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If you've been looking for a way to create bootable PE flash drives that's easier than running a command line utility and hand-copying files--you've just found it. The free WinToFlash automates the transfer of your XP/2008/Vista/Windows 7 installation files to flash thumb drives or SSDs. You can also transfer PE and PE 2 (Windows PrE-install XP and Vista/7) utility discs to Flash drives. Assuming you own the discs you're copying and don't give the stuff away, Microsoft and the DOJ probably won't care.
The advantages of using Flash drives over optical media to install Windows and for utility discs are three-fold. First off, Flash is generally much faster than CD/DVD. Second, Flash drives are more portable--I have a nice little 8GB thumb drive from SuperTalent that's no bigger than a postage stamp. In the third place, you can load and delete additional software onto a Flash drive. Unless you want to really get technical in creating your own, this should probably be portable apps like those found à la carte at www.portableapps.com or together in the PortableApps Suite.
Win2Flash consists of a single, tabbed dialog that asks you which boot environment you wish to transfer to Flash media, where the files exist, and the location of the flash media you wish to write them to. Once you've satisfied the dialog's queries, simply click Run. I tried transferring several environments: PE2 from my Active @ Boot disc, and an XP SP2 install. I didn't try Vista or Windows 7, but they're supported. I even mounted some OS installation images as virtual drives and transferred them from there. Despite this program's 0.5 beta status, everything I tried worked fine.
Sadly, there's no help available for Win2Flash yet. Most of it should be pretty easy to understand, but when it comes to customizing a boot disc, there are a few options that I never did find an explanation for. There's a forum at the Web site that could be some help.
If you spend any appreciable time installing Windows, or if you simply want your PE utility discs in a handier form, download WinToFlash. It sure beats the command line method.