How to Install Windows 7 with only USB 3.0 Ports

Installing Windows 7 from USB drive using USB 3.0 ports

Background

If you have tried to install Windows 7 using a USB Flash Drive on a system that only has USB 3.0 ports, you might have found that you couldn’t get past the Language Select screen of the installer as your keyboard and mouse didn’t work.  I recently had this problem when trying to install Win 7 onto my Gigabyte Brix XM12-3227.

Gigabyte Brix

The keyboard and mouse worked great in the BIOS, but as soon as the Windows 7 installation media loaded and presented that familiar Language Select screen, I had no cursor or keyboard.  I tried a couple of other things, like grabbing an older PS/2 keyboard and connecting it via a PS/2 to USB adapter. Same problem.  It was at this point I decided to start Googling my problem, and low and behold I quickly discovered that Windows 7 does not have drivers for USB 3.0 built in.  In fact, it doesn’t even know what to do with those ports once the BIOS hands over control to the installer image.  If your BIOS has an option to turn off USB 3.0, that is probably the easiest option. However, my GIGABYTE BRIX had no such option that I could find.

Well, I didn’t give up, I knew there had to be a way to add the necessary drivers to the installer, and it turns out there is!  Adding support for USB 3.0 also works great if you want to install from a fast USB 3.0 flash drive! The entire install takes about 5 minutes with one of those.

 

Step by Step Walk-Through

1. Get the right USB 3.0 Drivers

For your installer to work with your computer, make sure you grab the proper USB 3.0 drivers.  My motherboard used Intel USB 3.0 drivers, and so I downloaded the latest version from Intel’s site. Look up your Motherboard’s drivers and see which ones you need.  For convenience, I’ve added the latest drivers (as of the time of writing) for the most common USB 3.0 controllers.  If you are unsure which drivers you need or have multiple computers, you can grab all of them.

 2. Extract the Drivers

Once you download the drivers, we will need to make a folder for the drivers we want to slipstream into our installation media.  For the purpose of this example lets just call it “USB3 Fix.”

 

Step 1 Create New Folder

Inside that folder create two separate folders: “USB3” and “mount”.

Screenshot of two folders

Now extract all the drivers into that USB3 folder.

Extract the drivers to the USB3 folder

3. Get the “boot.wim” and “install.wim” files

** Thanks for all the comments pointing out that you also need to update the install.wim file! **

Next, we need to get the files we need to install/add the drivers on. Open up your USB thumb drive that has your Windows 7 image on it and navigate to the Sources folder.  Move the “boot.wim” file and “install.wim” into your “USB3 Fix” folder we created earlier.

4. Update the “boot.wim” and “install.wim” Files

Open up your cmd shell as an administrator.  (Click Start on Windows 7, or Windows Key + Q on Windows 8, type in “cmd” and then right-click on the cmd application and choose Run as Administrator.)

Once open, navigate to the USB3_Fix folder in the cmd shell, and type in the following commands in this order to update the boot.wim file:

It should look something like thisscreenshot of the command prompt after running each command

Next, do the same thing to the “install.wim” file.  This file has a couple of different index values depending on what type of Windows you are installing.  You can list all the indexes and their contents by typing in:

It will give you the output of the different installers and their indexes:

install.wim Indexes

 

If you want to update all of them you will have to repeat the below process for the indexes you want to update.  For me, I’m just installing Windows 7 Professional, so I’m only going to update that one.

If you are encountering dism errors when trying to run the above commands make sure that the wim files unmounted successfully by running the following command:

After that command finishes, try mounting the wim that was giving you errors again and adding the drivers.

*Thanks to Jason for pointing out the dism /cleanup-wim command.  For more information about troubleshooting wim mounting see this excellent post.

5. Replace the “boot.wim” and “install.wim” files

Now you’re done! Simply place the modified “boot.wim” and “install.wim” file back into the “sources” directory on your Win 7 iso bootable USB thumb drive and everything should work as expected!

Hope this saves people the 30 minutes it took me to find a solution that worked!  Thanks go to Rakeesh, who originally posted this workaround at forums.mydigitallife.info.

 

Travis Payton
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