A Windows bootable USB drive is a USB device configured to contain an operating system, in this case, Windows. We can use a bootable USB to install or repair a Windows operating system on a computer with no operating system installed or experiencing problems with its current system.
How it Works
Here is how a Bootable USB works:
- Booting Process - When a computer is turned on, the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) checks the boot devices to find a bootable operating system. The BIOS will recognize the USB device configured as bootable as a bootable device.
- Loading the operating system - Once the BIOS identifies the bootable USB device, it will load the Windows operating system from the USB device into the computer's RAM.
- Installation or repair process - The installation or repair process will begin after loading the operating system. If the USB device is used to install Windows, you might be prompted to enter the product key and select the installation options. If the USB device is used to repair Windows, the user will have options to repair the operating system.
- Completing the installation or repair - Once the installation or repair process is complete, the computer will reboot, and the Windows operating system will be loaded from the computer's hard drive.
Why do we need a Windows bootable USB drive?
There are several reasons why a Windows bootable USB drive might be needed, including:
- Installing Windows on a new computer - A Windows bootable USB drive can be used to install Windows on a new computer without an operating system.
- Repairing Windows - If a computer's operating system is experiencing problems, a Windows bootable USB drive can be used to repair the operating system.
- Upgrading Windows - A Windows bootable USB drive can be upgraded to a newer version.
- Portable OS - It can also be used as a portable operating system, where you can carry your own personalized Windows operating system and all the software installed wherever you go and run it on any computer without changing the settings of the host computer.
Create Windows 11 Bootable USB with Rufus
Rufus is a free and open-source utility that allows us to create Bootable USB drives. One advantage of Rufus is that it's a portable utility. We do not need to install it; we can run it from an external drive.
Rufus supports various file formats, including ISO, IMG, DD, and can create both MBR and GPT partition schemes. This makes it an exceptional tool for building Bootable Windows USB drives.
Let us learn how to create Bootable USB using Rufus.
Step 1 - Download Rufus
Head over to the Rufus site and download the latest Rufus version.
Download the available version on to your system.
Once downloaded, click on the executable to launch it. On the first launch, the tool will prompt you on whether to check updates online.
We recommend selecting Yes to make sure you have the latest version.
Download Windows 11 ISO
Download the Windows ISO file from the Microsoft website. Make sure to download the correct version of Windows and save the ISO file to your computer.
You can check the link below:
Insert USB Drive
Insert the USB drive into your computer. Rufus will automatically detect the USB drive; its name and drive letter will appear in the "Device" dropdown menu.
Load Windows ISO
In the Boot selection section, click the Select button and navigate to the location of the Windows ISO file. Select the file and click Open.
Select Partition Scheme
Select MBR or GPT, depending on your computer's firmware mode, in the Partition scheme section. If your computer uses UEFI firmware, select GPT. If it uses BIOS, choose MBR.
Select NTFS in the File system section unless you have a specific reason to use a different file system.
Leave all the other settings as their default and click the Start button. Rufus will prompt you that all data on the USB drive will be destroyed. You can click OK to proceed.
Rufus will now format the USB drive and create a bootable Windows USB drive. The process may take a few minutes, depending on the speed of your USB drive and computer.
Once the process is complete, Rufus will display a READY message. You can now eject the USB drive and install or repair Windows on your computer.
Create Windows 11 bootable USB from Media Creation Tool
The Media Creation Tool is a utility program developed by Microsoft that allows us to download and create bootable installation media for Windows.
Let us learn how to use the Media Creation Tool to create a Bootable Windows USB.
Download Media Creation Tool
The first step is to download the Media Creation Tool. Use the link below:
Under Create Windows 11 Installation Media, select Download Now
Once downloaded, open the executable by double-clicking the exe file.
Accept the licenses.
The tool will check the Windows 11 Requirements and compatibility. Once completed, you can choose your desired version and language.
NOTE: You can allow Microsoft to choose for you by using the Recommended settings.
Click Next and choose the Media to Use. In this case, choose the USB Option.
Next, select the USB Flash Drive you wish to use.
Ensure you back up any files on your Flash Drive, as this will erase everything on the drive.
Finally, click Next to process the flash drive.
Create Windows 11 bootable USB from Command Prompt
A command prompt is an exceptional tool that allows us to create a Bootable USB. This is useful when you boot in Safe mode, or the GUI interface is not working.
Start by downloading the Windows 11 iso and save it your device from the link below:
Once the download is complete, launch the command prompt with administrator privileges.
In the command prompt, open diskpart by running the command:
To get the list of available drives, run the command:
This should return the list of all drives in your system. Example output:
DISKPART> list disk
Disk ### Status Size Free Dyn Gpt
-------- ------------- ------- ------- --- ---
Disk 0 Online 476 GB 2048 KB *
Disk 1 Online 57 GB 0 B
Once you locate your target USB drive, use the command to select it:
select disk <number>
<number> is the disk number you fetched from the above command. For example, if the disk is number 1, run the command:
select disk 1
Next, delete everything from the drive using the command:
Next, create a new partition on the drive with the command:
create partition primary
Next, select the newly created partition with the command:
select partition 1
To make the drive bootable, format the drive with the command:
format FS=FAT32 quick
Finally, assign a drive letter to the drive:
Exit diskpart with the command:
Next, mount the downloaded Windows 11 iso using PowerShell as shown in the command below:
PowerShell Mount-DiskImage -ImagePath "location\of\windows.iso"
Once mounted, go back to the command prompt and open disk part.
Use the command below to show drive letter on which the ISO is mounted:
Note down the drive letter.
Close disk part and go back to the command prompt. Enter the drive letter of the Windows 11 iso to move into the directory.
Navigate into the boot folder:
Run the command below to update the volume boot code for the USB flash drive and press Enter:
bootsect /nt60 <iso_drive_letter>:
Copy the Windows installation files to the USB drive with the command:
xcopy <usb_drive_letter>:\*.* <iso_drive_letter>:\ /<usb_drive_letter> /F /H
The command should copy the Windows installation files from the ISO to the USB drive allowing you to boot and install Windows from it.
You came across three main methods of creating a bootable Windows 11 USB drive in this post. You discovered tools such as Rufus, Media Creation Tool, and Diskpart.