You can use installation media (a USB flash drive or DVD) to install a new copy of Windows, perform a clean installation, or reinstall Windows. To create installation media, go to the software download website, where you'll find step-by-step instructions.
Launch Windows From a Flash Drive
Learn how for Windows 10 and Windows 11 or for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. To create the installation media, here's what you'll need:. A PC with a reliable internet connection. The download time will vary, depending on your internet connection. A USB flash drive, external hard drive, or DVD.
A blank USB flash drive or external hard drive with at least 8 GB of space, or a blank DVD (and DVD burner). We recommend using a blank USB or blank DVD because any content on it will be deleted. When burning a DVD from an ISO file, if you're told the disc image file is too large, you'll need to use dual layer (DL) DVD media.
Your 25-character product key (not required for digital licenses).
Create Drive With Rufus
For help finding it, go to Find your Windows product key. After you've created the installation media, you can reset or reinstall Windows.
- To learn more, go to Recovery options in Windows. If you're using a PC outfitted with an older version of Windows but want a more up-to-date operating system, you can run Windows 10 or 11 directly from a USB drive.
- You'll need a USB flash drive with at least 16GB of free space, but preferably 32GB.
- You'll also need a license to activate Windows 10 or Windows 11 on the USB drive, which means you have to either purchase one or use an existing one associated with your digital ID.
- You can then use a Windows USB utility to set up the USB drive with either OS.
- Once you're done, you'll be able to boot up off the drive to launch Windows.
- The major downside of booting from a USB drive is that Windows will run slower than it does off your hard drive.
- But if you're in a pinch, you can at least work with the OS and access different apps this way.
Microsoft once offered its own tool called Windows to Go, which could generate a bootable Windows USB drive with the Enterprise and Education versions of Windows 10. However, the company stopped development on that program and no longer updates it.
Instead, you can turn to two utility programs, WinToUSB and Rufus, which will create a bootable drive from any version of the operating system and on any type of USB drive.
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If you want to run Windows 10 from the USB drive, the first step is to sign into your current Windows 10 computer and create a Windows 10 ISO file that will be used to install the operating system onto the drive. To do this, navigate to the Download Windows 10 website, which offers the latest edition of Windows 10; as of this writing, that's Windows 10 November 2021 Update or Windows 10 version 21H2.
Warning: Any files on the USB drive will be erased during the setup process. Make sure that there are no important files on the USB drive.
Double-click this file to install the program. At the first screen, click the Access button. Then click the Create installation media (USB flash drive, DVD, or ISO file) for another PC button and click Next. Confirm that the language, architecture, and edition are all correct and click Next.
You are then asked to choose what media you want to use. Though you ultimately want to run Windows from a USB drive, click ISO file (not USB flash drive) and then click Next. Choose a location on your hard drive to store the Windows ISO file and click Save.
Windows 10 will then generate the necessary ISO file. When the process is done, click Finish. In order to run Windows 11 from a USB drive, you’ll need to obtain a Windows 11 ISO file to install the operating system onto the drive. Browse to the Download Windows 11 website and scroll down to the Download Windows 11 Disk Image (ISO) section. Click the Select Download drop-down menu and choose the Windows 11 (multi-edition ISO) option.
Then click the Download button. Choose the product language and click Confirm. Then click the 64-bit Download button and save the ISO file to your hard drive.
In order to put a bootable ISO file onto your USB drive, it's time to enlist the aid of a third-party program like WinToUSB.
This tool comes in three versions—Free, Professional, and Enterprise. Start with the free version, but be aware that it poses certain limitations. You can freely create an installation of the Home version for Windows 10 or Windows 11 but not the Professional or Enterprise flavors.
Download and install the WinToUSB software from its dedicated website.
Warning: This is your last chance to save any files on your USB drive. If you have any important files, back up your USB drive. Once you proceed, your files will be permanently deleted.
Next, connect a blank USB flash drive to your computer and launch WinToUSB from its Start menu shortcut. At the introductory screen, click the search button next to the Image File field and choose the ISO file you created for Windows 10 or 11.
Select the version of Windows that you wish to clone onto the USB stick, then click Next. If you're using the free version, your only choice will be Windows 10 Home or Windows 11 Home.
You will then need to select your destination disk. Open the drop-down menu and choose your USB drive.
How to Install Windows 10 from USB
A message will pop up asking you to select a partition scheme. For older computers with a legacy BIOS mode, click the MBR for BIOS option. For newer computers with UEFI mode enabled, click GPT for UEFI. You can also choose MBR for BIOS and UEFI if you bought one of the paid versions of WinToUSB.
Click Next and your Windows USB drive will now be created. When the installation process reaches 100%, indicating that it's finished, close the WinToUSB program and remove the USB drive. Another solid utility is Rufus.
Download, install, and launch the program. At the Drive Properties window, select your USB drive in the Device field, if it's not already selected. Click the Select button next to the Boot selection field and select your Windows ISO file.
For older computers with a legacy BIOS mode, change the partition scheme to MBR. For newer computers with UEFI mode enabled, change it to GPT. You can leave the other options at their default values. If you wish, change the Volume label to a name like Windows 10 or Windows 11.
Then click the Start button. At the next screen, choose the version of Windows that you want to run on the USB drive, then click OK.
A warning message flashes that all data on your USB drive will be destroyed.
Click OK to continue. Rufus will now copy the necessary files to the drive. Once the process is complete, close the Rufus window. When you want to launch Windows on a different computer, insert your USB drive into that PC. Press the appropriate key for your computer make and model to get to your Boot menu and choose the option to boot up off the USB drive.
The first time you run Windows off the USB drive, you'll need to go through the familiar Windows setup process.
You'll also need to activate Windows. You can then install Windows applications onto the USB drive and access any files or documents stored online, so the experience comes close to working on one of your own Windows PCs.
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Keep an eye on your inbox! This article was co-authored by Luigi Oppido and by wikiHow staff writer, Jack Lloyd. Luigi Oppido is the Owner and Operator of Pleasure Point Computers in Santa Cruz, California.
Luigi has over 25 years of experience in general computer repair, data recovery, virus removal, and upgrades.
He is also the host of the Computer Man Show! broadcasted on KSQD covering central California for over two years. The wikiHow Tech Team also followed the article's instructions and verified that they work.
This article has been viewed 1,257,827 times. This wikiHow teaches you how to use a USB flash drive to install a version of the Windows operating system onto a Windows computer. Using a USB flash drive is useful when your computer doesn't have a CD drive or when you don't have an operating system installation disc.
Check the computer's architecture number. Before you download an installation tool for your preferred operating system, you'll need to know whether the computer on which you want to install Windows runs a 32-bit system or a 64-bit system.Make sure that you do this on the computer on which you're going to install Windows.
Make sure that you do this on the computer on which you're going to install Windows.