Windows 10 ISO Images Redux

At work, after Windows 7 reached end-of-life (EOL) in January, customers began requesting help with updating to Windows 10. While computer savvy Windows users and admins have long known about the EOL, many users were clueless and were surprised to receive a nasty gram when booting Windows 7.

At work the technicians who perform these tasks were unfamiliar with the steps to update Windows 7 to Windows 10. First on the list of challenges was creating a bootable Windows 10 ISO image.

I was asked to help because most of the workstations and laptops run Linux and I maintain them. I knew about the Windows Media Creation Tool, but when I am asked for help at work my focus is from a Linux perspective and not Windows. My first attempt was using the dd command. That is what I use when I want to create a bootable USB stick with Linux ISO images.

The attempt failed. I told coworkers I would dig deeper.

Later I remembered that a standards compliant ISO image functions fine on optical disks but not on USB devices. I remembered on Linux systems that hybrid ISO images are used and most Linux ISO images are made this way. The Windows ISO images are not hybrid.

I attempted to run the isohybrid command on the Windows 10 ISO image. I received a unexpected boot catalogue parameters error message.

Compounding the issue is 1) the Windows 10 64-bit ISO image is larger than a standard 4.7. GB DVD and 2) the main installer file named install.wim is larger than 4 GB, which means FAT32 systems cannot be used.

The current file size limitations seemed to eliminate using unetbootin because by default the software expects a FAT32 partition. Browsing the web I found a way to avoid FAT32 and use NTFS, but unetbootin must be launched as a command rather than a traditional point-and-click. The basic steps:

  1. Use gparted to format the USB device with an msdos partition table and a single NTFS partition.
  2. Run unetbootin installtype=USB targetdrive=/dev/sdX1, where sdX1 is the device node.
  3. For the Diskimage select ISO and the file path of the Windows 10 ISO image.

The steps probably could be scripted with various partitioning commands. There also is woeusb, but the software is not available as a package in all distros and must be compiled from source.

Because the Windows 10 64-bit ISO image exceeds the capacity of single sided DVDs, the silly question is why aren’t Windows 10 ISO images hybrid, which would more easily allow copying the ISO image to a USB device?

My wild unscientific guess is not using a hybrid disk “hoodwinks” Windows users to use the Media Creation Tool, which doesn’t work unless there is an Internet connection. Is this Yet Another Microsoft Data Mining and Tracking ploy?

For Windows users there also is the free/libre software named Rufus.

There already is the silliness of the hashed file name when downloading the ISO image.

Such is the nature of proprietary thinking.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: Windows

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