Ok, I finally figured out a problem that I have been struggling with for some time.
Perhaps if I share my experience other aspiring geeks may not have to struggle so.
And many others generously helped me so therefore I am obligated to “pay IT forward”.
The original problem I had was that I could not get a good “burn” of an iso image to DVD.
This was a big problem for me because I am a Microsoft Action Pack subscriber and I paid over $ 400 US for the downloadable version that gives me “internal” use rights to a bunch of Microsoft products.
Why could I not get a good burn to DVD? Incompatible disks? Faulty drives? Out of date firmware?
I still do not know.
I can burn smaller iso images to CD – no problem. But not DVD. Why? Were the disks bad? Was the burn speed too fast?
Who knows? Who cares?
I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to figure it out.
I even got frustrated with the technology – even though normally my threshold for frustration with technology is very high.
I even contacted Microsoft (and yelled into the phone in frustration) thinking perhaps it was their fault. It was not their fault. (I verified the same problem within Ubuntu Linux) Microsoft’s solution was for me to pay another $ 100 and they would ship me all the physical media. Or I could open a support case at $ 245 per hour.
I even asked Microsoft for a refund of my money for the Action Pack which was of no use to me if I could not burn the iso images to DVD. Microsoft declined to give me a refund.
I was not going to pay Microsoft any more money for anything at this point – until or even if I figured out this problem.
And I had to figure it out, because after all; I am an IT Pro right?
I was awash in DVD and other optical media that in some cases was unusable. DVDr and CDr can only be burned once – what a waste! I only use the RW (rewriteable version)
Then I recalled that it was possible to make a USB drive “bootable”.
Many techs (both Linux and Windows) had figured out how to install operating systems onto computers from USB “thumb” or “flash” drives.
I decided that this was the direction that I needed to go.
So I reached into my “toolbox” for my second most important and often used tool: www.google.com.
Here is the overall concept:
- Download an iso image. Verify your download with a hash (ex: MD5) if provided. With Microsoft Action Pack I used their download tool and no verification hash was provided. I finally decided that no hash should be required if you are using such a download tool. So assume the download is good.
- A USB flash or thumb drive (4 Gigs or larger) will need to be properly formatted and partitioned. In Windows we use the diskpart utility to achieve this.
- Next, the USB flash drive will need to be made “bootable”. We use the bootsect utlity from a command line to accomplish this.
- Finally, you will need to copy the files from an install CD or DVD onto your USB drive. But wait; in my case there was no CD or DVD install media – I was working with an iso image of an install DVD that I had downloaded. The iso image was a single file. You will need a tool that can work with the iso image so that you will be able to “expand” the iso file and “see” the individual files that you would normally have on an install disk.
- Enter bios setup and configure boot order so that the USB drive becomes the first drive in the boot order. Or hit F8 during boot to get into an advanced boot menu – then select the USB flash drive.
In my particular situation I was trying to create a bootable USB so that I could install Windows Server 2008 R2 which is a 64 bit operating system. And I was attempting this on my existing Windows 7 (32 bit) system. This turned out to be another stumbler block because it turns out that you cannot utilize the bootsect command from the 64 bit OS when you are performing this operation from a 32 bit machine. The two bootsect versions (64 bit vs 32) are incompatible.
So, I attempted to follow the guidance that I found from my google search and after multiple attempts I still was not successful.
I then posted the problem to my SMBTN yahoo group. This is my “go to” group where I get help that I often find is unavailable anywhere at any price.
I received several responses from top experts.
Ok, I was on the right track and getting closer to a solution.
Each solution that the experts described varied somewhat from what I was attempting to do and so their explanations were only partially helpful.
But I was beginning to see the commonalities and I was starting to grasp the concepts involved.
When I ran into problems now, I was able to isolate the specific problem and continue a more focused search to the solution for that specific problem.
Then I cross referenced what I had learned on SMBTN with two other well known experts and finally achieved a successful outcome.
Here is the method that was finally successful for me in creating a bootable USB drive from an iso image:
Plug in your flash drive (4 G or larger)
From within Windows 7 (32 bit) I opened a command line with elevated permissions and entered the diskpart command.
Within diskpart use the following comands in this order:
select disk 1
create partition primary
select partition 1
format fs=ntfs quick
Make drive bootable:
In my case; I could not use the bootsect utility within the boot directory of the 64 bit OS. This was because I was on a 32 bit machine. So I put in a Win 7 32 bit install disk in the DVD drive and I grabbed a command line and got into the boot folder on the 32 bit install disk. Then I ran bootsect targeting the USB flash drive.
I changed directory into the DVD drive boot folder: cd d:\boot
I entered the command: bootsect /nt60 g: (my USB flash drive was the g: drive)
Next task was to copy the install files from an install disk (virtual or physical). In my case I was working from an iso image. So I had to use a tool that could work with an iso image and make the install files available so I could then copy those files. The tool that worked beautifully for me was Virtual-clone Drive which made the files easily accessible with one click “mounting” the iso file and exposing the install files. Now I could easily copy the required install files to the USB drive.
Mission accomplished right? Not so fast.
I unplugged the USB drive and plugged into my other PC.
I restarted the PC and entered the bios so I could make the USB drive first in the boot order.
At first I could not make this work – the older PC had an older bios that did not list an option for booting from a USB drive. Stumped again, right? Not necessarily.
After several unsuccessful attempts I finally tried the F8 function key during boot which put me into advanced boot options.
The USB disk was now listed and I selected it.
Success at last! I was now booting from the USB flash drive and installing Server 2008 R2 64 bit!
This solves many problems for me – no more DVD burning problems or disk clutter.
Here are some of the online subject matter experts that helped me:
From the SMBTN yahoo group:
Susan Bradley, SBS MVP – she confirmed that the 64 bit version of bootsect would not run (was not compatible with) on a 32 bit machine. That is why the Microsoft USB/DVD Download Tool would not work in my case. Although I had suspected this – the information was not available anywhere else – Susan confirmed this when I replied to her post that I was not successful with the USB/DVD download tool from Microsoft. Susan is awesome and she has helped me on numerous occasions over the last several years. She is a top star in the SMB space.
Andy Goodman, SBS MVP – Andy confirmed that I would need a tool that could work with the iso image and make the install files available so that I could copy them.
Tim Carney of SFBay-Link and Basbits– also listed the steps to perform the required tasks – I compared his steps with Andy’s and others – and Tim’s comments and suggestions were helpful and encouraging.
Also on the internet:
Philip Elder, SBS MVP – Philip has a great blog post on this at his blog: MPECS Inc. Blog at: http://blog.mpecsinc.ca/ Most importantly; Philip suggested the tool: Virtual-Clone Drive. This is a tool that makes it very easy to work with an iso image file. Even I could use and understand this tool – vey intuitive!
Kevin Woley, Program Manager at Microsoft – Kevin’s blog post: http://kmwoley.com/blog/?p=345 reminded me to try the F8 key to go into advanced boot options. It worked!