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

  • October 6, 2016
  • 10 min read
IT and Virtualization Consultant. Vladan is the founder, and executive editor of the ESX Virtualization Blog at He is a VMware VCAP-DCA and VCAP-DCD, and has been a vExpert from 2009 to 2023.
IT and Virtualization Consultant. Vladan is the founder, and executive editor of the ESX Virtualization Blog at He is a VMware VCAP-DCA and VCAP-DCD, and has been a vExpert from 2009 to 2023.


Command prompt

Microsoft has released the final version of Windows Server 2016. I thought that it might be a good idea to create a USB stick that can be used as a source to install the Windows Server 2016 OS to other servers/workstations.

There are many free tools that 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 how to do that in 6 easy steps.

This process works 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 versions earlier 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 programs or nor is it executable from anywhere. It uses only programs already present in the Windows system. All you need to have is the Microsoft ISO and have a laptop/workstation running Windows 8 or higher, with a free USB slot.

If you do not have the ISO of Windows Server 2016, you will need to download it. 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. The first thing to do is to mount the ISO of 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 on 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 to limit possible mistakes.

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


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.


create partition primary

select partition 1


format fs=ntfs quick label=”2016Server”


Leaving DiskPart…

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


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 the files… (STILL Within the DOS window)

It is a 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 get 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 a USB if you’re an admin/technician and use it for systems that do not have a 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 varies from one manufacturer to another.

Diskpart commands:

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Taras Shved
Taras Shved StarWind HCI Appliance Product Manager
Look no further! StarWind HCI Appliance (HCA) is a plug-and-play solution that combines compute, storage, networking, and virtualization software into a single easy-to-use hyperconverged platform. It's designed to significantly trim your IT costs and save valuable time. Interested in learning more? Book your StarWind HCA demo now to see it in action!