Why Won’t Windows 10 Install From a USB? Causes and Fixes

Are you having trouble installing Windows 10 from a USB? If so, it can be very frustrating, especially if you don’t know your way around computers. Unfortunately, like any other software installation, these problems are widespread, and many people are trying to find the solution just like you. 

Your Windows 10 won’t install from a USB because of a damaged/corrupted USB, low disk memory on your PC, or hardware incompatibility. Unless your PC isn’t compatible with the OS, the best solution is to use a different method to install the OS (ex: a different type of external disk).

This article will address some of the reasons why Windows 10 will fail to install from a USB. We’ll also discuss how to fix them.

Note: I recommend using my tutorial showing how to put Windows 10 onto a USB drive before trying the fixes.

a usb drive and windows 10 logo

Why Windows 10 won’t install from a USB

The Windows 10 installation process is vulnerable to various mistakes, glitches, and hardware malfunctions. When using a USB stick to install, the USB will be pre-installed with official Windows ISO files, which you can use as the OS installation media. 

See the video below for a practical explanation:

YouTube video

With this USB stick, you can successfully install Windows OS onto your PC. However, if the installation fails, it can be due to one of the following reasons:

An error with the Windows 10 bootable USB

The reason you can’t install Windows 10 from the USB stick might be because the USB stick itself isn’t working. On the other hand, that might be because the USB drive is corrupted or not appropriately created. 

You can’t successfully install Windows 10 if the USB stick isn’t bootable. So, above all else, ensure that the USB works correctly.

Compatibility issues often derive from faulty or incorrect USB models. For example, there are USB-C, traditional USB, USB 2.0, and many other models.

Using an incorrect USB drive will make it nearly impossible to boot Windows (or any other program). Check any adapters to ensure they’re the correct type, i.e., USB to USB C adapters.

The computer doesn’t support booting from a USB

Some computers don’t support Windows 10 booting and installation from a USB. If your computer falls into this category, the USB installation is off the table.

Most modern computers support this method, but it’s best to check and confirm.

To do this, restart your computer, and depending on your computer make, press the keys F2, F10, F12, or Delete (you’ll see which special key you need to press at the bottom of the screen). Then, in the Windows startup screen that appears, enter BIOS. 

From here, you can check whether your computer supports booting from USB. 

The USB stick format is not supported

Another reason could be that the computer doesn’t support the format system of your USB. For example, if your computer supports UEFI, you need to ensure that the USB is formatted in the FAT32 file system to install the UEFI mode. 

A USB with an NTFS file system can’t boot and install Windows 10 in a UEFI mode computer. 

The settings on an EFI/UEFI PC aren’t configured properly

If not correctly configured, the settings on the UEFI/EFI can interfere with the booting and installation from a USB or CD. Therefore, before you start the installation process, ensure that the settings have the correct configuration to not interfere with the process. 

Not enough disk space

Windows 10 requires quite a bit of memory space to install. If your PC’s hard or solid-state drive doesn’t have enough free space, you can’t install Windows 10 from a USB stick. 

You need at least 16GB of free space to install the 32-bit version of the OS – the version is popular for tablets and cheaper laptop models.

The 64-bit version will need at least 20GB of space. So, in addition to the 16GB, you might need an extra 10GB to transfer and support the file successfully.

ISO Image issues

The problem might be due to issues occurring when creating the ISO image on your bootable USB. This can happen if you use an unreliable Microsoft Media Creation to create your bootable USB, causing damage or corrupting the stick. 

This corruption will lead to a failed Windows 10 installation. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to modify an already corrupted bootable USB. In other words, you need to recreate the bootable USB from scratch. 

Incompatible hardware

Although Windows 10 runs on almost all hardware, including Atom-based tablets, it has minimum installation requirements to install successfully. 

The PC you’re trying to install the OS on needs a processor above 1 GHz (a RAM of 1GB for the 32-bit version and 2GB for the 64-bit version). Otherwise, the installation won’t be successful. 

The USB port isn’t working

USB Ports on a Computer

If your PC USB port isn’t working, you obviously can’t install Windows 10 from the USB stick. This is because your computer won’t detect the device.

If the USB isn’t faulty, it might be because the USB port has no power. Some devices turn unused USB controllers off to save energy, and you’ll need to turn them on manually.

If this doesn’t work, check your USB device drivers. The problem might have something to do with the drivers. 

How to fix Windows 10 not installing from a USB

If you’re trying to install Windows 10 from a USB drive, you’re in luck; We’re about to cover how you can fix USB-related download issues. Below, you’ll find the quickest and most efficient solutions.

Use a different installation method

Sometimes, the only solution is to use a different Windows 10 installation method, like direct download or using a CD to install. For example, if the computer doesn’t support USB booting, no hardware tweak could force the OS to install. 

Use a different USB drive

Try using a different USB. It’s best to use the original Windows setup USB, or your computer restores USB. This will quickly tell you if the problem is with the USB or your computer. 

The other option is to create a new bootable USB. This is especially useful if the original USB you created wasn’t correctly created and became corrupted. 

Test the USB on another PC

Another good way to test whether the problem is with the USB stick or your PC is to test the installation on a different computer. If the USB works just fine, then the problem is with your computer configuration. We’ll cover a handful of useful solutions for this problem later on the page.

However, if it doesn’t work even on the new PC, the USB stick is probably corrupted or doesn’t have the correct filesystem. If the USB isn’t the correct model or corrupted with malware or other technical errors, it can cause damage to your PC.

Run the Windows Update Troubleshooter

If the above fails and you aren’t sure what to do next, try running the Windows 10 troubleshooter. It can detect and try to fix some of the most apparent problems. It might not guarantee you’ll find the problem, but it’s an excellent place to start.

To do this, you can follow these steps:

  1. Open your PC Search Box and type in Troubleshoot. 
  2. Select the Troubleshoot Settings and then System Settings. 
  3. On the window that opens, click on Get Up and Running, and then click on the option for Windows Update. 
  4. Select the button that says Run the Troubleshooter. The troubleshooter should now be able to scan for any problems and try to fix them.

Windows 10 has quite a few updates. Being one of the biggest operating systems available, you should expect to wait a couple of hours for it to finish. Installing it from a USB could make it take longer.

Ensure that the USB is bootable

If the USB has an error from the initial formatting, the Windows 10 won’t successfully install. Therefore, it’s essential to ensure that you create a bootable USB. Simply copying the Windows 10 ISO files into a USB without proper care won’t work. 

The primary method used to transfer files for standard USB drives might not work when creating a USB to install Windows 10. However, in some cases, you can get a bootable Windows 10 USB from a store.

However, if you need to create your USB, you need to manually transfer the Windows 10 files into the bootable USB. 

Here’s a guide that’ll help you create a bootable USB:

YouTube video

Ensure that the PC is set to boot and install Windows from a USB

Ensure that your desktop or laptop is configured to boot and install Windows 10 from a USB. Unfortunately, many computers don’t have this setting by default, and therefore you need to set it manually. 

To do this, power up your computer. When you see the manufacturer’s logo appear (for example, Toshiba or Acer), you’ll see an option to press a unique key. This particular key depends on the make and model of the computer. 

You’ll most likely see something at the bottom telling you which key to press. For example, some standard options are F8, F12, and Delete keys.

The legend on the top-right corner might tell you that F2 will likely trigger the BIOS setup menu, while F12 will take you directly to the boot selection panel. Pay close attention to the exact key!

After pressing the special key, click on CD-ROM/DVD-ROM on the menu that appears and ensure that the option is toggled on. 

Ensure that the USB is formatted as FAT32

Before reformatting or wiping the USB drive, it’d be best to back up the file on another USB stick. Making a copy will prevent you from losing Windows 10 since there’s no way to undo a wiped USB drive. Once you’ve done that, reformatting the USB is as simple as it gets.

Most USBs on the market are formatted as NTFS. Therefore, ensure that the USB used for the installation is formatted as FAT32.

Here’s the step-by-step process:

  1. First, you need to check which format the USB has. Then, check the USB filesystem, connect your USB to the PC and ensure it shows on My computer.
  2. Right-click on its icon and click on properties on the menu that pops up. The file system will show on the window that opens. 
  3. If the USB isn’t in FAT32 format, you can reformat it by going back to the My Computer menu, right-clicking on the USB icon, and then clicking on the format option. On the dialog that pops up, select the FAT32 format on the drop-down options and then click continue. 

Here’s a video explaining the process in detail:

YouTube video

Check if your PC has EFI/UEFI

If your computer has EFI/UEFI, it can interfere with the Windows 10 installation process and the general booting from both recovery CDs and USBs.

Manufacturers (including Dell, HP, Asus, Acer, Toshiba, Lenovo, and more) require specific steps to activate booting from a USB or CD. 

Therefore, check that your PC is configured for this. You can either configure or allow Legacy Boot within the EFI setup/configuration feature you see after turning your PC on.

To do this, power up your PC. The second you see the manufacturer’s logo on the BIOS screen, you’ll also see an option to press a special key. The key depends on the make and model of the computer (Most computers will indicate the key to press below the screen). 

On the screen that pops up, click on the UEFI setup and configuration option. In the next window, you’ll see an assortment of options you can configure.

Now, you might have trouble finding what you’re looking for because it could have various names, depending on your computer make and the EFI firmware.

For example, the option might be Legacy Support, UEFI/Legacy Boot, Boot Option Filter, etc. 

Free more disk space on your PC

Whatever method you use to install your Windows 10 will not install if your storage drive doesn’t have enough free space. That means you need to create space. 

The first step is to uninstall memory-hogging programs that you’re not using. Things like 3D games and programs like Adobe Creative Suite are notorious for eating up disk space.

If you still need these programs, you can create backups outside of the PC and install them later.

If this doesn’t free up enough space, remove and back up files in the following order. Using an external hard drive is a quick and easy way to back up your files, such as:

  • Videos files.
  • Audio files.
  • Images.
  • Documents of all kinds and other small files. 

Check the space with every step and stop once you have enough space for the Windows 10 installation. Click on the Start Button and type This PC or My Computer; check the space percentage of the disk labeled Windows. Ensure that it has at least 20 GB free. 

A handy tool to use that helps you track down the biggest space hogs by file is WinDirStat. It is free and shows you a graphical representation of all the files mapped out.

Ensure the ISO image is copied correctly on the USB

Sometimes, Windows 10 can be installed from an ISO image. However, if the image is corrupted and not appropriately copied, you probably can’t install the Win 10 from the USB.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to repair the ISO image on the USB stick once copied. So the only solution is to format the USB and reinstall the image again. 

Bonus tip: Always keep a bootable USB alternative

It’s always good to have a fallback plan. Of course, this is useful when you don’t really need to install a new Windows 10 but need a Windows recovery disk that’ll help reinstate the health state of your current Windows OS. 

Let’s talk about creating a Windows emergency disk using EaseUS Todo Backup – a reliable USB bootable software

First, download and launch EaseUS Todo Backup. Once launched, click the ‘OS’ option that appears on the home screen. The system will automatically detect your OS and display the information on the screen. 

The system will then suggest the most suitable location for the backup (select a different option if you don’t want to back up here). Then click on schedule and create a weekly, monthly, or whichever timelines you want. Then click on proceed to allow the system to backup the OS. 

Other than this method, you can also create a backup on a different USB or CD. 

Final thoughts

Windows 10 is one of the most popular operating systems worldwide, so it’s essential to know how to upload and install it with a USB stick.

Using your preferred desktop or laptop setup with a Windows 10 USB requires the right type of USB, updates, and free disk space. Keep a spare USB stick in case yours is corrupted.