Create a bootable Windows Server 2016 USB drive (step-by-step)

These procedures were written and tested using Windows Server 2016 February 2018 build, but should work on any version of Windows Server or Windows Desktop version 8 or above. I did this quickly for a new Intel NUC Core i7 I bought as a local software development workstation.

Step 1: Download Windows media

If you do not have the ISO, you will need to download first.  You can get a copy from your MSDN subscription or a trial from the Microsoft Evaluation Center.

Right click the ISO and select MOUNT from the context menu, which will assign a drive letter to the mounted ISO.

Step 2: Prepare USB Drive

Put in the USB Thumb drive in an open slot and make note of the drive letter and the size of the disk.  In my case it is E: and 8 gb  Grab an 8GB USB drive (at least) as the Windows binaries will require around 5.6gb.

You need to run the following commands elevated Windows command prompt. Run as Administrator and accept the elevation request.

IMPORTANT: The following commands will completely wipe out the disk you select without warning, so make sure you select the right one.  I strongly recommend you have a good backup before running.  I also recommend you disconnect all other external USB storage to avoid mistakes.

Next, you will run Diskpart to prepare the USB drive for the OS. The question mark below should be replaced with the disk number of the USB drive. Commands you need to run are shown in blue.

Start by opening a Windows command prompt as Administrator and run the following commands.

diskpart

list disk

image

select disk 2

list disk

When you run list disk again, the drive you selected should be prefaced with an asterisk (*), as pictured below.

image

WARNING : The next command you type is the one that wipes all the content from the USB drive

clean

create partition primary

list partition

image

select partition 1

active

format fs=ntfs quick label=”WS2016”

exit

Now you’re back to a Windows command prompt.

Next, we need to copy the boot sector.  You should still be at the command prompt.

If you have not yet mounted your Windows 2016 ISO, find it, right click and select Mount.

Replace the f: below with your mounted ISO drive letter.

f:

cd boot

Now you’ll run the bootsect utility, replacing e: with the drive letter of your USB drive. Bootsect is a native Windows command line utility used to update the partition boot sector code responsible for loading and running the bootloader.

bootsect /nt60 e:

From the above command, you’ll see output roughly as pictured below:

image

Step 3: Copy the Windows 2016 binaries to the USB drive

Now we just need to copy files… (You should still be in the DOS window)

Run the xCopy command to copy all files… replace F: with drive letter of your mounted ISO, and E: with drive letter of your USB drive.

xcopy F:\*.* E:\ /E /H /F

WARNING: The copy of the install.wim file can take a LONG time, and will vary based on the performance of your USB drive. It’s about a 5.6 GB file.

When the copy is finished, you now have a bootable USB drive that works just like a Windows Server 2016 DVD.

NOTE: You will likely have to reconfigure your workstation, server, or VM BIOS to boot from the USB device. Putting the USB first in the boot order will typically work best.

Now you have a bootable USB drive with the Windows Server 2016 binaries you can use to install the version of your choice.

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