Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Create a bootable USB pen for SCCM Windows 7 Build Deployment

If you are ever in a situation where deploying your OS by SCCM's more conventional methods (ie PXE or LAN based deployments) isn't feasable (bandwidth/no connectivity) then you can prepare a USB pen and deploy to machines via a USB boot.

I've found the SCCM built in method of making a USB pen to be quite unreliable so I opt for the manual method.

Just a few heads up first:

  • I'd recommend at least an 8GB drive but in reality your build (if corporate) will eventually exceed this.
  • The pen will be totally wiped clean - all data will be lost.
Step 1:  Preparing the USB pen

  1. Open command prompt
  2. Type diskpart and press enter
  3. Type list disk and press enter
  4. Find your disk in the list
  5. Type select disk * (* being your number)
  6. Type clean and press enter - you should see "DiskPart succeeded in cleaning the disk."
  7. Type create partition primary and press enter - you should see "DiskPart succeeded in creating the specified partition."
  8. Type select partition 1 and press enter - you should see "Partition 1 is now the selected partition." 
  9. Type active and press enter - you should see "DiskPart Marked the current partition as active."
  10. Type assign and press enter - you should see "DiskPart successfully assigned a drive letter ..."
  11. Type detail disk and press enter.  For this example we will work with a drive letter "U" for USB
  12. Type exit to leave the Diskpart command and return to a standard prompt
Step 2:  Formatting & Copying

We are still using a drive letter "U:" so we want to type:


Enter a label for the drive - this is how it will show in "Computer"

I copy the files manually - it works - but if you want to do it "properly" use this command:

In command prompt navigate to the location of your build files - this is what would have been extracted from the ISO that was produced in SCCM when you "Created Removable Media" from the OSD task sequence - if you need a guide on this mail me or leave a comment...

Type xcopy \*.* /s/e/f

With our extracted ISO in C:\Win7Build and our pen being U:\ This would look like:

Type xcopy c:\Win7Build\*.* /s/e/f U:\ 

Don't forget you may/will need to adjust the boot order in the BIOS to accommodate booting from USB - you can find a guide here:


  1. Thanks for this, Just helped me out with a laptop that had a faulty DVD drive.

  2. Glad it helped SteMartin - spread the word about my blog - I'm trying to get it out there in SCCM land...

  3. giving it a shot now.
    before i tried the same thing but i formated the drive to ntfs (it worked on a previous SCCM image) however this time i have a few sccm images packed into the ISO which i will now extract into the fat32 formated USB drive.

    will keep you posted (thanks for the awesome post)

    1. You're welcome - hope these were the droids you were looking for !

  4. Do you suggest using NTFS when your captured image exceeds the supported 4Gb file size of Fat32 ?

    1. I've never tested it with NTFS - although I've seen posts suggest this I think there will be issues with the pen not being bootable if you do this.

      If you use the SCCM console to create the initial media it will format to FAT32 and split any media greater than 4GB into two separate files and then you can follow the above steps to duplicate the image. I've tried doing this myself manually but you get prompted for disk2 once the 4GB has applied.

      If you can get it working please let me know!

  5. Hello Doc, thanks for the great instructions... I followed your process on a Kingston DataTraveler 100 G3 USB drive. About a minute into SCCM 2012 Config Manager boot during 'Initializing hardware devices... I get this error message: 'Unable to read task sequence configuration disk. For more information, contact your system administrator or helpdesk operator.' Any ideas? I recv'd same error on SanDisk USB drives too.

    1. howdy - Sorry I've only just seen this - So I'm assuming you are booting to the USB drive, you get into the WinPE environment but then it's bombing out and giving you the 15min countdown?

      I would start by hitting F8 (assuming you have troubleshooting enabled in the boot image) and going through the drivers to see if you can see the USB drive from command prompt.

      I'm not familiar with the model of pen but a quick google tells me it's USB3.0 ?! Are you booting from a USB3.0 port on the machine?

      I did that on a Lenovo X1 Carbon and had to swap it for another port as the boot image didn't have USB3.0 drivers incorporated...

      Possibly worth a look??

  6. Hello Doc,
    I too am getting the failure "Unable to read task sequence" during the hardware initialization phase while trying to reimage via usb
    (master usb created with SCCM 2012, Win 7 Enterprise).

    For a project we needed 50+ usb sticks, and using SCCM to create the 1 master usb, copied it's contents to my laptop, then running a small batch file to do the diskpart and xcopy commands, made multiple copies.
    Which, has worked fine up to now, created about 40+ sticks that worked fine, but now I've got about 11 flash sticks (Kingston data traveler G4 8gig sticks) that will take the process to image/create them, but when you boot from them, fail during the hardware initialization process, and the log info I'm finding (on the target pc trying to test boot on) has them showing as the wrong drive letter than they were intended during the disk part process, (keyed them for drive letter E:, they show up as D:).
    SMSTS.LOG shows multiple copies of error:
    Convert Boot To logical Path Failed (0x80070003)

    Redone a hand full 5+ times no change. Other sticks in the same box of 25 worked fine on first run.
    ever heard of this?
    Is this a USB 3.0 related problem?
    Just a flaky batch of flash sticks? (because as a regular storage drive they seem to work fine).

    From my experience to this point, I'm leaning on it's something with the particular flash sticks I'm using,
    I have a batch of sensitive ones that don't want to cooperate.

    I've researched this issue for days with no luck, Seems I may
    have discovered a oddball issue maybe.

    Thanks for any help you can offer.

    1. Howdy!

      I'd look at it being a USB3.0 issue in the first instance - I think the USB3.0 driver is part of WinPE - which version of WinPE are you using as my USB3.0 has since vanished since the SCCM upgrade from 2007 to 2012...

    2. Hey Doc, thanks for the reply and I have a update,
      we had a external contractor come in and check my methods, narrowed it down to 3 things,
      the non windows compliant pc we're using
      the usb 3.0 flash sticks (they were 2.0/3.0 compliant)
      and the fact that the WinPE version we have is 2.0 compliant only.
      Seems we noticed that certain ports with certain 2.0/3.0 usb flash sticks worked or failed depending on the stick and the motherboards in the test pc's.
      This was certainly a strange issue, best suggestion so far was to get plain 2.0 usb flash sticks and go from there.
      We did get a small batch of 10 and they worked in the test pc's and in Every USB port.
      Too much fun there.
      Thanks for the reply and hope you have a Happy new year!


Let me know if this helped.

I'd really appreciate any comments (well, only nice ones) so please feel free to let me know what you think of the blog and also ask for further help...