How easy things would be if you have a solution to a crashed Windows handy in your pocket. That obsolete USB device that you rarely use could easily be turned into a last minute life-saver by making it bootable, and storing the setup of Windows in it.
Remember the Blue Screen of Death and how its constant recurrence sends a chill down your spine. With a bootable USB containing Windows setup, you can easily reformat your computer and re-install Windows. Saving crucial time spent on incessant call waiting in tech support.
By default, your hard-disk is bootable. That means, when switched on, the computer knows to look into your hard-disk as a source for the files of the operating system during the booting process.
USB devices are not bootable by default. You have to make them bootable so that during the booting process, your system looks at it as a source containing the operating system.
In a reformat, only the partition containing the Windows (usually C:\ drive) is formatted. Therefore, back up of all your important files and folders from Documents, Downloads, Pictures, Music, Videos or any other important data elsewhere in the C:\ drive.
Then comes the crucial part of creating a bootable USB drive.
If you wish to make a bootable USB, you can do it yourself using command prompt or with the aid of free software (freeware), available online.
- Method 1: Using Command Prompt
- Step 1. Open Command Prompt in Admin Mode
- Step 2. Open DISKPART
- Step 3. Open the list of connected storage disks
- Step 4. Select your USB device
- Step 5. Clean the USB device
- Step 6. Make a bootable partition
- Step 7. Select the partition
- Step 8. Format the USB device
- Step 9. Assign a letter to your USB drive and exit DISKPART
- Step 10. Copy & paste the setup
- Method 2: Using Freeware
- Addition Tips
Method 1: Using Command Prompt
Command Prompt is practically the remote control of the operating system, if you know which buttons to press. However, there is a catch. Making a USB bootable via Command Prompt works only on PCs that have a higher version of Windows than XP. These later versions have the option of running the Command Prompt in administrator mode.
Step 1. Open Command Prompt in Admin Mode
In Windows 8 and above, right-click on the start button and a Menu box will pop up. From the menu, right click on the “Command Prompt” icon and select “Run as Administrator”.
Alternatively, you can press the Windows key and start typing “Command Prompt”. When it shows in the result, right click on the Command Prompt to open it in Admin mode.
The Command Prompt window in Administrator mode will open. To confirm the Admin mode, check the title bar. If Admin/ Administrator word is missing from the title bar, then do it again.
In Windows Vista and 7, open the Start Menu, click on “All Programs” and select “Accessories”. In Accessories, right click on the “Command Prompt” icon and select “Run as Administrator”.
Step 2. Open DISKPART
Inside Command Prompt, type “diskpart” and press the Enter key. Command Prompt is not case sensitive, so you can type the letters in capitals or lowercase.
Your Command Prompt window will turn into a DISKPART window.
In Windows 7, a new DISKPART command window will open.
Step 3. Open the list of connected storage disks
Type “list disk” inside the DISKPART command window and press Enter.
A list of all the connected drives will display inside the DISKPART command window. The list consists of Disk number(#), Status, Size, Free, Dyn and Gpt. Take note of the number that identifies your USB disk.
The best identification marker for your USB device is its size. So make sure that you haven’t connected two USB devices of similar size before performing the above steps. It might lead to confusion in identifying the correct USB device.
Step 4. Select your USB device
Once you have identified the device, note the corresponding Disk number (#),type “select disk (#)”and press Enter.
For example, if the USB device is listed as Disk 3, you’ll type “select disk 3” in the DISKPART command window and press Enter.
Your USB device will be selected.
Step 5. Clean the USB device
Type “Clean” and press Enter.
A response will confirm that the device has been cleaned.
Step 6. Make a bootable partition
To make a bootable partition, type “create partition primary” in the command window and press Enter.
The primary partition will be created.
Step 7. Select the partition
To select the new partition, type “select partition 1” and press Enter.
The partition will be selected.
When you get a response that the partition is selected, type “active” and press Enter.
Another response line will inform you that the selected partition is active.
Step 8. Format the USB device
To format the USB device, type the format command. Some sites recommend using the command “format fs=fat32”, as the FAT32 format is recognized universally in all platforms.
NTFS formats are considered if you have to copy a single file larger than 4GB in the USB device. Though, NTFS can be used for only the Windows platform.
The process of formatting can be quite slow.If you need a faster format, type “format fs=FAT32 quick” or “format fs=ntfs quick” and press Enter. Yes, Command Prompt is Not case sensitive.
The formatting process will be over in no time.
Step 9. Assign a letter to your USB drive and exit DISKPART
Once the format process reaches 100 percent, you need to assign the USB device a letter. It is simply done by typing “assign” in the command window and pressing Enter.
A letter will be assigned to the USB device.
Now, type “exit” and press Enter or simply close the window by clicking on the close icon.
Step 10. Copy & paste the setup
Open the location of the Windows setup and copy the files from the source.
Now open your USB device and paste them.
The files will be copied onto your USB device.
Method 2: Using Freeware
Using free software is an option for all, but a necessity if you have Windows XP as the previous process does not apply to you. Find a good freeware and use it to make your USB device bootable.
Step 1. Download Rufus
Rufus is synonymous with creating bootable USB devices for Windows. Download a totally malware-free version of Rufus to start the process.
Step 2. Open Rufus
After downloading Rufus, you will see the application icon right away as it does not require a separate installation step like most softwares.
When you open the application, it will read the USB device automatically. If you have connected the device after opening the application, rest assured, it will read the USB device quickly.
Step 3. Leave the partition scheme unaffected
The partition scheme of Rufus works great with both the UEFI as well as legacy BIOS system. Therefore, do not change the partition scheme in the second tab, especially if you don’t know what your computer is using.
Step 4. Change the file system format
Simply, choose the FAT32 format. Many devices do not accept NTFS as its new and only works on Windows. FAT32 is ideal for USBs as it is a universal format that will work on any device.
If you have to copy a single file of size more than 4 GB, then choose NTFS format. FAT32 format does not support a single file greater than 4 GB.
Step 5. Select the source
Check the box labeled “Create a bootable disk using”, if it is not checked already. Select “ISO Image” as the source and click on the icon next to the menu and select an ISO image. Rufus adjusts the settings accordingly.
A dialog box will open. Select the Windows setup ISO file and click on “Open”.
Click the “Start” button at the bottom of the application window to start the process of creating a bootable USB device, then copying the Windows setup on that device by Rufus.
Rufus will show a warning that all the data will be deleted on your USB drive. Click “OK” to proceed. Wait for 10 minutes and you are ready with the bootable USB.
- To avoid any complications, remember to make a backup of “drivers” and copy and paste them too, along with the Windows setup. Drivers are those pieces of software that assist your system hardware (like audio and display) to function in tandem with your operating system.
- Before booting with a USB, you need to go to the “Boot Priority” or “Boot Sequence” option from BIOS or UEFI settings in the startup screen.
- Put your USB Drive (Removable Drive) above the HDD (hard-disk drive) in the Boot Sequence. So the computer will first look for the operating system files in your USB drive first during booting.
- Selecting the format type NTFS or FAT32 will depend on your choice. If you think you will use your USB drive on multiple platforms, use FAT32 formatting only.
- Once your work is finished with the USB, just format the device to use it normally again. If you wish to use it in multiple platforms, in the format window select FAT32 as the default formatting.
- Rufus is only good if you have an image of the CD/DVD of installation setup. It does not copy and paste files from a folder. For copying and pasting files onto a USB, use the first method.