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It is kind of amazing how many have problems creating a bootable installation USB stick with the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool (WUDT). I experienced problems several times, in fact. Obviously, Microsoft’s Open Source tool has problems with many USB sticks.
Considering that more and more PCs no longer feature DVD drives, this could be a major reason why Windows 8 user satisfaction is not always as high as Microsoft hopes. If you run into problems even before you can create the installation media, then then you are likely somewhat prejudiced against a new operating system that was made for tablet PCs and Ultrabooks for which a setup DVD is relatively useless.
I’d like to take this opportunity to add one more annoyance that might be a bit off topic because I am supposed to review Rufus here. I recently bought Windows 8 in the Philippines. When I tried to install the OS with my USB stick, the setup complained that the license key doesn’t work. It appears that, depending on the country, the license key and the Windows 8 setup have to fit together. Since the Windows 8 package only came with a DVD and I didn’t bring a DVD drive, I had to go back to the shop and ask them to create a USB boot stick for me. They didn’t know how to do that and I ended up doing it myself in the shop.
I suppose the majority of customers would just have returned the Windows 8 DVD and bought an iPa(i)d or Android tablet instead. So you see what a Microsoft fan boy I am. 😉 I believe forcing end users to download an unreliable tool to create install media is an anachronism. People expect that they can just use a product when they paid for it without the need to fiddle around with diskpart. I think Microsoft should no longer sell Windows on DVDs and instead offer USB setup sticks and bare metal cloud installations.
Anyway, I played with the free Rufus alternative to the Windows 7 USB tool, and it appears to be more reliable. Thus far, it mastered every flash drive I tried. In addition, it offers a few features that the IT pro will like.
First of all, it is a portable application and therefore needs no installation. Considering that the tool only has to format a flash drive and copy some files to it, I don’t understand why Microsoft requires the Windows 7 USB tool to be installed.
Rufus allows you to select the partition scheme and the target system type. You can choose between the MBR partition scheme for BIOS or UEFI computers, the MBR partition scheme for UEFI computers, and the GPT partition scheme for UEFI computers. If you have a new computer that supports the BIOS successor UEFI, I recommend choosing the last option if you want to ensure that Windows 8 will make use of the UEFI features.
For the file system, you should select FAT32 and not NTFS in that case. NTFS on a USB stick only makes sense anyway if you intend to configure permissions on files and folders. If you intend to install Windows To Go and use Rufus just to format the flash drive, NTFS is the right choice. Rufus also supports exFAT, which you can use if you think you will hit the file size limit of FAT32.
In most cases, the default cluster size will do. If you want to use every bit of your flash drive, you could change that. However, for creating a Windows 8 boot media, you won’t need it.
The option to check the flash drive for bad blocks is useful. USB sticks are more reliable now than they were a few years ago, but if you bought a super-cheap flash drive, it can’t be wrong to let Rufus check it.
Like with the Windows 7 USB tool, you can choose an ISO image of an OS that you want to copy to the drive. Also useful is the option to create a log file in case something goes wrong.