How to create a Windows 10 bootable USB: It’s easier than you think – Guide

Every Windows user must have a Windows 10 boot drive at all times. It can save you from having future headaches if you have computer problems. Troubleshooting an old, slow PC isn’t a fun experience, but it’s also something you can do on your own at home. In addition to the common issues to watch out for, there is another task you should perform – create a bootable USB drive. I know I know. The first time I heard the term “bootable USB”, I felt a pang. And it’s okay if you do that too. Creating the drive is a seemingly complicated task and requires a lot of technical knowledge, but in reality it only takes a few mouse clicks and a solid Internet connection to complete. Don’t be intimidated in any way. I promise. Creating a bootable Windows 10 USB drive is something you should definitely do if you have a Windows computer. Backup media can save you time and a headache if you need to reinstall Windows. And if you’re building a gaming PC, this is one of the last things you need to finish building it. (You can also create a boot drive for Windows 11 if you want to test the latest version of Windows before it comes out on October 5th). In addition to an empty 8GB USB drive and a Windows PC, you’ll need to set aside about 30 minutes, maybe more, depending on your internet speed. For the curious, it’s possible to use a Mac to create a Windows 10 boot drive, but the process is quite complicated and requires familiarity with Terminal, the Mac’s command-line tool. It’s not a process I would recommend for the average user. I recently built my first gaming PC, and despite my moderate comfort level with Terminal, I still found using a Windows computer to be a safer and easier process.

Use Microsoft’s Media Creation Tool

Microsoft has a dedicated tool you can use to download your Windows 10 system image (also known as an ISO) and create your bootable USB drive.

  1. Go to this page, scroll down to Create Windows Installation Media and click Download Tool Now.
  2. When the download is finished, double click on the file called MediaCreationToolxxxx to run it. (The last four digits of the filename indicate the Windows 10 version number. Currently, the filename is MediaCreationTool21H1, but this will change as new versions are released.) The file must be in the Downloads folder.
  3. When the program opens, accept the Microsoft terms and conditions, select Create installation media (USB flash drive, DVD or ISO file) for another PC and click Next.
  4. You will be asked to select the language, edition and architecture you want to use. By default, the tool will use the best options for the PC you are creating the boot drive on. You can change any of the options by unchecking the box next to Use the recommended options for this PC and using the drop-down options. If you are unsure whether you need a 64-bit or 32-bit architecture, select Both from the Architecture drop-down list. Please note that, according to the Microsoft support page, if you plan to use this tool to update a different edition of Windows 10, such as Windows 10 Pro (or vice versa) on a different PC, it will be included when you select Windows 10 as the edition. In fact, Windows 10 basic is the only option, so don’t stress out looking for a professional option.
  5. Click Next when you have set the options, leave the USB flash drive selected and connect the USB drive to your computer. Select Next to continue.
  6. Finally, select the USB drive from the list. If you have more than one drive connected to your computer and you’re not sure which to choose, disconnect the extra drives. Choosing the wrong drive can be catastrophic as this process erases everything on the drive in the process. With the right drive selected, click Next. Microsoft’s tool will take care of the rest from there. Go have a drink, take a walk or browse the Internet while the tool does its work. The process should take about 30 minutes, more or less, depending on your internet speed. When the tool is complete, click Finish and remove the USB drive from the computer. Going forward, if you need to install or reinstall Windows, you can connect the drive to your computer and restart it. Your PC should boot to the drive, giving you the option to install Windows. If it doesn’t automatically boot to the drive, you’ll need to reboot the computer into the BIOS firmware – usually done by pressing Esc, F2 or a similar key while the computer is booting up – and change the boot drive or “boot menu” to the flash drive. The process for each computer (or motherboard, if you’re building a gaming PC) will be different. When you first turn on your computer, there will be a small line of text telling you which button to press to enter the BIOS. If you don’t see it, or it disappears too fast, I suggest checking the manual for instructions.

Final note

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