Utility Spotlight: Windows 7 Installation Simplified
Installing an OS such as Windows 7 from scratch can always be a bit of a chore. This free utility helps streamline the process.
You need a quick way to install the Windows 7 OS without relying on the network or wasting time hunting for the original discs. As Windows and other applications increasingly come as ISO files, it would be ideal to have a tool to create bootable installation media out of an ISO image file. Fortunately, Microsoft offers such a tool.
The Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool (WUDT) lets you create a bootable USB stick or DVD with all the files required to install Windows 7. Getting the OS up and running is just a matter of popping in the USB drive or DVD, then proceeding with the normal installation.
You can use the WUDT to create the installation media for any PC. It’s especially handy for standalone computers not connected to any network. The USB option is particularly useful for netbooks or slimline notebooks that don’t have an internal CD/DVD drive.
Download the WUDT directly from either the Microsoft Store or the Microsoft hosted CodePlex site. (You’ll also find documentation and a discussion forum at those sites.) When you first run the Windows7-USB-DVD-tool.exe file, it will take you through a quick and easy installation process. That will create a new folder in the Start Menu Programs area called Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool. Open that folder to launch the shortcut for the tool.
USB or DVD?
Before you run the tool, decide whether you want to install Windows 7 using a USB drive or a DVD. The installation folders and files take up around 2.5GB. Microsoft says you’ll need a USB flash drive with a minimum of 4GB of free space. If you’re using a disc, any blank DVD will do.
WUDT will first ask you to enter or browse to the location of your Windows 7 ISO file (see Figure 1). Click “Next,” and it will ask if you want to use a USB device or a DVD (see Figure 2).
Figure 1 You first tell the WUDT where to find the Windows 7 ISO file.
Figure 2 You can use a USB drive or DVD as the installation media.
If you choose the USB option, the next screen will show you where the drive is currently connected, or present you with a dropdown list if you have more than one USB device connected (see Figure 3). If there’s any data on the USB drive you plan to use, the WUDT will erase it before copying the installation files. Make sure it’s blank or doesn’t contain any essential data. The WUDT then reformats your USB device and copies all the necessary files.
Figure 3 Select the location of your USB drive, and the WUDT copies all the necessary files.
Choosing the DVD option prompts you to insert a blank DVD if you haven’t already. Once the tool detects a disc, click on Begin burning to kick off the process (see Figure 4). The tool will copy the installation files to your media.
Figure 4 Burning a DVD to use as installation media is a simple process.
After the WUDT copies all the files, you’ll receive a message indicating the backup is complete. You can then pop out the USB stick or DVD. Your Windows 7 installation media is ready.
To install Windows 7, insert your USB drive or DVD disc into the target computer. Power up, navigate to the Boot Menu, and boot from the USB or DVD. Windows will load the pre-installation environment. From there, you can follow the normal process to install the OS.
Remember the copy of Windows 7 you install is only licensed for that one computer. According to Microsoft, you can make one copy of the software as a backup for re-installation on the licensed computer. If you don’t delete your copy of the ISO file after installing the Windows 7 software, that copy of the ISO file counts as your one backup copy.
For those of you with volume license plans, you might have different licensing terms that could effectively expand your legitimate use of WUDT. As always, check with your Microsoft rep to make sure any widespread use of the WUDT falls within the terms of your agreement.
Lance Whitney is a writer, IT consultant and software trainer. He’s spent countless hours tweaking Windows workstations and servers. Originally a journalist, he took a blind leap into the IT world in the early ’90s.