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"A required CD/DVD drive device driver is missing" during Windows 7 installation from USB device

When installing Windows 7 using a PE environment from a USB stick, you might get an error message stating that a required CD/DVD driver is missing after clicking the "Install Now" button in the Windows Setup. This happens in particular on newer devices which have newer hardware where the necessary drivers are not yet included in the Windows 7 SP1 sources. You get the option to find and select the missing driver in the PE environment, but you cannot access any USB devices. The end-result is a failure to install Windows, because the setup cannot access the Windows installation sources due to the missing driver.

Judging from the error description, you might be tempted to find and add the storage controller to the boot.wim file which contains the WinPE environment. In my case, the laptop's DVD drive was a SATA device, connected to a recent Intel controller. Despite having some suspicion that the SATA controller drivers where not related to the error at all (since I was not installing from CD/DVD but from USB), I did try injecting those into the boot.wim file using DISM; perhaps for some reason unbeknownst to me, Windows does need access to the (empty) DVD drive. As it turns out, adding the SATA drivers did not resolve the problem!

When performing the installation from USB,  what Windows Setup needs to have is in fact the USB Controller drivers to access the installation source files. The error message was solved by injecting the USB3 controller drivers into boot.wim, using the following steps:

  1. Copy the boot.wim file containing the Windows Setup PE from the installation media to D:\Temp.     
  2. Download the USB3 controller drivers from the laptop manufacturer's website; then extract the drivers (cat/inf/sys files, not the setup.exe!) from this installation package. I copied the drivers to      D:\Temp\drivers.
  3. Creating a temporary mounting point directory at      D:\Temp\Mount.
  4. Mounting the WIM file using:
    dism /mount-wim /wimfile:D:\TEMP\boot.wim /index:2 /mountdir:D:\TEMP\mount
  5. Then inject the USB3 hub drivers using:
    dism /image:"D:\Temp\mount" /add-driver /driver:"D:\Temp\drivers\USB3\nusb3hub.inf"
    Then adding the USB3 host controller drivers using:
    dism /image:"D:\Temp\mount" /add-driver /driver:"D:\Temp\drivers\USB3\nusb3xhc.inf"
  6. With the drivers added, unmount the WIM image and commit all changes to the image:
    dism /unmount-wim /mountdir:D:\Temp\mount /commit
  7. Copy the boot.wim image back to the USB installation media.
  8. Reboot the laptop and install Windows!

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