Creating a bootable USB from an ISO file is easy if you have the right tools. Here's how to make a bootable flash drive from an ISO file. Installations from a USB flash drive have become one of the easiest ways to update your computer with a new operating system.
A USB installation is quick, extremely portable, and has the bonus of reverting to a storage device following the install. See our introduction to using flash drives on Windows 10 if you need some background.
You'll find a fair few ISO to USB tools out there, and they feature a range of tools for beginners and advanced users. Let's take a look at the burn time and the resources available to each software. Note: To keep this test fair, I'm going to burn a copy of Windows 10 Insider Preview Build to an 8GB Integral USB flash drive, formatting the drive between each burn.
How to Burn an ISO to USB With the Rufus Tool
Before we plow into the testing phase, there are a handful of ISO-to-USB acronyms that it's handy to know, plus a few other bits of ISO to USB jargon we'll clear up.
Way 2: Download ISO File and Burn Windows ISO to USB
Bootloader Options: The bootloader loads the operating system. Some ISO burners allow you to choose the bootloader you'll need for your desired operating system installation.
- Grub4dos: A bootloader package designed to allow users to select between multiple operating systems installed on a single system, sometimes known as dual-booting.
- Syslinux: A lightweight bootloader package designed to allow users to select between multiple Linux or Unix installations.
- You can also create a multiboot ISO to USB installer containing multiple installation options.
QEMU: Short for Quick Emulator, is a hardware virtualization tool. In this context, it allows users to test their USB before proceeding with the burn process.
Cluster Size: Defines the smallest available space for storing data. Instead of assigning individual disk sectors, the file system assigns contiguous groups of sectors, called clusters.
File System: Controls how data is accessed and stored. Without it, your data would lump together with no beginning or end.
Way 1: Use Windows Media Creation Tool
It is somewhat like defragmenting your desktop, but on a much smaller scale. MAKEUSEOF VIDEO OF THE DAY. Now, in no particular order, here are the ISO to USB burning tools with their respective times. Want the TL;DR? Check out the best ISO to USB comparison video below! Features: Partition schemes, file systems, automatic ISO detection, target system type, mode of bootable, bad sector checks, ISO write mode.
Move 3: System Image Recovery
First up, Rufus. Rufus is a very small executable that has consistently improved its offerings over the years. Along with standard ISO to USB options such as cluster size and file system, Rufus automatically detects settings for the ISO you select and fills in the optimal settings.
Furthermore, Rufus has a hidden Advanced Mode with a bunch of extra options. Rufus clocked in at 21m12s which is definitely not the fastest. Regardless, Rufus is an excellent ISO to USB tool.
Other ISO-to-USB Tools We Tested...
Download: Rufus for Windows 10 (Free). The Windows USB/DVD has been discontinued, but you can still download and use it via the link at the bottom of this section.
- It is a basic tool. You select your ISO. You select your media type; USB or DVD. You click Begin Copying, and off it goes. In what is the most basic of basic UIs, and with only two options, the Windows USB/DVD Download Tool is almost sublimely simple, comparable only to ISO to USB.
- This makes it a fine tool when installing Windows 10 from a USB drive.
- Windows USB/DVD Download Tool came home in 17m51s which puts it toward the top of the ISO to USB timings board. Download: Windows USB/DVD Download Tool for Windows 10 (Free).
- Features: Bootloader options, file systems and overrides, grub4dos, syslinux, QEMU.
- RMPrepUSB is one of the most complete ISO to USB packages on this list.
- Aside from the features above, it comes packed with a host of other bootloaders, DiskDoctor, Speed Tests, and individual user configurations for frequently prepared drives.
- RMPrepUSB clocks in with a 21m38 putting it firmly toward the top of the timings board but, like Rufus, the features more than make up for the slightly slower time.
Download: RMPrepUSB for Windows 10 (Free). Features: Multiboot, ISO auto-download.
- YUMI (Your Universal Multiboot Installer) is another multiboot ISO to USB installer with settings for a vast range of Linux, Windows, and system utility ISOs.
- YUMI is easy to use. You scroll down the distribution list, check for the ISO you want, and then select the corresponding ISO on your system from the box below.
Don't have the ISO? YUMI will take care of that for you. YUMI clocked in at 17m46---slower than the first time I ran these tests some five years ago (it was 14m50s back then!), but still ahead of the rest. Download: YUMI for Windows 10 (Free). Features: Multiboot, grub4dos, bootloader options, burning wizard, file systems, burning profiles, ISO auto-download.
2. Windows USB/DVD Download Tool
Novicorp WinToFlash is a popular ISO to USB utility that features a handy burning wizard.
What's Your ISO-to-USB Tool of Choice?
The wizard guides you through the burning process, although it isn't unique to the utility (Rufus fills in all the information you need, for example). WinToFlash also allows you to create multiboot USBs as well as an auto-downloader for any ISO files you're missing.
Suggestion: Back up Windows & Restore System
WinToFlash clocks in at 22m01, decent speed for a tool that guides you through the ISO to USB process. Download: WinToFlash for Windows 10 (Free).
Features: grub4dos, ISO auto-download (Linux only), syslinux.
UNetbootin is primarily a Linux LiveUSB burning tool, but it works sufficiently well with Windows to deserve inclusion in this list.
The UNetbootin utility isn't flashy, but it does come with a few nifty features.
For instance, it has an auto-download feature for Linux distributions, letting you select from a range of popular distros and system utility tools.
UNetbootin came home in 22m01, exactly the same as WinToFlash and, again, a decent time for a useful tool.
Download: UNetbootin for Windows 10 (Free). The winner regarding speed is YUMI.
The winner regarding features and ease of use is Rufus, which was only 3 minutes slower than YUMI.
Furthermore, both burning tools cater to slightly different markets; Rufus is for one-off ISO to USB creation, whereas YUMI is excellent for multiboot tools.
Use the Windows USB/DVD Download Tool
Let's not discount the other USB to ISO tools. The range of burn times didn't vary much, so it really boils down to the features you need and find in a specific utility.
I tested many more ISO to USB tools for the sake of competition---and to bring you the best overall picture possible. There were a few tools that didn't make the grade, for one reason or another. Here are the fallen few:.
XBoot is another multiboot tool featuring an inbuilt download, but other options were faster and somewhat easier to use.