Do you need to install Windows or Linux on a computer without a DVD player and you don’t know how to do it? Do you need to reinstall macOS on more than one Mac and don’t want to waste time on? If your answer is yes, know that you have come to the right place, or better, on the right guide! In the following lines, I will in fact explain to you how to create bootable USB stick in order to create a portable drive with the installation files of Windows, macOS and Linux.
I already know that you are thinking: it will certainly be a long and complicated procedure, one of those things intended only for IT experts, and this is where you are wrong! Contrary to what one might think, creating a bootable USB stick is a fairly simple operation to perform. All it takes is a minimum of attention, some free time and the right programs, namely the software that I am going to recommend you in this tutorial, which are all free.
Then? Can you know what are you still doing there impaled? Run to download the operating system you want to copy to your USB stick, install the programs I’m about to advise you and in no time you will get a USB drive to use on any computer. Happy reading and enjoy!
Create Windows bootable USB stick
Do you want to create a bootable USB stick with Windows ? In this case there are several solutions you can rely on, all free and very easy to use.
Media Creation Tool for Windows 10
If you want to create a USB stick with Windows 10, you can use Microsoft’s Media Creation Tool , a free program that allows you to download Windows 10 from the Internet and then create DVDs or USB sticks to install the latter. The download is free, but obviously to activate Windows you will need a regular product key.
To download the Media Creation Tool for Windows 10, connected to the Microsoft website and click on the Download the tool now button . When the download is complete, then start the executable MediaCreationTool.exe and, in the window that opens, click first on Yes and then on Accept to accept the conditions of use of the software.
At this point, put the check mark next to the item Create installation media (USB flash drive, DVD or ISO file) for another PC , go ahead and select the version of Windows 10 to download using the appropriate drop-down menus.
By default, the most suitable version of Windows 10 is selected for the PC in use but, if you want, by removing the check mark from the item Use recommended options for this PC , you can choose the edition , language and architecture of the operating system to download.
Once you have selected the version of Windows you want to download, click on the Next button , put the check mark next to the item USB flash drive , go ahead and select the USB flash drive to copy the Windows 10 installation files on. drive must be at least 4GB and must not contain important files, as it will be formatted.
Now you just have to press Next and wait patiently for Windows 10 to be first downloaded from the Internet and then copied to the USB stick. The duration of the procedure will depend on the speed of your Internet connection and the speed of the USB stick and port.
If you are unclear about any of the steps related to downloading Windows, check out my guide on how to download Windows 10 for free in which I explained everything in more detail.
Media Creation Tool for Windows 8.1
Even Windows 8.1 has a dedicated Media Creation Tool that allows you to download the operating system from the Internet and copy it onto a USB stick (or DVD). To get it, connected to the Microsoft website and click on the Download the tool now button at the bottom of the page.
Once the download is complete, run the mediacreationtool.exe executable , click the Yes and Accept buttons and choose the option to create installation media for another PC (this step is not necessary if you use Windows 10). Then select the version of Windows 8.1 you wish to download through the appropriate drop-down menus (you can choose the edition , language and architecture of the operating system) and click on Next to continue.
At this point, put the check mark next to the item USB flash drive , go ahead , select the drive of the USB stick on which you want to copy the Windows 8.1 installation files and press first on Next and then on OK to start the Windows download and the creation of the bootable stick for the installation of the operating system.
If some of the steps are not clear to you, try to consult my tutorial on how to download Windows 8 in which you will find more detailed how to download this version of Windows from the Internet.
Windows 7 USB / DVD Download tool
To create a bootable USB stick with Windows 7 , the first thing you need to do is get a pen drive of sufficient capacity (4GB) and an ISO image of the version of the operating system you want to install on your PC.
If you do not know where to find the ISO image of Windows, you can go directly to the Microsoft website , where however a product key is requested and only retail versions of the operating system can be downloaded (those that are sold separately with respect to the PC); to the Windows and Office ISO Download Tool program that allows you to download Windows ISOs from Microsoft’s servers without entering product key (at the time of download, then to activate the operating system it is always necessary to enter a valid serial) or you can extract an ISO file from the Windows 7 DVD using a PC that still has an optical drive.
Now you need to get Windows 7 USB / DVD Download tool : a free program that allows you to create a USB stick for installing Windows 7. To download it to your PC, connect to the page that hosts it and click on the download button located on the right.
When the download is complete, open the Windows7-USB-DVD-Download-Tool-Installer-en-US.exe file and complete the Windows 7 USB / DVD Download tool installation process by pressing first on Run and then on Next , Install and Finish .
Now proceed by double-clicking on the Windows 7 USB / DVD Download tool icon that has been added to the desktop, click on the Browse button located on the main program screen and select the ISO image of Windows to be used to create the USB stick bootable.
Then click on Next , USB Device and Begin Copying and in a few minutes you will get your USB stick to install Windows 7.
If some steps are not clear to you, you can find out more in detail how to download Windows 7 for free by consulting my tutorial dedicated to the topic.
Rufus is a small free application, compatible only with Windows systems, which allows you to create bootable USB sticks for Windows (all versions from XP onwards), Linux and various live tools, such as antivirus and advanced partitioning software. This is a solution particularly suitable for those who want to create a USB stick compatible with the new UEFI- based PCs (the latest generation BIOS) and / or for those who want complete control over the properties of the stick to be created.
To download Rufus on your PC, connected to the website of the program and click on the item Rufus xx Portable to download the portable version of the program, which does not need to be installed in order to function. When the download is complete, start the rufus-xxp.exe executable , click on the Yes button in the window that opens and set all preferences relating to the type of key you intend to create.
Then use the Device / drive drop-down menu to select the drive of the stick to which to copy the operating system, the Partition scheme and target system type drop-down menu to choose whether to create a drive optimized for UEFI, BIOS or both; the File system pull-down menu to select the file system with which to format the stick and so on.
Next, put the check mark next to the item Create bootable disc with , click on the CD icon on the right, select the ISO image of Windows or Linux to copy on the stick and press the Start button to start copying the files on the drive. Respond in the affirmative to all warnings that appear on the screen.
Boot Camp Assistant
If you use a Mac and want to install Windows in dual-boot with macOS , you can create a Windows USB stick using the Boot Camp Assistant : an application included “as standard” in all Macs that allows you to create a USB stick with the files of installation and drivers necessary for Windows to work on Mac.
Boot Camp Assistant does not automatically download Windows installation files from the Internet, so before using it, get an ISO image of the operating system (you folded first how to do it). For the rest there is not much to explain: follow the instructions on the screen (and / or the indications you find in my tutorial on how to install Windows on Mac ) and you will do everything in a matter of clicks.
Install Windows from USB stick
Now you have your USB stick with the Windows installation files . To use it on the computer currently in use, leave it connected to the latter, restart the PC and then follow the installation procedure of the operating system that is shown on the screen. If instead you want to take advantage of the bootable stick just created on a high computer disconnected from the PC in use, connect it to the PC on which you want to act making sure it is turned off, start the latter and wait for the Windows installation procedure to start.
If you need a hand during the Windows installation phase, consult these my tutorials.
If the Windows installation procedure does not start and, in its place, the operating system on the computer normally starts, it enters the PC’s BIOS (or UEFI ) and sets the USB drive as the primary boot drive .
If you are using a recent UEFI-based PC (therefore a PC sold with Windows 8 or later “on board”) and you are trying to install a version of Windows earlier than 8, you may have to disable secure boot and / or activate the legacy BIOS mode . I explained how to do all these things in my tutorial on how to enter the BIOS .
No special operations are required on Mac . The USB stick with Windows will be recognized automatically during boot by holding down the alt key on the keyboard while turning on the computer.
Create macOS bootable USB stick
Want to create bootable USB stick with macOS ? Yes? Well, in this case the first thing you need to do is get a key of at least 8 GB and the installation files of the operating system that you want to copy on the latter.
To find the macOS installation files, you need a Mac. To download the latest version of macOS, any Mac compatible with it is fine. If instead you want to create a USB stick with an old version of macOS, you must connect the Mac to an Apple ID used in the past to download the version of macOS of your interest (in order to find it in the history of the software downloaded with the account).
Then start the Mac App Store by pressing on its icon in the Launchpad , search for macOS in the latter and proceed to download the installation package of the operating system, in its most recent version, pressing first on the Download button and then on Go ahead .
If you need to download an old version of macOS, select the Purchased tab of the Mac App Store, log in to your Apple ID (if necessary), locate the icon relating to the version of macOS you want to copy to the USB stick and click on the button to download it. The download is very “full-bodied”, so it may take a long time.
Well: now that you have everything you need to create a bootable USB stick of macOS, all you have to do is connect to this web page and download Install Disk Creator , a free “program” that allows you to create bootable USB sticks for macOS . Then click on the Download the macOS app button located at the bottom left and wait for the software download to complete.
Once the download is complete, open the zip file that contains Install Disk Creator, drag the software icon to the macOS Applications folder and start it by right-clicking on its icon and selecting the Open item from the menu that appears.
In the window that opens, expand the drop-down menu Select the volume to become the installer , select the drive related to the USB stick on which you want to copy macOS and make sure that the installation package of the Apple operating system is selected in the center of the window . If not, click on the Select the OS X installer … button , select the macOS installation package from the Applications folder and click on the Create installer button . Finally, type the password of your user account on macOS and wait for the creation of the key to complete.
At this point, to take advantage of the USB stick with macOS, connect the latter to the Mac on which you want to install the operating system and restart the computer. During the boot phase, hold down the Alt key on the keyboard and wait for the selection menu to appear with all the boot devices listed (e.g. main hard disk, recovery partition, DVD and USB). Then select the Install macOS drive and proceed normally with the installation of macOS.
If you need a hand to install macOS or to reset a Mac , consult my guides specifically dedicated to these topics.
Create Linux bootable USB stick
If you want to install a Linux distribution on your PC and you don’t know how to get a USB stick with the operating system installation files, try one of the following applications.
This is the program I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, in relation to the creation of bootable USB sticks for Windows. Unfortunately it only works on Windows, but it allows you to create USB sticks with all the main Linux distros, including Ubuntu, starting from the ISO files that can be downloaded from the official websites of the latter.
To find out in more detail how Rufus works and how to use it to install Linux from USB, follow the instructions in my tutorial on how to install Ubuntu from USB (whose steps are also valid for other distros).
UNetbootin is a very similar software to Rufus which is available not only for Windows, but also for macOS and Linux. It is not known for its speed in creating USB sticks (it is slower than Rufus), but it works well and also allows you to download the installation files of the various Linux distros directly (without taking the ISO files in advance).
To download UNetbootin on your computer, connected to its official website and presses the download button for the operating system you use on your PC, or rather, on the PC you intend to use to create the bootable USB stick. When the download is complete, start UNetbootin (the program does not require installations on Windows, while it must be copied to the Applications folder on macOS), answer Yes to the warning that appears on the screen (or type the password of your user account if you use a Mac), put the check mark next to the Distribution item and choose the operating system to download (eg Ubuntu ) from the appropriate drop-down menu.
Alternatively, you can put the check mark next to the item Disc image and select a Linux ISO file that you have already downloaded to your PC by pressing the […] button . Finally, select the USB stick drive from the Drive drop-down menu , press the OK button and wait for the creation of your USB stick with Linux.
At the end of the procedure, boot from the stick and proceed with the installation or live execution of Linux (to test the operating system without installing it on the PC) following the instructions on the screen. If you are unable to boot from the stick for Linux installation, you may need to disable secure boot , enable legacy BIOS mode in your PC’s UEFI settings and / or change some boot files on the stick. For more information on this, refer to my guides on how to enter the BIOS and how to install Ubuntu from USB .