Curtis Johnstone Curtis Johnstone's Personal Blog

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

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