If you want to install or repair Windows 10 on a computer, one of the most common ways is to use a USB drive with the necessary files. That’s what this guide is all about. I will show you the easiest and most reliable way to prepare and put Windows 10 onto a USB drive.
- How to put Windows 10 installation files onto a USB
- Booting from the prepared Windows 10 USB drive
- If something goes wrong
- Making Windows portable
To put Windows 10 onto a USB drive, download and run Microsoft’s Media Creation tool to prepare the USB drive properly. It will prepare the USB drive for the FAT32 file system and do everything required to make it bootable and ready to use for running the setup for Windows 10.
We no longer have to rely on a CD or DVD to contain installation files. Using a bootable USB drive will reduce the time it takes to install Windows, and it is one of the best options when choosing storage media.
Besides, getting your hands on a DVD drive or disk is becoming more difficult.
Now I’ll show you the procedure in detail to easily create a USB drive so that you can boot from it and install Windows 10 onto any machine.
How to put Windows 10 installation files onto a USB
Firstly, you will need to go and download the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool from Microsoft’s website and grab the tool now.
You can download the same tool for Windows 11 instead, depending on your preference as to which version of Windows you want.
Make sure you have plugged your USB drive into a free USB socket directly on your computer. Don’t plug it into any USB hubs if you can.
Caution: Make sure you have backed up your USB drive before attempting this procedure. Anything that’s on there will be gone for good.
From there, run the application once it has completed downloading. To do this, double-click on the downloaded file to begin the process.
Note: I highly recommend you unplug all USB drives that you have plugged into your computer, except the one you want the Windows 10 installation files installed.
Follow these instructions to create installation media:
1. Accept license terms (if you agree)
Once you have read through the software license terms and agree to them, click on the Accept button to continue.
2. Choose installation type
3. Check or uncheck recommended options
If you aren’t using the computer you are currently using to install your new Windows 10, uncheck the Use the recommended options for this PC check box. Otherwise, leave it checked.
If you uncheck the option, choose the appropriate language. Additionally, select either the 64-bit or 32-bit operating system (check your hardware architecture or processor specs on the target machine first), then click on the Next button to continue.
4. Choose USB flash Drive
Choose the USB flash drive option. In some cases where you want to keep the Windows 10 ISO file for manual installation to other USB flash drives using a tool like Rufus, you can choose the ISO file option instead.
Click on the Next button to proceed to the next step.
5. Select your destination drive
Select the target USB drive on which you want the installation files to be installed, then click on the Next button to move on to the next step.
6. The download and installation will proceed
The Media Creation Tool will download the Windows installation files and prepare the USB flash drive by erasing it and setting up a new partition. It will then copy all the downloaded files onto your USB drive. This will take a bit of time, so be patient.
The process is complete, and now you have Windows 10 successfully set up on a bootable USB drive. You can use this USB drive on as many computers as you like.
Booting from the prepared Windows 10 USB drive
It can also be noted that having an internet connection isn’t mandatory from this point onward.
From here, you will have to select the correct boot device in the computer’s bios that you wish to install Windows 10 on.
Enter the BIOS
In most cases, it’s simply a case of tapping the F12 or delete key when your computer first power on and posts. Some computers have a full-screen logo with some key commands listed somewhere.
If things move along too quickly and you cannot see these specific key presses listed there, try pressing the Pause key on the keyboard and see if it pauses on the post screen. You can press any other key to unpause it.
If that fails, try recording the post-screen with your smartphone slow-motion video. Then, play the recorded video back and pause it where you can see the keystroke information.
Change the boot order in the BIOS
Just remember, if you enter the BIOS and set the first boot device to your USB drive, you will have to undo that modification once the first boot has taken place from the Windows 10 setup.
Otherwise, it will keep booting up from the USB drive, and you won’t make any progress with the installation process, and you will be stuck performing the same initial first part of the Windows setup over and over each time the computer restarts.
Select a boot drive (preferred method)
It is more convenient to select the USB drive from the boot selection menu of the BIOS if you can. This will boot from your USB drive temporarily until the next restart.
This is achieved by pressing a hotkey for the boot menu instead of entering the BIOS itself.
If your motherboard doesn’t support this functionality, you must enter the BIOS and change the boot priority, as explained above.
Booting from the USB drive
If your changes in the BIOS were successful, the installation process installed onto the USB drive should launch and will look similar to a normal Windows boot initially.
After the initial loading screen, a Windows Setup window will appear.
You must complete a series of selections, including language selection, provide your Windows key, and prepare the hard drive or SSD for installation.
The process is fairly straightforward for most people and shouldn’t take long to complete.
If something goes wrong
Please read my troubleshooting guide about why Windows 10 won’t install from a USB drive if you encounter problems when trying to execute this guide.
If this whole process still doesn’t work out for you, another option would be to buy a USB with Windows 10 already on it. It also comes with a license key, so everything is taken care of for you.
Making Windows portable
If you want to take your Windows copy wherever you go, consider EaseUS OS2Go.
Think of it as a cloned installation of your current Windows installation that you can run on any computer, even a Mac.
It’s a convenient way to always have a personal live copy to boot into wherever you are, even if your computer has crashed and you no longer can boot into Windows.
With this tool’s assisted step-by-step wizard, it is easy to set up any USB flash drive.
That’s how you get Windows 10 on a USB drive to install it onto any computer’s hard drive or SSD.
You can use it for a clean install or for other repair purposes.
Over time I have tested many different methods to accomplish this. However, most of them are unnecessary unless you run into problems caused by unconventional hardware setups.
With minimal effort, Microsoft has tried to make it easy for anyone to use their tool and have Windows 10 up and running in very little time.