If, at all, you belong to any of the above (others are equally welcome!), then this post is what you should definitely read up. More and more people these days are trying to leave the traditional way of booting into Windows setup using bootable CDs. It's more of a necessity because people with netbooks do not have an optical drive or may be a person's optical drive has gone kaput.
Honestly speaking, though the awareness of making flash drives bootable seems to be quite on the lower side, it's actually an easy task to do so. What made me think about putting up this post was that I find people asking how to make flash drives bootable all the time on other popular blogs or computer forums. And instead of answering them individually all the time I find it better to post here once and let them refer it as many times as they want. Actually, I wanted to present with an easy, short and a reliable method to make flash drives bootable and I found that, though there are many ways to do so, most of them are not so reliable. They have some issues or the others depending on the version of Windows being used, version of Windows to be installed, as well as file system of the OS drive amongst other factors. It took me time to publish this article because I had to individually check all of them by varying the important factors. Some I knew before and some I learnt them new. I won't be mentioning all the methods I have researched right now, instead I will put them up in separate posts later on, detailing them and pointing out their pros and cons.
The method I found the best was using Novicorp's WinToFlash. It's a light (6.5MB), free and easy to use software that can be used with all versions of Windows to install almost all versions of Windows.
Here are the 3 steps to making your flash drive bootable.
1) Download the software from here. Extract the zip file and run WinToFlash.exe
2) Start the Windows setup transfer wizard. You will get this screen below. Put your Windows Cd/Dvd into the optical drive and attach you flash drive to the USB port. Now put the source of Cd and the flash drive as it's in your computer and click next. It will start copying data and notify once its done.
NOTE: for people who do not have access to optical drives (such as in netbook), they may mount the image of their Windows in virtual drives using software such as PowerISO, Alcohol, MagicISO etc. Use any software you like. Just mount the image and link to that image as mentioned above (for the CD).
3) Your flash drive is now perfectly bootable. Just make sure you have set up boot priority for the USB Drive in your BIOS menu. Restart your computer and you see this screen below(latest beta version). Select the 1st option to go into the setup.
You are done and can now boot up with this USB stick! Boot away!
You can visit the Official website here
If you are new to installing windows, you can check this wonderful simulator to see how to do installation of Windows on your computer. It has been simulated on Windows XP but is quite valid for 2000, Vista or even 7 as almost all have similar working. Click on the link Install Windows XP to see the post.