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Bootable USB drive guide


Guide by: Steve Goossens

Date: October 7th, 2006

Price: $0

Making it bootable

Insert the USB drive into a free USB port. A bootable drive needs a few basic files on there so now you will need to start up the HP USB Bootdisk utility and you will see the following screen:









HP USB Bootdisk utility


  1. Select the USB drive
  2. Select FAT as the file system
  3. I recommend labelling your usb drive to distinguish it from other drives
  4. Tick/check this box
  5. Click the [...] box and browse to the folder where the boot files are located (the extracted files)
  6. and finally click the [Start] button

The following dialog box should appear:

Did you select the correct drive?


Double check that you selected the correct drive and then click the [Yes] button. After a few seconds another dialog box appears to show you the results of the formatting:

Format complete


Making it Useful

Ok, so now you have a bootable drive, but if you look in Explorer you will probably see what appears to be an empty drive:

"Empty" drive


This is because most people (including myself) choose to keep the default Windows setting that hides protected system files. In Explorer, if you go to Tools > Folder Options... > View, and scroll down a few lines you should be able to find this line "Hide protected operating system files (Recommended)" and disable it:

Disable system file protection (hiding)


Click on [Apply] and [OK] and you should then see the files that were added when formatting using the HP utility:

The system boot files on the usb drive


These are the files that let the drive be bootable. Go ahead and re-enable "Hide protected operating system files (Recommended)" to avoid deleting important files. This was just to show you where the files are, and also lets you confirm that the system files are indeed on the usb drive.

So now the drive will act like a bootable floppy disk or bootable CD. All you have to do is put some files on the disk and you will be able to access them from a DOS prompt. You can of course use the usb drive as a storage drive, so you can pull all the files back over now if you saved them to your computer earlier.

Here is an example of the types of files you can put on your drive:

Typical files and folders for a bootable disk


You should note that for bios flashes you will need the bios rom files and the corresponding flash utility. This applies to motherboards and graphics cards.

Also on the usb drive I have put the latest version of Memtest86+ which you can download here - choose "Download - Pre-Compiled EXE file for USB Key (Pure DOS)". Memtest86+ is based on Memtest86, but runs under DOS as opposed to Linux, so it can run off a bootable USB drive with DOS system files!

The other folders on the drive contain a set of custom bios files for my 7800GT cards with different settings in them so I can quickly try out a number of different settings that can only be changed by editing the graphics bios! (Note to owners of the 7800GT: This makes light work of trying out different values for geometric delta)

  1. Bootable USB drive guide
  2. Making it bootable
  3. Making it boot
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