Formatting WinPE 3.0 USB Flash Drive – (DISM)

In my previous article I wrote about how to create the WinPE 3.0 environment, add drivers, mount the .WIM file, add batch scripts, etc. Here are the steps for creating the bootable flash drive.

* Article Updated on 08.15.2012

Step #1

Open up Command Prompt
You can do the first step within a normal command prompt window or within the WAIK Deployment Tools Command Prompt Window.

Step #2


This launches the DiskPart program which is included within Windows Vista x32, x64 and Windows 7 x32, x64.

Step #3

List Disk

Before you do anything you will want to see which disk is which on your computer.

Step #4

select disk 1

You will want to pick the corresponding disk in which you want to use for your bootable flash drive. Careful, because this will completely erase the disk you select.

Step #5


This cleans up your disk.

Step #6

create partition primary

This creates the partition on your flash drive.

Step #7

select partition 1

This selects the partition you just created in Step #6.

Step #8


This marks the select partition as active.

Step #9

format fs=fat32 quick

This will format your flash drive in FAT32 format. Make sure you use the quick command otherwise it will do a standard format and will take a while. For bootable flash drives the quick format will always be fine.

Step #10


This will assign the next available drive letter to your flash drive. (You can also specify which drive letter you would like it to be assigned)

Step #11


This exits DiskPart.

Step #12


This exits CMD.

Step #13

Then just copy the contents of the “c:\\winpe_x86\\ISO\\” folder in which you have your WinPE 3.0 environment created in the previous article and you are ready to boot up on a flash drive to WinPE 3.0. Enjoy!

Here are the commands all together:

list disk [See which drive is which]
select disk 1 [corresponding to disk on your computer]
create partition primary
select partition 1
format fs=fat32 quick

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28 Comments Formatting WinPE 3.0 USB Flash Drive – (DISM)

  1. Bob

    Hello, I formatted my USB drive with the above steps and copied the entire contents of the ISO folder in “c:\winpe_x86\ISO\”. I cannot get this to boot to PE 3.0. I have been able to boot from CD tho with the ISO file.

    For the USB, am I suppose to add the actual ISO image or are there any other edits?

    These are the files and folders that i copied onto my USB drive from the “c:\winpe_x86\ISO\” folder –
    – bootmgr file and folders – boot, EFI, sources

    and that’s it.



  2. Brian Jackson

    @Bob : Yes you are correct in file structure: A correctly organized bootable flash stick will contain:

    – boot (folder)
    – EFI (folder)
    – sources (folder)
    – bootmgr

    Are you getting any errors anywhere when creating the bootstick? Also, I’m assuming you have USB boot enabled in the BIOS on the computer you are trying to boot to WinPE right?

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  4. Joep

    I’ve been trying to follow your walkthrough several times, including the one to make my USB bootable.

    But every time I try to boot from my thumbdrive the system enters a loop trying to detect a PXE server, and WinPE doesnt get loaded. Every time the PXE-lookup loops i see the USB led flash and the loop dies when i disconnect my USB, so it really is using the USB.

    I even copied all commands from your blog into a script to verify I did it exactly right, but no luck. Still the same PXE-loop.

    Any ideas what I might be doing wrong?



  5. Brian Jackson

    @Joep : What system are you trying to run this on? What brand of computer? You have enabled USB in the BIOS I’m assuming? If you are seeing PXE loop that simply means the computer probably restarted and it is trying to boot to the next available option which is PXE.

  6. Joep

    @Brian: It’s a brand new Dell Vostro 1520.

    It is actually booting from the USB, I can see the led on it blink at every loop, so it is actually reading something. I pick the USB in the boot menu the BIOS gives me after holding F12. When I pick the network boot it doesn’t make the USB flash, and if I insert a black USB stick it just halts after selecting the USB.

    Burning the CD worked flawless, so the image should be ok.

    Meanwhile I installed a PXE server on our network, and that works even better! It’s really as simple as ABC if you have a Server 2003 SP2 or above at your disposal. I just installed the Remote Deployment Service and the AIK and slid in the boot.wim I created following your tutorials. And voilá: a perfectly running PXE-server with customizable boot image.

  7. Kevin

    One important note….

    You suggest using FAT32 filesystem. Unfortunately, that limits things to a 4GB file-size – which wasn’t enough to store my system image. I had to try NTFS, which worked just fine, and allowed me to create my 5.7GB system image file.

  8. John

    For anyone who has problems with getting the USB flashdrive to boot, there is a fix. Non-EFI motherboards will not be able to boot a drive without a bootloader. Open the command prompt and navigate to the boot folder of your Windows 7 install disk. Run the command “bootsect /nt60 x:” where x: is the letter of your USB drive.

  9. Tom

    How do you actually capture or deploy an image once you boot to the USB? After booting, I am left at the following command prompt: “x:\windows\system32″

  10. Jamaal

    When I boot up into the USB, I have the drive in the laptop I want to have the image, re copied the 4 folders from the ISO folder to the USB, still get an error when I go to option 6. If I try to mount it, I get an error that the image is corrupted.

  11. Andy

    This is one of the best blogs on this topic out there – very informative and concise. I have yet to try any of this but I am looking forward to using it. Thanks very much!

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