Whether you’ve just assembled a new PC or want to perform a clean OS install on your already-existing one, chances are you’ll need to use a bootable USB for the task.
Installing Windows from a bootable USB is easy, but only if you know which tools to use for the job.
Not sure where to begin? Worry not, as we cover everything you need to know step-by-step in the following guide.
Keep on reading to learn more.
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What Is A Bootable USB?
The easiest way to explain a bootable USB to a user who isn’t familiar with the term is the following:
When your computer starts up, it automatically searches for a connected drive containing an operating system to load up.
When you have Windows 10 or 11 installed on an already-plugged HDD or SSD, your computer detects it and knows where to “draw” the information from and what to load, assuming the boot priority order is correct to ensure a successful boot.
If the drives are empty, and the computer can’t find an OS or an installation setup, the user will see the message “No operating system found,” and the computer won’t boot. That is usually the case when purchasing a new computer.
Luckily, bootable USB drives are here to save the day.
A bootable USB is a regular USB drive for everyday use, formatted and configured to allow your computer to load an operating system (or an installation setup for one) from it.
It’s always a good idea to have a bootable USB at your disposal, which is why we’ll show you how to create one in the section below.
Creating A Bootable Windows USB
First and foremost, to create a bootable drive with Windows 11, 10, 7, or any other operating system you wish to install on your computer, you’ll need a USB flash drive with enough memory for the operating system of your choice.
In this case, we’re looking to install Windows 11, so we need a USB with at least 8 gigabytes of memory, as Microsoft recommends on the Media Creation Tool section of their website. Other, more “lightweight” operating systems may require less space.
The next step is to choose the software you’ll use to create the bootable USB. Our recommendations are Rufus, Ventoy, or the Microsoft Media Creation Tool.
Rufus and Ventoy are both open-source programs used by thousands. You’ll have no security concerns when using them. The “Media Creation Tool” is developed by Microsoft, so all three are legitimate tools, and it’s up to you to choose which to use.
In this guide, we’ll use Rufus, as we have the most experience with it and believe it’s the most convenient one out of all others on the list. Plus, it’s much faster than the other options, meaning you’ll save some time if you opt for it.
Follow the steps below to create your bootable USB with Windows using Rufus:
- Download the .iso Windows file (Disk Image) from the official Microsoft Website and store it somewhere on your computer. We recommend saving it on your Desktop for ease of access.
- Plug the USB you’ll use as a bootable drive into your computer.
- Download Rufus and open it. No installation is required.
- Under “Device,” select the USB flash drive you’ll use.
- Under the Boot selection section, choose “Disk or ISO image,” as shown in the image below.
- Click SELECT and browse your computer for the .iso file you downloaded during step #1. If you saved it on your Desktop, it’s easy to find. Select the file and click Open.
- Under “Image option,” select the option with no TPM / no Secure Boot, as shown in the image below.
- Under “Partition scheme,” choose MBR, and under “Volume label,” give your bootable USB a name to make it easier to recognize later on. You can name it anything you want, such as “My Windows 11 Bootable USB Drive,” for example.
- Leave the rest of the options unchanged as they are by default in Rufus, and press the START button at the bottom.
- Confirm the action where Rufus warns about losing all your existing data on the USB you’re using. If you have any valuable files on the USB and weren’t aware you’ll lose them, click Cancel instead and backup those files, then repeat the steps and press OK to begin the procedure.
Now Rufus will begin formatting your USB drive and creating it into a bootable source. That will take a few moments, depending on your system’s performance.
When the green progress bar in Rufus fills up, you’ll hear the Windows notification sound, and the text on the green bar will say “READY.” That means the process is complete, and you have now successfully created your first bootable USB with Windows 11.
The process is the same for Windows 10 and 7. As long as you have a .iso image of those versions of Windows, you can repeat the steps and create more bootable USB drives.
If this text-based tutorial was not clear enough, or you prefer seeing the steps in video form instead, here’s a helpful video guide covering the procedure from start to finish.
Now it’s time to install Windows via the bootable USB you created.
If you’re unsure how to do that, we’ll cover all the steps in the next section.
Keep on reading to learn more.
Installing Windows From A Bootable USB
It may sound daunting at first, but installing Windows from a bootable USB drive is the same as installing it from a DVD, for example. Even if you’re unfamiliar, the process is still relatively simple.
However, before getting to the installation setup, you primarily need to set the correct boot priority within your system’s BIOS. That is so your computer knows that it needs to read the files from the bootable USB you recently created rather than the HDDs or SSDs installed on your system.
Here’s how to do that:
- Plug in the bootable USB you just created during the previous section. If it’s already plugged in, you can skip this step.
- For this step, you’ll need to be quick with your fingers. Restart your PC, and while it’s starting up, you’ll see the logo of your motherboard’s manufacturer and a message indicating which buttons to press to enter the BIOS. These could either be DELETE or the F1, F1, or F12 buttons on your keyboard, depending on your motherboard. Make sure to read it and react as quickly as possible. Don’t worry if you miss it since you can always restart your PC and try again.
- When you enter the BIOS, navigate to the BOOT section. Since every BIOS is different, we cannot provide the exact steps required to make this change, but all you need to do is change the boot priority and place the bootable USB you created on the first spot. That will tell your computer to use the USB as the primary boot source. When done with that, save the changes and exit the bios.
- Your computer will boot up and recognize the Windows installation files on the bootable USB drive. From there, it’s just following the setup and adjusting the preferences to your needs.
Since you’ve now chosen which HDD or SSD to install Windows 11 on, safely eject your bootable USB, then restart your computer and enter the BIOS as you did during step #3. Change the boot priority, but now place the drive on which you installed Windows on the first spot, then save the changes and exit.
Now, when you start your computer, it will automatically know that it needs to load the operating system from the drive where you installed Windows 11 and not your bootable USB because you’ve set it in the first place on the boot priority list.
That’s all there’s to it!
Now you know how to create a bootable USB with Windows 11 installation files that you can use to repair your PC whenever you need or install that specific operating system on many other computers.
Hopefully, the methods listed in the guide above were clear enough and helped you learn more about creating bootable USB drives.