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How to Install Windows 7 on a Netbook with No Optical Drive

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en-US111_Win7_Landing_PageMost netbooks don’t include an integrated optical drive for CDs or DVDs. That’s done to keep the price down and simply because there isn’t much space for the drive. That makes for a challenging install problem with a new operating system. Microsoft recognizes this and created a solution — through its online store, netbook owners can purchase a downloadable copy of Windows 7 in .iso format.

But that’s only half the battle because you still have to get the bits installed. That’s where the WUDT comes in.

You know, the WUDT — Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool! Using WUDT, you can make either a DVD of the installation or create a bootable USB install for Windows 7. Don’t forget that you might have to go into your BIOS to modify your booting order, otherwise your netbook could start up from the hard drive.


A few other points to think about:

  • There’s no clean upgrade path from Windows XP to Windows 7. That’s likely to affect most netbooks since the majority of them come pre-installed with Windows XP. Remember to backup your data from XP before wiping it with a Windows 7 install.
  • You can use software to create a virtual CD if you’d rather not use the WUDT. For the past four years I’ve been using a Virtual CD-ROM Powertoy for XP (download link). With it, you can mount an .iso file as if it were on physical media like a CD.
  • Got a another PC with an optical drive? If it’s on the same network at home, you can try to share it and try the installation over your network. Although I’ve never tried this method, it should theoretically work, but might take longer depending on your network speeds.

21 Responses to “How to Install Windows 7 on a Netbook with No Optical Drive”

  1. @doggy

    Windows 7 is no longer free. It was for a while before its official release, and that’s what people are talking about; note the posting dates of people who mention it.
    There are of course ways of downloading it for free, but they’re not legal and so I couldn’t recommend torrent searches to find it.

  2. This is making me mad. Every single website I come across only tells me how to install it, not how to get it. and If they DO tell me where to get it, they say, “Oh you can get it free at [LINK]” but that link only ever takes me to the windows store that has me pay for it. I am getting really frustrated, I’ve been trying to find this free version people keep talking about for the last 3 hours. SO PLEASE, Someone, tell me where to get it.

  3. Oli Q

    I have a Dell Vostro A90 running Ubunto 8.04. I want to install Window 7, will it be compatible and will it require some professional instructions?

  4. HI i am trying to install windows 7 i had windows xp when i install windows 7 its not format the old windows (xp) its install win 7 on top of win xp please anyone can tell me how to install fresh win 7 thanks

  5. atleast, as far as I can tell, so far, anything with tags is just discarded… I guess allowing people to easily add to the conversation is a good thing, as long as you don’t have too many lame people such as myself and the guy blabbing about getting some money.

  6. I have a toshiba laptop m35x-s109 and i installed windows 7 and i need a grafic download for windows 7 because my grafic from xp don’t work can someone please help me? Thank you

  7. well, if WUDT actually installs the OS to a usb drive to make a “live cd” windows 7, that’s cool.

    But to simply install windows 7 (or any other windows) to a computer’s hard drive, just copy and paste the files from the CD (or iso mounted into a virtual CD) to a usb drive, then boot from the usb drive. it’ll act just like using a normal usb optical drive. i’ve installed vista and windows 7 multiple times each without having to use any random extra software.

    • Yes, that will work fine although you may have to change the boot order in your BIOS as Kevin suggested to ensure that your X61 tries to boot from the DVD drive before the HDD.