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How to create a Windows Home Server 2011 boot disk on a USB Drive.


A buddy of mine asked me how to create a boot disk for a Windows Home Server “Vail” (now officially WHS 2011) test box from a USB drive, I thought I’d write out some instructions.  I suppose that sometimes we take for granted that everyone knows how to do this stuff, so just in case this is a first for you, I’ll take you through the process step by step.

Hardware Requirements
  • 1 USB Thumb Drive larger than 4GB (i.e. having more than 4bg free space, the drive will be wiped)
Building a Windows Home Server “Vail” Bootable USB Drive

Microsoft has a cool tool called the “Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool”, which can be found here.

Once you’ve got that file downloaded (I like to save and run my files from my local machine, that way I have I have them later if needed), run it by double clicking on the downloaded file.  Click “Yes” if  security message pops up.


Click Next>Install>Finish (sadly Microsoft doesn’t let us have any control over this install), and you’re done!

From your Start Menu, launch the Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool, and you’ll end up here:


Click on Browse and find the ISO file that you can download from the Microsoft Connect Windows Home Server page if you don’t have it yet.  This site is also a great place to grab the Getting Started Guide as well as the SDK if you’re the programming type.  They even have an informative video to watch.

Windows Home Server

Ok, now that you have the ISO, browse to it:


Click Next>


Click the USB Device icon


Select the correct USB stick and click Begin Copying.


It’ll take awhile to complete, but once you’re there click start over to create a different boot USB or simply exit out of the program.



Now that you’ve got your bootable USB stick, go into the boot up settings of your computer by restarting your computer and pressing the appropriate key to get into your motherboard’s BIOS (usually ESC).  Verify that the first option in the boot order is set to USB.  It will look different on the various versions of BIOS software, but the working is pretty standardized:  Find where you adjust the boot order in the BIOS and set it to USB device first.

Now when you restart the PC after saving your BIOS settings, press a key when you see “Press any key to boot from disk…” and you’ll be launched right into your Vail Windows Home Server Setup.

Hope that helped!  Enjoy playing with your new Home Server, it could easily become a part of your Home System Integration strategy!


About the Author

Tom AbellPut simply, Tom loves technology! Having been involved in the IT world since leaving the US Navy Submarine Force in 1992, Tom has moved his way up to the top as an IT Systems Engineering. But having spent some time in the Home Automation industry early in his career, he’s never been able to shake his love for creating integrated Home Technology environments and has been running HTPCs and Windows Home Servers for years. With 17 years of IT Systems Engineering experience, Tom's recent OIF 08-09 deployment has rekindled his love for the Connected Home Industry and hence, the website. We hope you like the site, please share it with your friends and follow us on your favorite Social Networks! Read more about Tom on the "About Us" page.View all posts by Tom Abell

  1. Raythe

    PERFECT! Great step by step! This is just what I was looking for. I'm building my first Home Server so I'll be stopping by often…looking for similar "how to's" 😉

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