image Lately I have been playing a lot with Windows 7 and saw quite a number of posts from people who are installing it in all sorts of hardware and especially on netbooks.

The netbook installation can be tricky because… well netbooks don’t come with DVD drives and so many face the question “how do I boot into the Windows 7 installer?”.

One possible answer of course is to connect a USB DVD drive, insert the disk and boot from there. The problem with this approach is that often people do not have a USB DVD drive (I don’t for example) and getting hold of one can be expensive (I don’t want to buy one just to install Windows 7 on my netbook).

The other alternative is to boot from a USB stick but this approach has two drawbacks: 1. you need to fiddle around a bit to make the USB stick bootable and USB stick installs are… sloooooow!!!!

The third (and my preferred option) is to install from a USB Hard Disk. Pretty anyone I know today have a USB hard disk and once you have it ready… installing from it is fast, much faster than doing it from a DVD or a USB stick. So… here is a walk through guide on how to do it:

1. Prepare your hard disk

In order to be able to boot from the USB HD you need to make an active partition. I would recommend creating a 5 GB partition on the disk that you can wipe if needed (when Windows 7 Release Candidate will be released for example) and once you have done it, all you need to do is to open the Disk Management applet in Computer Management by:

  1. Click on Start
  2. Right click on Computer
  3. Click on Manage
  4. Accept the UAC prompt (if you are in Vista)
  5. Under Storage select Disk Management

Once you are there you should see something similar to this screenshot:

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At this stage, right click on your USB HD partition (in my case I just have one large partition in my F: drive) and select Mark Partition as Active:

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Once that’s done, you just need to copy the content of your Windows 7 ISO (if you downloaded it) or the whole content of your DVD.

At this point, connect the USB HD to your netbook, start it, make sure you select the boot option to boot from USB HD and you will be in your Windows 7 boot process.

Hope this will work for you and make your Windows 7 installation process easy on netbooks… it definitely did for me (and for a lot of colleagues who borrowed my HD for their own installs).

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