My latest laptop does not have an optical drive. The hard drive failed and it took me a second to realize that this is going to be a hassle. It turns out Microsoft did something pretty cool. They have a free utility to convert an ISO image to a bootable USB flash drive. I already had a Windows 7 Ultimate in ISO format so I downloaded the utility from the Microsoft store and installed it on my desktop. It was super easy.
If you don’t have Windows in ISO format it’s easy to make an ISO file. Obviously you need Windows on an optical disc to make an ISO. There is a free utility called IMGBurn that will do the job. Choose the option “Create image file from disc” and select a file name and location and let ImagBurn make your ISO.
Then download and install the Windows USB DVD utility. Insert your USB flash drive in your computer and select the correct drive letter from the Windows utility and then navigate to the ISO image you made. Let it write the Windows program to the flash drive, this takes several minutes.
On the computer that has no optical drive you may have to enter the BIOS and change the boot order or enable USB booting. In my case it just found the USB drive and booted from it. It’s surprisingly fast to load Windows from a USB flash drive. And I had a USB 2.0 drive, on USB 3.0 it’s probably even faster.
I would suggest making a bootable USB flash drive before you have a hard drive failure. USB flash drives are cheap and it’s easy enough to carry one around. You will need at least 4gb of free space to make a bootable Windows 7 disc. Some images are larger if they have slipstreamed updates preinstalled. I would recommend a 8gb flash drive.
For more information on the Microsoft Windows USB DVD Tool read here.