Install Windows Server 2022 from a USB key

By August 26, 2021Windows AutoPilot

Windows Server

I hope all of you are using UEFI-based systems by this point. (For those still using BIOS emulation, it’s time to let it go.) So you probably already know that you need to use a FAT32-formatted USB key to install the OS on a PC. But the Windows Server 2022 INSTALL.WIM file is 4.8GB, and the maximum file size on FAT32 is 4GB, so it just won’t work, at least without some extra effort.

There are some common methods that have been suggested previously for this:

  • Split the INSTALL.WIM into chunks.
  • Format the USB key into two partitions, with just the boot files on the FAT32 partition (everything except the INSTALL.WIM) and all the files on a separate NTFS partition (where there is no size limitation).

My preference is a third method, related to my previous blog post about reducing the size of the WIM file. Based on that method, we can export the needed image into a new WIM using “solid” (recovery) compression like so:

I wanted Windows Server 2022 Datacenter with the full UI (desktop experience) so I chose image #4, and specified to export it as a recovery image. That takes a little while, but when it’s done you will find the resulting file is smaller than 4GB so it will fit on a FAT32 USB key.

So the next step then is to copy the entire ISO contents, except for the INSTALL.WIM, onto a FAT32 USB key. (You can try to copy the original INSTALL.WIM, but it will general an error.)

Then copy the newly-exported INSTALL.WIM into the Sources folder.

Now eject the USB key and use it to boot up your server.




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