Introduction: Create a Bootable USB Drive With VistaPE

USB drives have become a ubiquitous commodity. Many people have one and some carry their USB drive on their keychain. This provides easy access to handy data such as passwords, games, photos, etc.
VistaPE is the preinstall environment for the installation of Windows Vista. When you first boot to a Vista DVD, the GUI screen you see during installation is VistaPE. It was designed for use on DVD's and USB drives. It provides a graphical environment using a small amount of resources. It's very flexible in that you can add components to provide additional features.
Having a VistaPE bootable USB drive has some additional advantages:

- Familiar interface where you can run Windows programs
- Browse the Internet without leaving a trace on the host PC
- Remove undeleteable spyware and viruses
- Flash the BIOS in a clean environment
- Diagnose computer problems

Being able to remove spyware and viruses is an incredible handy ability. You should be able to remove all of those problems since they won't be able to start automatically. I've used mine many times to get rid of nasty viruses on other peoples computers.

Here's how to create a VistaPE USB drive:

What you need:
USB drive (128MB minimum, 1GB+ preferred)
Winbuilder 75 Beta 4
Windows Vista DVD (preferred) or Windows Automated Installation Kit
Computer with Windows XP or Vista

Let's get started!

Step 1: Copy Vista to the HDD

Copy the contents of the Vista install DVD to your HDD. This speeds up the whole process. Alternately, you can use the Windows AIK, though you will have reduced features. I recommend using the Vista DVD files.

If you're using the WAIK, you need to burn the image to a DVD, then install it. You'll use the installed directory (usually C:\Program Files\Windows AIK) as the Vista file location.

Step 2: Running Winbuilder

Winbuilder is a single file. Once you've downloaded it from Winbuilder's website, extract it to a folder on your hard drive and then run it.
Select the Server button and put a checkbox in and click Download

Deselect everything except for the VistaPE Core option.
I unchecked some other options to speed things up, you can select applications that you want integrated into VistaPE.
Click download. This will take some time as it downloads scripts and files necessary for this operation.

Step 3: Setting Up VistaPE

Now that we've downloaded the necessary files and scripts, we need to tell Winbuilder where the Vista files are.
Click the Paths button. Enter the location of your Vista files from step 1. (C:\Program Files\Windows AIK if you're using the WAIK)
Optionally, you can specify where you want to output the VistaPE files and VistaPE ISO.
Click Play.

Step 4: Intermission

The build process takes some time. Take a coffee break. Chat with some friends. Play an instrument. Or download programs to run on your VistaPE drive. I recommend putting some anti-spyware and antivirus utilities on it.
Or just stare at this picture...

Step 5: Copy VistaPE to Your USB Drive

Now that VistaPE is ready, you can have Winbuilder setup your USB drive.
Click the Script button
On the left column, expand the Finalize folder
Click on Create ISO/CD/USB
Click on the folder to set the root directory of your USB drive and browse to your USB drive
Click on the Make USB Boot Device button

Step 6: Formatting and Copying Files to the USB Drive

At this point, the HP USB format tool should pop up. Select your USB drive from the list. You can select the quick format option to speed things up. Click the Start button to format the USB drive

*WARNING: All contents of the USB drive will be erased!

Once the drive is formatted, you should see a dosbox with files being copied to your USB drive
After that, the GRUB4DOS utility should pop up. This will put the required info onto your USB drive to make it boot to Gruub4Dos.
Click on the Disk radio button
Use the drop down to select your USB drive
Click Install
That's it! Your USB drive should now be bootable to VistaPE!

Step 7: Video of All the Steps

If you're still confused, I created a 4 minute video to help you through the process. The actual process can take up to an hour depending on the options you select and the speed of your machine, but the video should be a good starting point.

Unfortunately, Instructables won't allow me to link the video on my website, but you can watch it here.

Step 8: Boot to It!

Stick your USB drive into your test computer and boot to it. You may need to change your boot priority in the BIOS. Some systems have an option to press F12 (or some other key) to bring up a boot menu to boot to your USB drive. The first screen you should see is the Grub4Dos screen. Depending on how fast your system is, you should get to the VistaPE desktop in less than a minute.
Good Luck!

Let me know if there's something confusing. I'll add some additional information later.

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