Bootable USB flash drives have become the most popular solution for installing and reinstalling Windows on desktops and laptops today. All you need is a flash drive with more than 4GB and an ISO image of the operating system you want to install. While some methods in this article require additional software to do the trick, other can be performed using Windows functionality. You must remember that all the information on your USB flash drive will be permanently deleted during the process, so we recommend you to copy it somewhere before creating a bootable USB drive.
Create Windows 10 bootable USB with Media Creation Tool
This method is recommended by Microsoft, and it is probably the best solution when you want to install a new clean Windows 10. You need to download Media Creation Tool from the official Microsoft website and install it on your PC. When it is done, run the app and wait for it to download Windows 10 Disc Image (ISO file). After downloading the file, follow the instructions to transfer the disc image onto your USB flash drive.
When all preparations have been made, and you have your ISO file with the desired Windows version ready, it is time to create bootable flash drive. During Windows 10 setup procedure Media Creation Tool will ask you what you want to do:
Here you need to select «Create installation media.» In the next menu, you can select language, architecture, and edition for your Windows, but we suggest just checking the box with recommended options for this PC if you want to install Windows on this computer (if you need a bootable USB drive for another computer with other settings, feel free to select needed parameters from the list).
Next menu will ask you to choose which media you want to use. Check USB flash drive and click «Next.»
After that, you will see a list of available drives on your computer. You will need to select your USB flash drive to turn into a bootable stick and confirm your choice.
Now you just need to wait for the program to complete all file transferring operations. When this procedure is over, you will have bootable USB Windows 10 flash drive.
Create Windows 10 bootable USB flash drive using Command Prompt
This method might seem a bit more difficult at first glance but does not require any additional software to download and install – all operations are performed via Command Prompt. In order to open it just press the button combination Win+R. In the small window that will appear type «cmd» and hit Enter.
Once we’ve opened cmd.exe, we are going to use only those commands needed to create a bootable USB flash drive. On the screenshot below you can see all the commands in correct order. Please note that we underlined all commands entered in the process.
Now we are going to explain what exactly those commands do and why we used them:
- DISKPART – this command activates an integrated disk partition tool that can be controlled via the command line. The utility allows performing disk management actions such as partitions, disk drive letter assignments, and USB flash drives formatting.
- list disk – the command that shows a list of disks available on this computer.
- select disk 1 – allows us to select the disk listed as the first (in our scenario it is going to be a USB flash drive).
- clean – removes all data previously stored on your USB flash drive.
- create partition primary – creates a primary partition.
- select partition 1 – selects the partition we have just created.
- format fs=NTFS – formats the USB flash drive and changes its file system to NTFS.
- active – makes the partition active.
- assign – when needed, you can assign a letter for your flash drive.
- Exit - turns DISKPART off.
Congratulations! Your bootable USB flash drive is ready for the job. Note: after you have created a bootable flash drive, you still need to transfer Windows files to it! All files must be unpacked. It means that you cannot just copy one ISO file you have downloaded – it won’t work! In addition to that, don’t forget to select booting priority after restarting your computer – you need to select your newly created bootable flash drive as a first boot device or Windows installation will not start.
Create a bootable Windows 10 USB flash drive with UltraISO
UltraISO is a great tool for creating and managing ISO image files. It is rather simple to operate and can be used for creating bootable USB flash drives as well. You can download a trial version of the program from the official website. Install it and run as administrator (right click on the shortcut and select that option).
Go to the File menu and click Open (or Cntrl+O) or just hit the folder icon with a small green arrow:
Now look for the ISO file that contains an operating system you want to transfer to your bootable USB flash drive.
Now go to the Bootable menu and select «Write disk image»:
In the next window to appear you need to check all settings and make sure that you have selected correct flash drive, ISO file, and write method (must be USB-HDD+). If everything is right, just press the «Write» button. After that, a notification will appear informing you that all information on the USB flash drive will be deleted – click «Yes» to proceed.
UltraISO will start writing new files immediately:
Upon completion, the ISO image file will be completely transferred to your flash drive making it a portable bootable device you can use to install on any computer or laptop. Remember to change boot priority settings after restarting your PC – your flash drive must be the first on the list in order to initiate Windows installation.
Create Windows 10 bootable USB flash drive using Rufus
For the fourth method on our list, we are going to use a free tool called Rufus, which was specifically developed for creating bootable USB sticks with MBR and GPT support. It does not need much space on your PC; it is free to download and use, and also has a simple, intuitive interface. Follow these steps to create a bootable USB flash drive with Rufus:
- Download Rufus and install it on your computer (or use a portable version that does not require installation).
- When in the app, go to the Device section and select your USB flash drive.
- In the section Boot Selection, you need to switch to «Disk or ISO image» and then select the ISO image with Windows that you want to install.
- Partition scheme must be set GPT, and Target System – UEFI.
- File System and Cluster Size menus leave unchanged.
- Press «Start,» confirm that you understand that all information on the flash drive will be destroyed, and wait for Rufus to finish the procedure.
Now, with this bootable USB flash drive, you will be able to install Windows 10. Installation process might take time depending on your hardware, and there should be no errors during the process. You can also use Rufus to create bootable flash drives with Windows 7, Windows 8, and Linux.
How to create a bootable flash drive without additional software?
This method is extremely laconic and simple. It will work perfectly when you need to install Windows 10 on a new PC with UEFI graphic interface instead of older BIOS. It requires minimal actions from your side and no additional software. Everything can be done in your current system. You just need a USB flash drive 8GB or more and ISO image file.
Before creating a bootable USB flash drive, you need to format it to the FAT32 file system. When it is done, mount and open your ISO image and select all internal files and folders, then right-click them. In the context menu that will appear, click «Copy To» and choose your flash drive. When this copying procedure is finished, your flash drive will be ready for Windows installation.