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How-to Create Bootable Windows Server 2016 USB Thumb Drive for Installing OS

Posted by Vladan Seget on October 6, 2016
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Microsoft has released the final version of the Windows Server 2016. I thought that it might be a good idea to create an USB stick which can be used as a source to install Windows Server 2016 OS to other servers/workstations.

There are many free tools which can be used to do the job, but sometimes you just don’t have that option or simply you do not want to use any free tools for this job. It is not so difficult to create a bootable USB, and this post will teach you that in 6 easy steps.

This process does work on any version of Windows Server or Windows Desktop version 8 or above. It uses Microsoft Diskpart tool present on those systems. It’s a command line tool which is invoked by simply typing “Diskpart” from within a command prompt.

This How-to should also work on earlier versions than Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Windows 7 and Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2.

This post will teach you this process without any freeware/shareware. The article does not use any downloadable program or executable from anywhere. Only programs already present on Windows system. All you need to have is the Microsoft ISO and have a laptop/workstation running Windows 8 or higher, with free USB slot.

If you do not have the ISO of Windows Server 2016, you will need to download. To download Windows Server 2016 eval 180 days, go to this link. Microsoft will also make this download available through usual subscription services.

Create Boot USB with Windows Server 2016 – Here are the steps:

Step 1. First thing to do is to mount the ISO of the Windows Server 2016 you just downloaded. Double-click the ISO file to mount it. Check the drive letter and make note of the drive letter.  In my case it is drive D:

Devices and drivers

Step 2. Put in the USB Key in your computer and make note of the drive letter and the size of the disk.  In my case it is E: and 10gb.  Your environment will certainly be different than mine. You will need at least an 8gb USB thumb drive as the process will require 4.9gb.

Step 3. Run Elevated command prompt Start > type cmd > Right-click cmd at the top of the menu >  Run as Administrator and accept the elevation request

Command propmt

Important NOTE:  The following commands will completely wipe out your disk without warning so make sure you select the proper disk. You can also disconnect all external drives or other USBs currently connected to your system, so you can limit possible mistakes.

Step 4. Next, you will run the program called Diskpart to prepare the disk for the OS.

diskpart

list disk

Command prompt

select disk

in my case, I’ll do Select Disk 1 as Disk 1 is my 10Gb USB disk.

list disk

Please Note: after you run list disk again, the selected drive should be prefaced with the asterisks “*”. This is a small hint because I know the CLI isn’t everyone’s favorite.

Attention Watch out: the next line is the one that wipes the drive completely. It cleans the drive.

clean

create partition primary

select partition 1

active

format fs=ntfs quick label=”2016Server”

exit

Leaving DiskPart…

Step 5. Now we need to copy the boot sector.  Make sure that you are still within the command prompt window

D:

cd boot

Note: Run “bootsect /help” for detailed usage instructions.

bootsect /nt60 e:

Target volumes will be updated with BOOTMGR compatible bootcode.

Bootcode was successfully updated on all targeted volumes.

Step 6. Now we just need to copy files… (STILL Within the DOS window)

It is an xCopy command to copy files. The syntax is basically xCopy (source) (destination) with some switches (I won’t go into details). You’ll need to replace drive letters below with your drive letters.

xcopy D:\*.* E:\ /E /H /F

NOTE: There is a very large file called install.wim which will gets copied. So when it copies the install.wim file it will take a very very long time. This is just to let you know. This file is very large (4gb), but the copy command should finish without error.

Step 7. There is no step 7… You’re done. Once the copy finishes, you can boot Off the USB drive to install a new system on some server. It is usually handy to have such an USB if you’re admin/technician, and use it for systems that do not have CD/DVD drive installed.

NOTE: Don’t forget to change your BIOS settings concerning the boot order. You must put USB first, then Hard disk as second. Usually, you’ll do that through F2 or F12, or DEL key on your keyboard. But this vary from one manufacturer to another.

Diskpart commands: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/Cc766465(v=WS.10).aspx

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Vladan Seget
IT and Virtualization consultant, owner of vladan.fr - ESX Virtualization - one of the top independent virtualization blogs. VCAP5-DCA/DCD, VCP4/5