Is it possible to install a full instance of Windows 7 to a DVD?

By full instance, I mean a running, bootable instance, e.g. not an installer and not the WinPE environment. I suppose WinPE tools could be used to create the instance, but the running instance must not be WinPE.

This environment is rather short lived, but it is necessary to not be WinPE.

A bit of background:

I'm trying to find a method of booting full Windows 7 without an internal or external HD. The strong preference is to boot the full instance from a USB flash drive, but I'm running into boot problems because of the removable media bit (not compatible with Lexar's BootIt).

I know this sounds goofy but there's a good reason for it.

  • What are the specific reasons PE-type tools will not work or that a full Windows 7 install is required? Feb 21, 2012 at 20:01
  • a PE instance would work from a technical point of view, but there are legal reasons that necessitate avoiding it, that I can't get into
    – jglouie
    Feb 21, 2012 at 20:13
  • Ok. What about using a Live disk of Linux? Do those same legal issues preclude this option? Feb 21, 2012 at 20:15
  • Is it full Linux on the live disk or a partial?
    – jglouie
    Feb 21, 2012 at 20:17
  • Many Linux distributions run a full system via Live CD which is also used as their very friendly installation system, even to the point of installing and updating things. Though, of course, rebooting makes the whole thing go back to it's "original" state. Feb 21, 2012 at 20:21

3 Answers 3


Ok, based on all the information you've given:

You cannot run a "full version" of Windows 7 on a DVD. 1, a full install is too big and, 2, a full version of windows needs to be able to write to it's source, and so a DVD will not work.

If it is completely impossible to boot from a USB disk, and a full install of Windows 7 via DVD is out, you are much more limited in your options, but at least you now have a better idea of what you can and cannot do.

There are Live CD's of Linux and Windows, but if your needs are for .Net and Mono (a Linux-compatible implementation of .Net) will not work, then you need Windows.

Once again, the assumptions are:

  1. There is no possible way to boot to a USB drive.
  2. You need .Net and not Mono or any alternatives.
  3. Windows will not run as a full install from a DVD, both for space and for needing a writable "base" media.

So the only option then is a Live Windows disk with preinstalled .Net components.

If Windows XP is an option, it is a lot easier to fit onto a disk, and .Net (up to Runtime 4 I believe) will run on it and can be installed as part of the Live disk setup. Try PE Builder if this option will work for you: http://www.instantfundas.com/2007/11/how-to-create-windows-xp-live-cd.html

I cannot find an option for Windows 7 live that explicitly states it allows .Net function. Though Windows 7 has .Net implemented by default, so unless it's a specific .Net toolset not included by default, you may find it'll work without needing anything special.

Here's another possibility:


These are instructions on how to boot from a VHD, or Virtual Hard Disk, such as the Windows 8 Developer Preview. Creating a Windows 7 VHD shouldn't be too hard and it should work with your licensing strictures.

If you've got a large enough USB drive, this may be a way around the problems booting from USB. It looks like you could replace the booting from USB steps with booting from a disk, and then mount the VHD stored in the USB drive at the appropriate point in the setup process.

  • Doesn't this (your link) rely on Win PE under the hood?
    – jglouie
    Feb 22, 2012 at 15:35
  • It uses Bart's PE builder, so yes, I'd assume it does. Is your legal stricture only against PE and can you use other PE-like tools so long as they aren't PE? Feb 22, 2012 at 15:42
  • We can use PE but it depends what it's doing. We can't use PE to execute our .NET code. We can use it to "load" a full version of Windows though, where we can execute our .NET code. We don't really want to load an installer and then install Windows because this process of executing .NET code is short lived in the scheme of things.
    – jglouie
    Feb 22, 2012 at 15:53

Check this tutorial.


Important:RMB does not play a role in booting a USB Flash Drive.

A USB Flash drive can be booted irrespective of whether the RMB is set or not.

Please note: This tutorial enables you to prepare a USB drive so that you can boot directly to Windows 7 from the USB drive. So now you can try Windows 7 without needing to install it onto your internal hard disk!

Note: This tutorial does not make a Windows installer USB drive, it actually puts a copy of Windows 7 onto a USB drive and makes it bootable. When you have made it, you can boot from it as follows:

  1. Connect the prepared external USB drive (hard disk or Flash drive) to the target system (use a USB 2.0 port NOT a USB 3.0 port!)
  2. Switch on the system
  3. Select the USB drive as the boot device in the BIOS boot menu
  4. Now allow the system to boot to Windows 7 directly from the USB drive.
    • it does not matter what is on the internal hard disk of the target system, even if the internal hard disk is broken/not working.
  • very interesting, I'll need to retest. I'll +1 for the tutorial link which indicates it's possible without mucking with the RMB
    – jglouie
    Feb 27, 2012 at 15:21

No. This is not possible. Windows 7 will only boot off of a disk, it will not be able to boot off of a CD.

If you have a large enough USB stick and a supported BIOS you may be able to install Windows7 to the USB disk. You will then be able to boot from it by turning the machine off, inserting the USB stick and then powering the machine on.

  • It's necessary to also modify the USB stick to set the removable media bit to off, right?
    – jglouie
    Feb 23, 2012 at 20:33

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