Posted on March 21, 2017 · Posted in Windows Server 2016

Create a Bootable USB Flash Drive for Installation Windows Server 2016

The easiest and the most intuitive way to create a bootable USB Flash Drive to install Windows Server 2016 on a physical server is to use Windows USB/DVD Download Tool. This tool allows to write the existing *.iso image of Windows to a USB drive or stick and make it bootable. However, it formats a drive to NTFS, which is only suitable to install Windows on BIOS systems and is not supported on systems with EFI. In this article we’ll show how to create a bootable USB Flash Drive  with Windows Server 2016 image without any third party tools.

Note. Unlike BIOS systems that can boot from FAT, FAT32, exFAT or NTFS boot partitions, EFI systems can boot only from FAT32 boot partition.

Depending on the UEFI / BIOS server architecture, you will use one of the following methods of creating an installation USB flash drive.

Important. Be attentive when following these instructions, check disk paths and disk numbers. Otherwise, you can accidentally format a disk containing some data. A USB flash drive will be formatted in any case and all data will be deleted.

UEFI Bootable USB Flash Drive

If you use a USB flash drive to boot and install Windows Server 2016 on a EFI server, there are the following requirements to the USB flash drive:

  1. Minimum size of the USB stick is 8 GB
  2. Partition table type is GPT
  3. File system type is FAT32

So plug your USB flash drive to your computer (in our example, it is a PC running Windows 10), start the command prompt with the administrator privileges and run DISKPART with the following commands:

list disk

Display the list of the disks. In my case, the USB flash drive has the number 1. Select it:

select disk 1

Clean up its contents:

clean

Transform the partition table to GPT:

convert gpt

Create a new partition (with the size under 16GB):

create partition primary

Tip. If the size of your USB flash drive is over 16GB, create a partition less than 16 GB in size:

create partition primary size=16000

Format this partition to FAT32:

format fs=FAT32 quick
Assign a drive letter to the new partition:

assign letter=M

diskpart convert gpt and format fat32

Exit the diskpart:

exit

Copy the distribution files from the mounted ISO image of Windows Server 2016 to the USB flash drive (suppose that the ISO image is mounted as drive E:\).

xcopy e:\* m:\ /H /F /E

Bootable USB Flash Drive with MBR Partition Table for BIOS and UEFI Architectures

You can create a Windows Server 2016 bootable USB flash drive with the MBR partition table for both BIOS and UEFI systems. There are the following requirements to the USB flash drive:

  • Minimum size of the USB flash drive is 8 GB
  • Partition table type is MBR
  • File system type is FAT32

Also, start a diskpart session and run these commands one by one:

The list of disks in the system:

list disk

Select your USB disk (in my example, it is Disk 1):

select disk 1

Clean it:

clean

Create a new partition. If the flash drive size is under 16 GB:

create partition primary

If it is over:

create partition primary size=16000

Format the flash drive to FAT32:

format fs=FAT32 quick

Make the partition active and assign it the drive letter M:

active
assign letter=M

diskpart mbr fat32 bootable usb stick with windows server 2016

Exit diskpart by running exit command and copy the distribution files to the flash drive:

xcopy e:\* m:\ /H /F /E

The Size of Install.wim is Over 4 GB

If the size of Install.wim is over 4 GB, you won’t be able to copy it to your flash drive since the maximum file size in the file system is limited to 4 GB. In this case, you will have to split the WIM file into several smaller files using DISM:

dism /Split-Image /ImageFile:e:\sources\install.wim /SWMFile:m:\sources\install.swm /FileSize:4096

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