2021 Best bootable Windows USB stick on macOS, Windows and Linux Guide
Create a bootable Windows USB flash drive without the help of a computer wizard or a friend who understands technology. I will write about different methods suitable for beginners.
In compiling this step-by-step guide, I assume that you have already:
- Downloaded from the OS developer site
- Stored on hard drive or SSD
If you haven’t already, start reading with the detailed instructions on how to download the ISO . The program Media Creation Tool from Microsoft, considered in the material at the link, can be used to download and then write the image to the drive. And this is the first method to create a bootable USB stick.
To download an image, you can use:
- Windows desktop or laptop
- Linux PC
- Android phone
- The tablet
You can create a bootable USB flash drive intended for further Windows installation on a PC with an OS:
Please note that some of the methods only work on Microsoft OS.
Now I will consider the most simple and universal methods. I use Microsoft Edge to sign in to websites. You can use another browser. Differences in the interface are possible.
A bootable Windows flash drive on a Mac, Windows or Linux computer
The balenaEtcher software tool is attractive to beginners as it lacks steps that require computer knowledge and skills.
Go to the official website of balenaEtcher , programs for burning ISO images to SD cards and USB drives (flash drives). Please note: the browser window shows the utility interface.
Scroll down the page. Click the Download for Windows button to download a version compatible with Microsoft operating systems.
If the boot drive will be created on a PC running a different OS:
- Click on the down arrow located on the light green background to the right
- Choose a platform version: macOS or Linux
- Download the version for your OS to HDD or SSD
Edge offers you:
- “Run”: run the executable file immediately after downloading
- “Save”: place the file at the path you specified on the PC drive
- Cancel upload
The first option is more convenient for novice users because it has fewer steps. In the second option, the downloaded program must be run from the directory in which it is saved.
After checking the security of the downloaded EXE file …
… The utility installation wizard starts. The program will work only after the user accepts the terms of the license agreement. Please read the text carefully before clicking the “Agree” button.
It will take some time to install the tool.
If you are using Linux, Windows or Mac and prefer to install software using commands, pay attention to the line below the list of utility versions for different platforms.
Click on the link: “Debian (.deb) packages” if your OS is based on Debian. Such systems include Ubuntu and Linux Mint. “Red Hat (.rpm) packages” – link for Linux users who support installing software from RPM packages. Example: Fedora. Both links lead to the same page describing the installation process for different OS.
The links contain instructions for installing and uninstalling the utility:
- for DEB
- for RPM
- for Solus (GNU / Linux x64)
- via Brew Cask on macOS
- via Chocolatey on Windows
In the upper right part of the program window – the settings icon (“gear”). Click on it.
Leave the default settings unless you need specific options that you know for sure. The only parameter worth paying attention to is the first line of the list. Prompts the user to submit bug reports and tool usage reports. The option is initially enabled, but can be disabled by you. To do this, you need to remove the “bird” to the left of the text.
The second option from the bottom is automatic program update.
The process of creating a USB flash drive for the subsequent installation of the operating system consists of three steps.
First (“Select image”). Specify the path to the OS image (ISO file):
- Windows 10
- Windows 7
- Linux Mint
- Another Linux distribution
Second (“Select target”). Select a clean USB flash drive connected to the USB port of your laptop or desktop PC. It will become bootable after the completion of the third step of the software tool.
Third (“Flash!”). Writing a system image to a flash drive. Wait for the program to finish running.
Remove the created bootable medium from the slot. In the future, use it as a source for installing the system.
Go to the official site of the Rufus utility .
In the upper right corner of the page is a list.
Choose a language from it. Click to confirm your selection.
Scroll down the page until you see “Download”. Select the version under the caption:
- Rufus (must be installed)
- Portable version (just run the downloaded executable file)
The date of the latest update of the software tool is displayed just above. I recommend sticking with the version that does not require installation, that is, an additional step towards the end result – a workable bootable USB drive. Click on the link of the selected version of the program.
In the Microsoft Edge browser, at the bottom of the application window, a list of available actions with the file will appear. Make it easy for yourself – click “Execute”. The utility will start working immediately after loading without any additional steps. You have the option to “Save” it to your hard drive first and then run it.
The system will ask you: “Allow this application to make changes on your device?” Make a decision. The continuation of the program is possible only after the user has pressed the “Yes” button.
Determine if you need to automatically check for software tool updates (Yes). In most cases, working with a more recent version of the software is preferable because it fixes known bugs.
The program is convenient because it has only one window. All settings and parameters are indicated in it.
Define “Device”. Select a USB flash drive from the list. Before that, you need to connect it to the USB port of your computer.
The “boot method” is the Windows ISO image, the path to which must be specified.
The choice of “Target System” depends on whether your PC is using Modern UEFI or Classic BIOS.
From the list of “File system” I recommend choosing “FAT32”, and “Cluster size” to leave the suggested default – 16 kilobytes.
Alternately click on the captions: “Show advanced properties of the disk” and “Show advanced formatting options.” Additional utility options for advanced users are displayed. Unless you are absolutely sure you need additional settings, do not change anything in these sections.
After finishing setting parameters:
- Press the “Start” button
- Wait for the bootable media reaction to complete
- Remove the USB stick from the USB port
- Use it to install the OS
The method is convenient for novice users, since there are no complex settings in the program.
The program for Windows operating systems is designed to create bootable (including multiboot) USB flash drives for operating systems:
- Windows (since 2000 / XP)
The boot drive created with its help can be used on computers with (U) EFI and classic BIOS.
Go to the utility home page .
Click on “Downloads” on the website menu.
The most recent version at the time of visiting the website is offered for download. Click on the link with the name of the EXE file.
Click the “Download” button to download the program.
The self-extracting archive contains versions for 32- and 64-bit computers.
Run the version that matches your PC’s CPU architecture. In a single program window:
- Select from the list “USB disk selection and format tools” the flash drive, which will become the installation
- Add one or more images for subsequent writing to bootable media (in the “Add to USB disk” block)
- Press the “GO” button
A powerful tool for advanced users who need the ability to download and install multiple operating systems from a single drive. Easy for beginners too.
Runs on Windows computers:
- 98 / 98SE
- NT 4.0 (SP6a)
It is possible to create bootable CDs for Windows NT, 2000, XP operating systems. The tool will help users who need to create an old OS boot drive on an ancient computer.
Also used for editing audio CDs. Processes Audio CD images in .NRG (Nero) format. It is possible to define the disc label and song title.
Go to the official site of the UltraISO program .
The home page of the utility will open. Please note that this is a paid software product. Site visitors are invited to download the trial version of UltraISO Premium.
To do this, click on the “Free Trial” button. Edge prompts you to “Run” or “Save” the executable. The first option is more convenient, since the software will start immediately after downloading.
To start working with the application, it must be granted permission to make changes on the device (the “Yes” button).
The installation will start only after the user accepts the terms of the license agreement. Before choosing this option (the first one in the highlighted block) and clicking the “Next” button, carefully read the text. If you prefer to use one of the previously discussed methods, abort the installation (second option).
You will be prompted for the folder where the bootable media creation tool is installed. You can specify another one. To do this, use the “Browse” button. Click “Next” to install the utility in the selected directory.
The installation wizard will ask you in which folder of the main menu to create a shortcut for the program and will offer to select a different directory. Click “Next” to proceed to the next step of the installation.
You are invited to:
- Create a program icon on the Desktop
- Open ISO files in it by default
- Install disk emulator for ISO
The options are active by default. Disable the second, if you are not yet sure whether you will use the utility as the main tool for creating bootable USB drives.
Click the Install button.
If you leave the checkbox in front of the Run option, the software tool will open after you click Finish.
The start window shows the price of the program. It is suggested to enter a registration key or buy software. The “Trial period” option is also available.
The tool window will open.
From the File menu, select Open. Specify the path to the previously downloaded operating system image.
Click on the “Burn hard disk image” sub-item from the “Boot” menu.
Select a USB flash drive from the list and click “Burn”. Do not change any settings, unless you are sure exactly what parameters need to be overridden.