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You probably know Microsoft’s free Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool (WUDT). Despite its name, it can also be used to create a Windows 8.1 USB setup USB stick. A better tool is Rufus, and the best tool for this purpose is undoubtedly WinSetupFromUSB.
The latest version, 1.4, also supports Windows 8.1. Of course, you can also use WinSetupFromUSB to build flash drives for previous Windows versions, including Windows 2000. In addition, the tool supports all major Linux distributions and various popular rescue, antivirus, and backup tools. You can even install MS-DOS 7.1 with WinSetupFromUSB. For a complete list of all supported sources, have a look at the tool’s website.
In my opinion, the best feature of WinSetupFromUSB is the multiple OS support. This allows you to create one flash drive with the different Windows versions you have to install. If you know how to create ISO files from your own customized images, you should also be able to pack all your Windows images on one USB stick, provided the drive is big enough.
You create a USB stick with multiple Windows 8.1 images by adding the corresponding ISO files one after the other. That is, once you create your first bootable USB stick, you just add another ISO. WinSetupFromUSB will automatically create a boot menu that enables you to select the image when you boot up. You can also add multiple operating systems in one step if the operating system types are different (say, Windows XP and Windows 8.1).
There is hardly a feature that you need for creating a USB setup drive that WinSetupFromUSB doesn’t have. The free tool knows how to deal with FAT16, FAT32, and NTFS and it supports UEFI.
You can launch the FbinstTool that allows you to format your drive in any possible way, restore the partition table from a file, and many more things. I googled the tool, which appears to come from China, but I couldn’t find a homepage. VirusTotal says that it is probably harmless. If you know the tool, please post a comment below.
Another tool that is included is BOOTICE. You can manage the MBR with it, and it comes with a BCD editor.
And, last but not least, you can also launch RMPrepUSB, a utility that allows you to install all kinds of boot loaders.
I have only two complaints about WinSetupFromUSB. On Windows installations with an increased font size, some of the text in the WinSetupFromUSB user interface is cut off. My other critique is that no real documentation exists. The closest thing to a how-to guide is the FAQ page, which also gives you an overview of what you can do with the tool.
I also had an issue with one USB stick. After I used WinSetupFromUSB, I was no longer able to use the flash drive for Windows setup on a particular laptop. Even though I could previously install Windows setup with other tools, this was no longer possible after I treated the USB drive with WinSetupFromUSB. However, it is most likely a hardware issue with the USB stick and not WinSetupFromUSB’s fault. The tool worked fine with other flash drives.