Installing Windows 7 on an USB 3.0 Flash Drive

Discussion in 'Windows, Linux & Others on the Mac' started by RichHanlon, Sep 11, 2013.

  1. RichHanlon macrumors newbie

    Jun 8, 2011

    I've seen there are a couple of threads about installing Windows onto an external SSD or external Hard Drive in a USB 3.0 enclosure but I wanted to ask specifically about installing it on to a flash drive.

    I recently purchased a 2013 Macbook Air with 256gb SSD, now while OSX is my primary OS I do require Windows for when i'm out on the road with work and only have my personal laptop with me. It would also be nice for a little bit of gaming for the titles not available on Steam for OSX.

    So my questions are..

    1) Has anyone installed Windows 7 on an external usb key with success, i'm thinking something along the lines of this for a good transfer speed

    2) What sort of performance can I expect, would some moderate gaming be possible running windows on this, I can't see why not since the transfer speeds would be suitable but it depends on how Windows behaves in this setup.

  2. saturnotaku macrumors 68000

    Mar 4, 2013
    The flash memory on USB thumb drives is not designed for the heavier duty read/write cycles that running Windows requires. It's also not possible to even perform this task with Boot Camp. There are workarounds you can try, but they are time consuming and success is not guaranteed (though using Windows 8 might increase those odds). In any case, if you want to experiment, use a proper hard drive or SSD. Better yet, free up at least 60 GB of space on your Air's internal SSD and install Windows properly. With a couple tweaks, you can get a basic Windows 7 installation to less than 20 GB or even fewer if you're willing to put in even more time with something like nLite.
  3. RichHanlon thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 8, 2011
    Thanks for the reply.

    I found this guide that got around the issue of boot camp not supporting this type of installation which looked like it could be time consuming but also not too bad.

    I might look at what options are available for a lightweight usb3.0 external hdd that I can carry around with me.

    Installing Windows 7 or 8 on an external drive

    I have already installed Windows 7 on the internal SSD however anything less than a 40-50gb partition doesn't seem worthwhile and i'm not sure if I can sacrifice this space from my OS. While I have an external HDD for my iTunes library and an external HDD for my iPhoto Librarys I still need 100gb or so free just for my local media.
  4. Kashsystems macrumors 6502

    Jul 23, 2012
    I did the same thing using Parallels, not bootcamp. Same flash drive I believe.

    Parallels makes things so much easier. Performance is fine, works as fast as a regular hard drive. Not as good as a pure SSD, but that wasn't the point for me.

    I have no clue about gaming nor doing this about bootcamp. I saw your guy and with the simplicity of using Parallels I didn't want to even bother.
  5. satcomer, Sep 17, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2013

    satcomer macrumors 603


    Feb 19, 2008
    The Finger Lakes Region
    Bootcamp is two parts. The Part on your Mac is a formatting program to create a FAT32 partition. The other part is a set of BootCamp Drivers (for Windows to see all the Apple plugins in your Mac, you download them in Windows and run them).

    Windows 7 and 8 need NFTS drives so you can use the Windows installer to reformat the BootCamp partition to NTFS.

    Once you have Windows and the BootCamp drivers installed on Windows the cool program(s) for OS X to write NTFS :

    Free: HFS Explorer
    Shareware: MacDrive

    For OS X to write to NTFS the shareware programs I know are:

    Paragon or Tuxera

    Note: I never used either NTFS program on OS X so other will have to ask what program they like better.

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