the whole Windows Firewall.

Instead, you can simply enable (or re-enable) a built in Windows Firewall rule on Windows 2008 to allow the machine to respond to ping requests.  Ping uses the ICMP protocol, which is also used for File and Printer Sharing so the rule is called the “File and Printer Sharing (Echo Request).  There are separate rules for IPv4 and IPv6.  There is a good chance you are using IPv4.

Enable this rule as show below and ping responses should start working:


Note: to get here, go Control Panel | Administrative Tools | Windows Firewall with Advanced Security.

It is a similar procedure in Windows 7 – just make sure you select “Advanced Settings” in the Control Panel settings for Windows Firewall to get the screen above.

If you do need to temporarily disable the Windows Firewall, you can use the following commands (from the command line):

Enable and disable Windows Firewall: It’s typically a best practice to leave Windows Firewall enabled, but sometimes when you’re performing testing or setting up new applications, you need to turn Windows Firewall off for a period. The following commands illustrate how to turn Windows Firewall off and then back on:
netsh advfirewall set allprofiles state on
netsh advfirewall set allprofiles state o
  • netsh advfirewall set allprofiles state off
  • netsh advfirewall set allprofiles state on

August 10, 2012

How to Automatically Start Task Manager When You Log On to Windows

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , — admin @ 12:50 pm

I have been asked to do this by enough people it warranted a quick blog entry.

To have Windows Task Manager start everytime you log on to windows, you can use this command (in the command line window):

> REG ADD HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run /v Path /t REG_EXPAND_SZ /d ^%systemroot^%\System32\taskmgr.exe

August 7, 2012

MobiPocket eBook Readers for the PC

Many eBooks come in the .mobi extension.  This is the MobiPocket format.  If you are trying to read .mobi content on the Windows platform, here are 2 pieces of software you can use:

1]  Amazon Kindle eReader for Windows.

  • You can find out more and download the Kindle for PC here:
  • This is an excellent eReader for the PC
  • One disadvantage is that you cannot export or share (at least easily) your personalized notes and highlights for non-Amazon store books – which include .mobi files.

2] Calibre

  • You can find out more and download it here:
  • Calibre is a good general purpose eReader that supports all major formats.
  • It is much more than just a eReader though – it is a whole e-book library management piece of software
  • The biggest disadvantage as an eReader is that it is a heavy footprint for just an eReader.
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