How to create bootable USB media to install Windows 10

Here are the steps to use the Media Creation Tool to make a Windows 10 installation media. And we go through the steps to create a USB bootable drive with GPT partition support.

Creating a USB installation media for Windows 10

UPDATED 9/14/18: When Microsoft releases a new major update of Windows 10, no everyone gets the new bits at the same day. Instead the company upgrades computers gradually and it takes some time until the operating system reaches every PC.

However, if you really want to upgrade, the software giant lets people download the Windows 10 installation files using the Media Creation Tool. The tool helps to perform an in-place upgrade or to create your own installation media to either on a USB flash drive or DVD disc to do a clean install.

In this guide, you’ll learn the steps to create a USB bootable media with the Windows 10 installation files, which you can also to upgrade other computers.

How to create USB flash drive to install Windows 10 using ‘Media Creation Tool’

To create a Windows 10 installation media using the Microsoft Media Creation Tool, use these steps:

  1. Download the Media Creation Tool from this Microsoft Support website. (Use the Download tool now option.)

    Quick Tip: If you don’t know which version of Windows you have, open the Run command, type cmd press Enter; then type control system command, and hit Enter. Under System type, you’ll see your software architecture: 32- or 64-bit.
  2. Double-click the MediaCrationToolxxxx.exe file to launch the tool.

  3. Click the Accept button.

  4. Select the Create installation media (USB flash drive, DVD, or ISO file) for another PC option.

    Media Creation Tool create installation media option
    Media Creation Tool create installation media option
  5. Click the Next button.

  6. Select the correct language, edition, and architecture if different from the default selection. (In my case, I’m selecting the English language, Windows 10 Home edition, and both architecture, because it will allow me to upgrade 32- and 64-bit machines with a single bootable media.)

    Media Creation Tool Windows 10 settings
    Media Creation Tool Windows 10 settings
  7. Select the USB flash drive option.

    Media Creation Tool USB flash drive option
    Media Creation Tool USB flash drive option
  8. Click the Next button.

  9. Select the USB flash drive from list, but make sure that it doesn’t have any important files as this process will erase everything on it.

  10. Click the Next button.

  11. Click the Finish button.

After completing the steps, you can start your computer using UEFI or BIOS with the USB drive to install Windows 10.

How to create USB flash drive to install Windows 10 using ‘Rufus’

If you have a computer using an Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), which is a new type of firmware designed to put to rest the old BIOS standard, you may run into problems trying to install Windows 10.

In case this is your scenario, on the last step mentioned above, you may want to create an ISO file using the Media Creation Tool instead and use a third-party software to create a bootable USB flash drive.

You can use Rufus, which is a free tool designed to help users to create bootable USB flash drive for computer using MBR or GPT partitions.

  1. Download and install Rufus.

  2. Open Rufus.

  3. Connect your USB drive to your computer.

  4. Under “Device,” select the drive you want to use.

  5. On the right-side of “Boot selection,” click the Select button to load the Windows 10 ISO file.

  6. Under Image option, select the Standard Windows Installation option.

  7. Use the “Partition scheme” drop-down menu, and select the GPT option.

  8. Use the “Target system” drop-down menu, and select the UEFI (non CSM) option.

  9. On “Partition scheme and target system type,” select GPT partition scheme for UEFI.

    Rufus with settings to create a Windows 10 USB flash drive with GPT partition
    Rufus with settings to create a Windows 10 USB flash drive with GPT partition
  10. Under “Format Options,” on “Volume label,” specify a name for the USB flash drive.

  11. Keep the remaining default settings.

  12. Click the Start button.

Once you’ve completed the steps, you can boot and install Windows 10 on computers running on UEFI.

If you’re planning to use the Media Creation Tool to install Windows 10 manually on different computers, make sure you also have your Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 product key, as you may be prompted to enter the product key. You can use the Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder free tool.

In the case that after the upgrade Windows 10 is not activated, go to Settings > Update & security > Activation, click the Troubleshoot button to start the Activation troubleshooter utility.

Update September 14, 2018: This guide was originally published in August 2015, and it’s now been revised and updated to reflect the new changes.