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How to Create a Bootable CD with no CD!

by Alan German

If, like me you have a netbook (or similar computer) with no CD-drive, creating a System Repair Disk for Windows 7 might seem to be quite a challenge. Windows will happily provide you with the option to do so. Simply navigate to: Control Panel – System and Security – Backup and Restore – Create a system repair disc. The challenge will be in responding to the next prompt that indicates: “Select a CD/DVD drive and insert a blank disc into the drive”.

With no CD drive available this going to be tough! Furthermore, what you need is a bootable USB drive, not a bootable-CD. However, don’t despair, two free utility programs – TotalMounter and Rufus – can come to your rescue.

Firstly, download and install TotalMounter. This software acts as a virtual CD/DVD drive. We will use TotalMounter to capture the Windows repair disk image as an ISO file. We also need to download Rufus, a utility program that will burn our ISO file to a USB memory stick, creating a bootable disk. There is no need to install Rufus as it is a stand-alone EXE file.

The first item of real business is to create a Windows Repair Disk as a virtual CD. Run TotalMounter, click on the “Mount” icon, and select “Mount Virtual CD/DVD-RW”. In the pop-up window the default values for the two radio buttons (“Create a new file, size” and “CD 650 M Bytes”) are appropriate for our purposes. Use the “Browse” button to select a folder where you wish to store the virtual CD as a file, and give this file a meaningful name (such as windows_repair_disk). Click “OK” and TotalMounter is ready to create a virtual CD.



Now, click on the Windows’ Start button and navigate to Control Panel – System and Security – Backup and Restore. In the left side panel, click on “Create a system repair disk”. The target drive should be displayed as something like DVD RW Drive (L:), where the drive letter will correspond to the virtual CD drive created by TotalMounter. Click on “Create disc” and Windows and TotalMounter will combine to create the file windows_repair_disk.iso in the target folder of your hard disk.

At this point, we run Rufus. In the drop-down menu under “Device”, we select the target USB drive. The parameters for the partition scheme, file system, and cluster size associated with the USB disk will be displayed but we don’t have to do anything about these. We can give the USB drive a meaningful volume label should we so choose. Under “Format Options”, a check mark will already be placed against “Create a bootable disk using”. We want to click on the disk icon at the end of this line in order to browse for and select our windows_repair_disk.iso file. This will change the default “…using: FreeDOS” to “…using: ISO Image”. Press the “Start” button and Rufus will build the bootable drive. Finally, close Rufus, and the target USB drive is now bootable as a Windows Repair Disk.



Using these two free utilities, creating a Windows Repair Disk is extremely simple. However, I would strongly suggest that you should undertake this process now – that is before your system crashes, will no longer boot – and you need to use the repair disk. At this stage, it’s a little too late to follow the above instructions. You now have no CD – and no OS!

Bottom Line:

TotalMounter (Freeware)
Version 1.5
KernSafe Technologies

Rufus (Open Source)
Version 1.3.4
Pete Batard, Akeo Consulting

Originally published: February, 2014

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