Windows PE allows you to boot a PC into an operating system that is resident in RAM disk. This means you can do what you want to the hard drive. This includes formatting, creating, and imaging the disk. In class I demonstrated using a Windows PE disk that resided on a USB memory stick. With a large enough USB flash drive and volume licensing, you can actually use this setup to deploy an image of Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 2008 should a network based image deployment not be an option.
The following link will guide you in creating a Windows PE image suitable for you needs. You will need to download and install the Windows Automated Installation Kit prior to proceeding.
WAIK Download: http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=5753
Windows PE build instructions: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc709665(WS.10).aspx