Making a USB Drive or Memory Card bootable using PEBuilder

   Posted September 6, 2007 by Jimmy Selix in Windows

This recipe will explain how to make a bootable USB Drive or Flash Memory card. Your motherboard/computer will need to support such options and also note that this may not work with ALL usb drives or memory cards. We will be using PE Builder, HP’s USB Drive format tool, and Windows Server 2003 SP1 to do this. Lets get geeking.

First things first; we need to get our ingredients/applications.

PE Builder

Windows Server 2003

HP USB Format utility (finding link on HP site is impossible).

1. Install PEBuilder. Make a note of where you install it since we will be hanging out there a lot.

2. Download the Windows Server 2003 SP1 update. We will not be running this update but extracting 2 files from it.

If you have Winzip installed, you can just right-click on the .exe file, and choose to Extract to Folder. Once you have the update files extracted, go to the i386 folder and copy the file: setupldr.bin to the pebuilder folder\srsp1 (you will need to create the srsp1 folder in the pe builder folder, usually C:\pebuilder3110a\ )

To get the second file, we will need to bust out some command prompt and the expand command.

First, lets make this easier and copy ramdisk.sy_ to the srsp1 folder we just created and has the setupldr.bin file in (ie c:\pebuilder3110a\srsp1\ramdisk.sy_

Open up command prompt and change directory to c: by typing: cd\

then type: cd pebuilder3110a
type: cd srsp1
and finally type: expand -r ramdisk.sy_ ramdisk.sys

this will expand the file to the srsp1 folder. you may get an error in the command prompt, you can ignore that since it still will expand the file.

You can now delete the windows server 2003 sp1 folder that we extracted the .exe to. we only needed the two files from the whole SP1

3. Download the HP USB Format utility. You will not need to install it since its just an executable file that runs.

4. Connect your USB Drive or insert your memory card, i’ll use my 1GB SD card (since i have a pc that has a USB Memory card reader and my pc can boot to USB devices).

5. Run the HP’s USB utility. Hopefully your device shows up in the drop down, mine shows up as Z: (along w/my other memory card reader types).

Change the File System to FAT and give it a label and click Start.

Do a yes to the warning and let it format. It shouldn’t take too long and will show a results screen when done.

Click OK and then click on Close to exit the utility.

This utility basically will format the usb drive or memory card and also make the partition active (which seems to be key to getting it bootable and to work w/PEBuilder).

6. Open up PE Builder. It may ask to search for windows installation files, for now choose No.

7. Next, we will need to setup PE Builder to find our Windows XP source files. The easiest thing to do is just insert your Windows XP Setup CD and copy the i386 folder to your harddrive. I have all of my OS copied to my harddrive for backup and to run installs from.

Once you have the i386 folder copied, in PE Bulider click on the … button under Source and browse to the folder where you copied the i386 folder.

Leave the Output as is: BartPE

Then under Media Output, also leave that at None.

Finally, you can now configure any plugins you may want to add such as Adaware, Ghost8, Nero Burn, etc. This is nice for making diagnostic/fix boot discs.

Once your done, just click the Build button. This will now create the iso file we will use to make the USB Driver or memory card bootable w/the BartPE os.

8. Finally, we will need to open up command prompt again.

Type: cd\ to get to the root of the c drive.

then change directory to the pebuilder folder, ie cd pebuilder3110a

finally, type: pe2usb z:

where z: is the drive letter of my usb drive or memory card.

let it finish and now try out your bootable usb drive / memory card. remember to set your bios to boot from usb-fdd if possible or usb-hdd (which ever your usb drive shows as).


Again, this may or may not work with your usb drive/memory card depending on the card/drive and your motherboard and how it boots.

here is a link to the Help manual for PEBuilder at bart’s PE site

also forum board for discussions:

For more info on creating a live bootable cd/dvd, check out the recipe here:

–you can also format your usb drive using this command when you in the pebuilder folder:

c:\pebuilder3110a\pe2usb -f z:

the -f flag will tell the batch file to format the drive; this did not work for my Sandisk Cruzer USB Drive but the HP USB Utility did. I was able to boot it on a Dell C640 and X300 so far.


About Jimmy Selix

Jimmy Selix is an early adopter that loves to be one of the first on the block to have the latest and greatest in technology and gadgets. Another love of his is being able to share his knowledge to others seeking it. Feel free to drop any comments or questions that you may have.
View more articles by Jimmy Selix

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  • luis

    What about if I have a windows vista? ’cause I’m searching that thingy the i386 to put on PE Builder , but I can’t find it, and I don’t have the CDs of installation, so I’m stock with it.
    PLEASE HELP!!!!!

    • MT

      You HAVE to have the installation CD’s. The i386 directory is on the installation media, it will not be on your system unless specifically copied there.

  • Mike

    Thanks for the heads up – v.easy to follow – does what it says on the tin

  • rdc

    Great guide and seems easy t ofollow, but when I tried ot boot from it (and I tried 2 different devices; a micro SD card adn a USB stick) I get a message
    “For Realtek RTL8111B/8111C Gigabit Ether Controller v.2.17 (0080602)
    PXE-E61: Media test failure, check cable
    PXE-M0F: Existing PXE Rom

    I gather htis may mean that for some reason they are not bootable… any ideas; I have now spent almost 2 days trying to get XP onto an SDcard to I can install it on a linux netbook

  • Niko

    can’t understand why have to use HP usb format utility? windows format does the same thigs.

    so far i’ve tried to install different xp’s many times from different usb sticks and memory cards to my eee pc 900.
    i don’t belive this works.

  • jmantoo

    One thing you may have to do if the partition wont seem to boot and your making the boot disk in Vista is you will have to set the partition active manually. Using the HP utility doesnt work.

    This assumes you have followed all of the steps above.

    To make the partition active load up the command promt. and type Diskpart
    at the promt type “list disk”

    Find the number of the USB drive/SD card you made the boot image to.

    type ” select disk x” where x is the boot disk you made

    then type “select partition 1”

    next type “active”

    it should say the partion is now active remove the usb drive/ SD card and give it a try again.

  • Anonymous

    where do you use the files you put in /srsp1?

  • David

    When I tried to use source D:i386, I got a response that the system cannot find the source path D:i386i386setupldr.bin…

    Why did it try to put i386 twice? I ended up just putting the root of the CD Rom drive in and tried it.

    I got a warning that building from an OEM version of Windows can mean trouble. Is this related to the i386 error?

  • Anonymous

    What if I just want to make an SD bootable using the files from a bootable FLOPPY disk for example my Drive Image Floopy – I modified it so I can use a single floppy instead of 2 so I can boot via floppy or use that as the image for a bootable CD

    do I just format dos bootable and copy the contents of the floppy over to the SD card? can I still use the rest of the space on the SD (for the drive image image file?)

    I assume SDHC won’t work? I noticed windows XP install “saw” my SDHC card but the drive image saw there was a card but saw it as “nothing” ie no size (I have not tried this with a smaller card yet I would be using a 2 to 4gb card (I have 4gb non sdhc cards)

    any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

  • Name

    Got a 4GB Sandisk U3 Cruzer here that doesn’t appear to want to be bootable, jus tin case anyone else is have problems with one.

  • Kelabu

    can i put windows xp,windows vista and windows 7 inside the USB ? reply my msg asap. pls ..tq 🙂

  • Hansheinz

    I was amazed about the accuracy and clarity of your instructions, there was no problem on any new step, worked like a charm – sorry to say, without success. It accesses the flash drive (light indicator) but does not boot. I venture a wild guess. I have a couple of rescue disks which worked beautiful on my old computer (Phoenix BIOS) but do not work on my new one (American Megatrends BIOS) Could it be that the new BIOS’ abandoned DOS in favor of Linus or Unix? I also have a “Ultimate booting disk” made up from PEbuilder which does not boot on my new machine anymore (worked on the old one). Would you have any suggestions?

  • ScreenAid laptops

    A simple article but including very useful informations. The steps of installing PEBuilder is very easy to understand and are worth for us to learn.

  • Ẫṝṧḹằẵṋ Ṧằḟḓểṝ

    getting error
    (cannot find file f:i386setupldr.bin)

    • Efgfd

      point to the dir above i386

  • Hardly Wiles

    I enjoyed reading your review. Thanks for the very detailed breakdown Booting from a USB flash drive is a great way to diagnose computer problems, I’ve been using Linux for this purpose, but it is good to know that we now have a way to do that in Windows!

  • Artur – flash drive

    What bothers me is the speed of this kind of storage. The computer would be a bit slow.

    • Jimmy Selix

      depends on the specs of the pc.. my 6core amd and 12gb of ram load it pretty fast. 🙂 and also depends on speed of memory card, class 10 have no problems. i’ve made a new windows pe bootable environment that lets me instantly image a pc on the fly in less than 10 mins in 4 different formats. i’ll post an updated winpe based guide very shortly >

  • Magnus

    After about half way in I decided to not do this. I rebooted and noticed phoenix bios and setup was gone, how can I get this back

  • vblank

    that great man , thanks a lot…… 🙂

  • swati

    hii…i hv hp mini n it is not supporting any usb device but is supporting the photon plus dongel n some old usb device of kb memory. got it checked all over but nobody could do it. so what iss the problem exactly?

  • Mr Berwyn H Price

    Hi Mr Selix,

    Have followed your guide “Making a USB Drive
    or Memory Card bootable using PEBuilder” to
    enable a 4GB SDHC card to run any program
    during bootup for Vista!

    But I have a problem: the programs I have
    tried so far do not contain a *.inf file in their

    What do I do? Or how do I create a *.inf
    file for each program?

    Can you help or do you know any ideas?

    Thank you for your patience in this matter
    and I do look forward to receiving a reply
    from you soon in the near future.


    Mr Berwyn H Price

  • Kevin

    Hey brother ive got one for you ,so ive got a samsung RV511 running win7 well something got into it (malware) and ive got the winxp on my spare pc ,not how do i create a bootable sdcard /usbstick drive from my winXP system for the win7 system,now the samsung wont boot and every cd burning software i get wont copy the os program to a dvd,whats my best way ive done your pebuilder and programed up untill the i386 ,win7 cant find i386 in win7