Installing Windows 10 from a USB is a straightforward process that takes just a few simple steps. The Windows 10 Media Creation tool simplifies the entire process, and no one should feel like it’s a difficult procedure. In this guide, we’ll share everything you need to know about installing Windows 10 from USB.
Why install Windows 10 from USB?
- USB drives are portable, accessible, and can be used on virtually all computers. They can easily be carried around and fit comfortably in your wallet or pocket.
- Most modern PCs don’t come with CD/DVD drives, thus rendering bootable discs obsolete. However, you’ll find most of these devices with at least two USB ports – whatever PC you have will more than likely be compatible with USB flash drives.
- It’s faster! USB flash drives are faster than optical drives, and you will save more time during installation than when using a CD/DVD bootable disc.
What type of USB drive do you need?
The USB drive should have at least 8GB of free storage and UEFI support – most modern flash drives are in this format. It’s essential to know the difference between UEFI and BIOS. BIOS (Basic Input/output system) is used to boot the operating system and manage data between the operating systems and devices. Over the past decade, it has gradually been replaced by UEFI. UEFI has some advantages, such as supporting both 32 and 64-bit, faster boot time, and exclusive features such as “Secure Boot“. Both systems are supported when installing Windows 10 from USB.
Requirements to install Windows 10 from USB
- A USB flash drive that has at least 8GB of free storage
- Windows 10 Media creation tool
- A computer that meets the minimum system requirements for Windows 10:
- Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor or SoC
- RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit
- Hard disk space: 16 GB for 32-bit OS or 20 GB for 64-bit OS
- Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver
- Display: 800 x 600
Steps to install Windows 10 from a USB drive
Step 1. Format your USB flash drive
- Connect the USB flash drive. Ensure to back up any important files on the USB, as they will be deleted after this process.
- Open file explorer and click on “This PC” to see all the drives and partitions on the PC
- Find the USB you have connected and right-click on it
- You should select “Format” from the context menu
- Click Start to proceed, there are options to reprogram the file system, but you should leave it as it is, which in most cases is NTFS
- You’ll receive a warning message that will erase all content. Click OK to confirm your action.
- Depending on the size, it will take a while to format your flash drive. Once done, you should click “Finish”.
You can also format your USB using Disk Management System:
- Type diskmgmt.msc in Windows start, and click on the diskmgmt.msc that appears
- The Disk Management System window will open, will list on drives on the computer, and you need to locate your USB drive
- Right-click on your USB drive and select “Format”.
- You’ll receive a warning message; you should accept to proceed
- Select the quick format and click OK
- Another warning message will show up; you should click OK
- The selected disk will be formatted
There are other methods to format your USB drive. For example, you can use the command prompt or PowerShell. If, for some reason, you’re not able to format with the two methods above, you can try alternative options – many YouTube guides are showing different methods to format your USB drive.
Step 2: Install Windows 10 into the bootable USB drive
There are different methods of doing this, but we’ll use Windows 10 media creation tool, which you can download free from the Microsoft official website. Here are the steps;
- Visit Windows 10 Media Creation tool Page and click on “Download tool now”
- The file is just 20MB, so it should only take a few seconds to finish downloading
- Launch the file saved on your PC and click on Yes if prompted
- Next, go through the license terms and click Accept
- The next screen will ask, “What do you want to do?”. You should select “Create installation media (USB Flash drive, DVD, or ISO file) for another PC”. Click Next
- You will be required to choose your language, Windows 10 edition, and whether you want a 32-bit or 64-bit Windows 10 installation on the next screen. Select the settings which apply to you and click Next
- On the next screen, select USB flash drive, and click Next again to select the USB flash drive attached to your PC from the list
- After you click Next, your computer will begin installing the bootable Windows 10 file into your USB. The time this takes will depend on the speed of your device and internet connection. You’re downloading gigabytes of data on the USB flash drive, so please patiently wait for the entire process to be completed and make sure it is not interrupted.
- Once Windows 10 is downloaded, you will be notified in the Media Creation Tool with the message “Your USB flash drive is ready”. If you successfully reached this stage, you can proceed to the next step! You’re now ready to install Windows 10 on any compatible device using the USB bootable flash drive you just created.
Creating a Windows 10 UEFI bootable USB using Rufus – only do this if the above step was not successful
If the Microsoft media creation tool failed to create the bootable USB, or you don’t want to use the Microsoft media creation tool for this, you can use Rufus as an alternative. Rufus should be your alternative if the Windows 10 installation failed from the media creation tool. Rufus is a free and open-source program for Microsoft Windows that can format disks and create bootable USB drives. More than 38 languages are supported, and it supports Windows 7 to 10. Rufus only works with UEFI devices. Please note that you have to download a Windows 10 ISO file before using Rufus – you can download this using the Windows 10 media creation tool. Once you have the ISO file downloaded, follow these steps:
- Connect a USB drive that has at least 8GB of free space to your computer
- Go to rufus.ie and download the latest version available (for example, Rufus 3.14 – please ignore the portable version)
- A file named Rufus.xx.exe will be saved on your PC. Locate the file and run it on your computer. The Rufus interface will open up.
- Under Device, select USB Flash Drive
- Under the Boot Selection, click on Select on the right, and choose the previously downloaded Windows 10 ISO file (you can download it from the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool)
- Click on the Open button
- Select Standard Windows installation from the image option drop-down menu
- Under the Partition scheme drop-down menu, select either MBR or GPT from the drop-down menu. If your USB is UEFI supported, which we recommend in this tutorial, then GPT is the correct option. MBR is a legacy option and incompatible with most modern devices, so in most cases, you should go for GPT.
- Select UEFI (non CSM) under the Target System drop-down menu
- Don’t change any settings under the Show Advanced drive properties unless you know how the settings work
- Confirm drive name under the Volume label field
- Don’t change default settings under File System and Cluster Size – these should be FAT32 and 4096 bytes (Default), respectively.
- You should only do this step if you haven’t formatted your USB drive previously: click the Show advanced format options button. Check the options Quick Format and “Create extended label and icon files
- Click the Start button and then OK to confirm
- Rufus will now create a bootable USB drive to install Windows 10
Step 3: Install Windows 10 from the bootable USB flash drive
- Connect the bootable USB drive to the computer you want to download Windows 10 on.
- Switch on the computer and press the appropriate key that will take you to BIOS controls. The key which you need to click on will differ depending on each device’s motherboard. Typically, it’s either F1, F2, Delete, Escape, or one of the “F1-F12” keys. If you don’t know which applies to your computer, keep tapping these keys as the computer starts.
- The “Boot Manager” will now open. Before using your bootable USB to install Windows 10, you must change the boot order on your computer to make sure it boots from the connected USB drive. The Boot Manager differs between each computer, but the end goal is to make sure the computer boot using the connected USB device. This option is usually accessible in the “Boot” tab.
- Save the settings, and your computer will restart. This time, it will automatically boot from the USB flash drive you have selected.
- The Windows 10 setup screen should load up. You will have to customize your Windows 10 installation with the options you want, such as language, time zone, and keyboard type.
- Click on Next then select Install now
- On this screen, the setup will ask you to activate Windows 10 using a license key. If you don’t have a key, select I don’t have a product key (note that there will be limitations if you’re using a free, inactivated version of Windows 10″
- Accept the license terms and then select Next
- On the next screen, they will ask you the type of installation you want. Select Custom: Install Windows only (advanced)
- Next, you have to select the partition drive you want to install Windows 10 into. Here you want to select the hard drive (HDD or SDD) which all of the Windows 10 files will be located. Please note that this drive will be formatted, so ensure you don’t have any files which you need in the drive. Once you’ve selected the drive you want, click Next
- Windows 10 will now begin installing on your computer. Make sure your computer stays switched on, and the USB drive is attached to it.
- Once the installation is completed, you will be guided to select your region, connect to your Wifi, and log in to your Outlook/Windows account. After this process, Windows 10 will automatically open on your computer!
Windows 10 bootable USB not working – tips and solutions
Some of our users have reported they can’t install Windows 10 from the bootable flash drive they have created. Let’s take a look at possible problems and how to troubleshoot them.
First, things you should do before installing Windows 10 onto your computer:
- Remove all devices connected to your computer during installation, except for the bootable USB you’re using. You should only have a mouse, keyboard, and monitor for desktop computers. Laptops should have power cords only.
- Remove unnecessary internal hardware like card readers, USB extensions, fan controllers, and other standalone cards attached to the computer.
- Pause antivirus programs on your PC, so they don’t influence the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool process.
- Make sure you’re not using any VPN app while creating media images on the USB drive you’re working with.
- Make sure your USB drive is formatted before installing Windows 10 on it.
Potential problems and how to fix them
- Error code 0x8007000d when installing Windows 10 from USB: error code 0x8007000d can arise when installing Windows from a USB bootable drive. The best fix is to restart the whole process to create a new bootable USB. You can try other things if it doesn’t work: run windows troubleshooter, reset Windows update components, and run DISM to see if there are problems in your OS to fix them.
- The bootable USB flash drive is not detected: this indicates that the USB flash drive is not bootable or is corrupt. It can also happen that USB boot isn’t supported on the computer using the USB bootable flash drive. The solution here is to use another (preferably more modern) USB flash drive and see if it’s going to work. Make sure it’s in the UEFI format rather than any legacy format.
- ISO image errors: the media tool used to create the bootable USB drive can become corrupt or damaged. This results in a damaged installation of Windows 10 on the USB drive. It’s impossible to repair these files once written on the drive. The best solution is to re-download the Windows Media Creation Tool and format your USB again. Then, try to reinstall Windows 10 into the bootable USB. An alternative is to use a different Media Creation Tool, such as Rufus.
- Incorrect boot order: The bootable USB flash drive should be selected as the boot drive, set from BIOS when you startup your computer. This step is necessary to begin the installation of Windows 10. If your computer does not boot from the USB even after setting it from BIOS, it means it’s not bootable or has a problem. In this case, try to use a different USB drive. You should also troubleshoot the BIOS settings on your particular computer model.
- The USB drive is old: Windows 10 doesn’t support legacy USB versions like 1.0 or 2.0. Try to use a modern USB for this process.
- USB drive is damaged: If the bootable USB flash drive is damaged, it will not be recognized, and you will encounter error messages like “No bootable devices found.” Your best solution is to replace the USB with another one that’s working.
- USB drive isn’t connected properly: you must ensure the bootable USB flash drive is plugged in properly and remains plugged in throughout the entire process.
- The USB flash drive has not been formatted: This will lead to errors in the installation. Make sure your USB drive has been properly formatted to only have Windows 10 installed on it.
- The device you’re trying to run the installation isn’t compatible with Windows 10: Windows 10 has system requirements which you can find on this page. Make sure your computer meets the Windows 10 system requirements before installation.