Screenshots in this tutorial were taken on Windows 7 (which we used to create a Windows 10 bootable flash drive from the ISO disc image), but the steps are exactly the same on all recent versions of Windows. It will work whether your PC has USB 1.0 / 1.1 ports or USB 2.0 ports, no difference there. The free, downloadable tool called "Rufus" works on Windows XP and later, both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows. It's widely regarded as the fastest and most reliable way of creating bootable ISOs on Windows. (It's the de-facto tool used for new users who want to try out a Linux distribution like Ubuntu or Mint as a "
live CD", or "
live USB" in this case.) Many Linux distros will fit on a regular CD. To make bootable media for Windows 10, you need a DVD or a USB drive (4Gb+).
Tip: to use a CD or DVD instead, see our "Create a bootable CD/DVD" tutorial instead. In it, we use another freeware product to burn the Windows 10 Insider Preview ISO file onto a blank DVD. It takes about as long as creating the USB.
No installer is needed for Rufus: you directly download the program executable. Click the download link on https://rufus.akeo.ie/ (it's the official site - "
ie" is the internet country code for Ireland). Save the file to your desktop (for example), it will be launched from there: nothing will be installed, and no changes will be made to Windows (like adding shortcut links, changing your homepage to a spammy site, or anything like that). Note that running Rufus requires elevated privileges.
Interesting factoid: because "IE" is also the acronym for "Internet Explorer", Microsoft has used "
.ie" domains for some of their classic browser's online marketing campaigns. In Windows 10, Internet Explorer is only included for compatibility reasons. (Enterprise HTAs and apps using the embedded browser control rely on IE's underlying rendering engine, "Trident".) The new, completely redesigned web browser bundled into the operating system is called "Edge".
To make a bootable flash drive, all existing data on it will be wiped, and irrecoverable. So, make sure to first backup any important files, or that the flash drive doesn't contain anything you want to keep.
Leaving some files on your USB stick prevent Rufus from creating the bootable drive, but they'll be erased. For a Windows installer, remember that you'll need a flash drive of at least 4Gb (gigabytes) in capacity.
Once you've plugged in your USB, and either it's visible or you got the "Your device is ready to use" confirmation in the notification area system tray, launch Rufus and confirm the UAC prompt (by entering the administrator's password or by clicking "
Yes"). You should now see your USB drive preselected at the top; make sure that it's the right one. Click on the "Device" dropdown to pick another target device:
Leave everything else with its default, but optionally type a meaningful description (like "
Windows 10 Insider Preview") in the "New volume label" text box. Under the "Create a bootable disk using" checkbox, which should be checked, pick "ISO Image" from the dropdown. Then, click on the disc icon (CD/DVD), navigate to where you saved your Windows 10 ISO file, and double-click on it to select it:
Note: the file system option in Rufus (
NTFS) doesn't matter, and won't have any effect on the operating system installer, assuming that this is the type of ISO you are using. Just leave the setting Rufus automatically selected.
Now click on the Start button in Rufus: clicking "Cancel" on the "
All data on device [name] will be destroyed" final confirmation message is your last chance to check that the right USB drive is selected, and that you've saved all the files you wanted to keep - the process starts once you click "OK", and everything on the flash drive will be wiped.
Burning the USB from an ISO disc image may take a while - at least 5 minutes, but how long exactly depends mostly on your hardware, and how busy it is (CPU-wise, mostly). Just minimize the Rufus window and go take a break, or work on something else.
Once the progress bar is filled, and the status message area says "READY", click on the Close button to exit Rufus. If you ended up with a weird / random device name, just rename it in Windows Explorer (or "
File Explorer", if you are on Windows 10). Right-click on the USB drive and choose rename, or just hit the F2 key when it is selected.
You are done! Safely eject your flash drive, and go install your operating system. (But first, label your USB drive - a useful tip learned the hard way :)