Making a bootable external drive was all the rage... Then came the flash drive.
These procedures require you to open your external hard drive enclosure to
make the drive inside bootable. This will void your warranty if it is still in
Note: These procedures are for older Operating Systems, XP
and older. If you are making your device for Vista, Windows 7 or 8 you need to
use a different approach.
You can side step all of these procedures for making a
bootable external drive if you use a
WintoFlash type program...
Making a bootable external drive:
Open the enclosure (case) and disconnect power adapter and interface cable.
Remove the drive from the enclosure.
First: is this a SATA or USB
connected drive. Newer SSD (Solid State Drives) have both the SATA
interface and SATA power cable, some come with a USB connector.
SATA go to the
Partitioning and Formatting a hard drive or SSD for partition and formatting a hard
USB with IDE interface read on.
You will need to have the following items available before continuing:
If this is a 2.5 drive you will need a IDE adapter that will reduce the
size of the pin connectors from the normal 80 Pin IDE cable to the 3.5/2.5 80
Pin cable. Your local electronics store may have them or you can find them on
at most online computer stores.
You can use either a desktop or a laptop computer. If you use a laptop
computer the drive has to be the same size as the one in the computer, do not
insert a 2.5 drive
connector into a 3.5 inch drive connector, you will damage the connector
If you do have a different size drive in the laptop vs. the external drive
then your only choice is to use a desktop.
This may seem like a lot of work but the only way you can
partition and format the drive is through the IDE or SATA
interface and not the USB connector interface.
Note: Since USB 3.0 has the voltage/amperage this may not be true
anymore, however I only have one USB 3.0 external drive and it is my backup
device so using it to create a bootable external drive at this time is not an
option. If anyone has done so please drop a note in the Q and A forum and tell
us of your experience.
Open the drive enclosure, remove the drive from the enclosure and install it
in your desktop or laptop.
Next go to this page:
Partition and format a hard drive for making a bootable external drive
When the drive is bootable and you have the files you need on the drive then
reverse the removal procedure to put the drive back into the enclosure.
Why Making a bootable
external drive is very useful.
Your choice of Operating Systems (OS) is varied from DOS
to Linux to another installation of a Windows OS (this may not always work, the
BIOS may stop the drive from starting the computer). One thing to aware of is with
an OS that is not the same type as the installed one is the file systems will be
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For DOS bootable drives you can load a program that will "mount" a Windows
NTFS volume, this however is not a NTFS file system, it allows DOS to see the
Windows NTFS (New Technology File System)
volume or "drive".
Using a Linux file system on a Vista, Windows 7 or 8 volume has a tenancy to
drive. If you are copying files I strongly suggest you use an ERD (from the
installed OS) to do that type of maintenance. (for more information on Operating
Systems see the Operating Systems Chapter in the
Self Computer Repair Unleashed! 2nd Edition Manual.
You can use a bootable drive to do maintenance on the installed Operating
System, some registry editors will open registries from a non-operational
You can also run anti virus programs to clean out a virus.
If you install third party programs such as a defragment program you can
defrag the installed Operating System partition/drive with out missing any files
that would otherwise be locked and not movable. This type of defrag will do a
better job of combining the files that otherwise would be skipped because they
would be in use.
Do NOT run a defragment program on a SSD (Solid
State Drive) it will corrupt the drive. The only recovery will be
to delete the partition (or partitions) on the drive and recreate them. A SSD
file system will not fragment!
It is important that you test you work, one to insure the drive will
function and that it will start the computer, to do this with a normal desktop
you can either disconnect the power or interface cable or disable the boot drive
in the BIOS settings.
With a laptop (and some desktops) you can test your external drive either by
selecting it at boot up (when the laptop boots you have a keystroke that will
get into the boot device menu) or leaving the internal hard drive out when you
complete the procedure.
Making a bootable external drive other information:
*As I pointed out at the top of this article you may void your warranty if you
remove the drive from the enclosure. I do not take any responsibility for any of
these instructions use at your own risk.
Down load this
Free Computer Repair Eight Part Checklist
save it to your hard drive,
print it out when you do your repair. Send your friends here for their copy!
Once you have made your bootable external hard drive you will want to add some
tools to the drive to make troubleshooting and repairs easier and faster here is
a list that I suggest you have on your drive: Your IT Tool Box
Note: If you add tools that require installation do so when the drive is the
boot drive, if you just connect the drive and then install a program the program
will not run correctly or will not start!
08/18/14 - After Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8 you can partition an external
hard drive that is connected through the USB port when using the Drive Manager,
the original problem of the Drive Manager seeing the boot sector of the USB
device has been resolved, there for the section above for taking the drive out
of the enclosure isn't required if you are making the drive bootable with
Windows 7 SP1 or a newer operating system.
(Don't forget to set the partition to
"Active" after you create it or it will not boot...)
Having problems converting your bootable
external hard drive to an ERD? Make it a custom Emergency Repair Disk (ERD)
for Windows 7 /8 /10
Check this out.