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How to create bootable USB

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How to create bootable USB: Do you need to install Windows or Linux on a computer with a broken DVD player or on a portable PC without an optical drive? Would you like to install macOS again on your Mac or on a friend’s one but you don’t have a copy of the operating system on DVD? If the answer to one of these two questions is yes, you need not worry, it is not an impossible undertaking. To perform these operations, it is sufficient to create USB bootable . How do you say? Don’t you have a clue how to do it? Well, in that case, I can help you.

By following the instructions contained in this guide and resorting to the use of resources that I will suggest in the following lines, you too, like many other users, will be able to create USB bootable. Before you can be alarmed and think of the worst, however, I want to reassure you immediately about one thing. Contrary to what may seem at the expense of the seemingly threatening term (bootable, in fact!), Creating USB bootable is actually very simple, don’t worry.

So if you are really willing to find out what you need to do in order to create bootable USB, I suggest you get comfortable and focus carefully on reading the following lines. You will see that in the end you will be ready to agree with me that creating bootable USB was actually a no-brainer.

Required and preliminary operations

Before getting to the heart of the tutorial and seeing how to create bootable USB , make sure you have everything you need to complete the operation. This is not anything special, but better to be cautious and start on the right foot!

How to create bootable USB

  • A 4-8GB USB stick – to create a bootable USB stick with Windows, macOS or Linux you must have 4GB to 8GB of free space on the drive. Also make sure that the key to be used is empty or that in any case there are no important files on it since in order to use it you will need to format it.
  • A good Internet connection – as you will have to download the operating system installation files to be copied to the USB stick, and they are very “heavy” files.
  • Correct BIOS / UEFI configuration – to use the USB flash drives created by following this tutorial, you will need to correctly set the computer’s BIOS / UEFI. For example, to install Linux and older versions of Windows (eg Windows 7 32 bit) on a recent UEFI-based computer, you will have to go to the latter’s settings and disable the Secure Boot function that prevents the execution of unsigned software. In other cases, however, you will need to activate legacy BIOS modewhich simulates the use of old BIOSes on UEFI-based PCs (UEFI is an evolution of the BIOS if you don’t know). In addition, in the unfortunate event that the operating system installation key does not start, you will have to enter the BIOS or UEFI settings and set the USB port as the primary boot drive . For further information on all these procedures, see my tutorial on how to enter the BIOS : everything is explained there.

Create bootable Windows USB

Let’s start with Windows . The Microsoft operating system is available in various versions, more or less recent, and for each of them you have to follow a different procedure.

Windows 10

If you want to create a USB stick with Windows 10, all you have to do is download the Media Creation Tool : it is a free software developed by Microsoft that automatically downloads the Windows installation files and copies them to a USB stick. To download it to your computer, connect to the Microsoft website  and press the Download tool now button  .

When the download is complete, insert a key of at least 4GB in the PC , start the executable of the Media Creation Tool ( MediaCreationTool.exe ) and click on the Yes  and  Accept buttons 

At this point, choose to  create an installation media for another PC by placing a check mark next to the appropriate option, press Next and choose the version of Windows 10 to download (the most suitable edition for the computer will be automatically chosen in use, to manually change the options you must remove the check mark from the item Use the recommended options for this PC ).

How to create bootable USB

Finally, choose to create a USB flash drive with the Windows 10 installation files, click on the Next button and select the USB stick on which to copy the operating system. A last click on Next and the Media Creation Tool will first download the Windows 10 installation files to your computer and then copy them to the stick. The operation – mainly due to the massive download – could go on for a long time.

How to create bootable USB

Once you have created your USB stick with the Windows 10 installation files, you can use it on any PC to install the operating system. Of course, the copy of the software must be activated with a valid product key. If you want to know more, read my tutorial on how to download Windows 10 where I talked to you more about downloading and installing Windows 10.

Note: if you use a Mac, you cannot download the Microsoft Media Creation Tool. However, by connecting to the Microsoft website using the link I provided earlier, you will be able to download the ISO images of all editions of Windows 10.

Windows 8.x

If you want to create a USB stick for the installation of Windows 8.x , you can use the special Media Creation Tool available for download by clicking here . Its operation is practically identical to that for Windows 10, so I won’t go into unnecessary explanations.

In case you encounter difficulties in using the Media Creation Tool for Windows 8.x, read my tutorial on how to install Windows 8 from USB where you can find all the instructions you need.

How to create bootable USB

Windows 7

Unfortunately Windows 7 does not have the same Media Creation Tool as its successors. To create a USB stick containing the installation files of this operating system, you must first obtain an ISO image and then copy it onto a USB stick using a special free software.

To get an ISO image of Windows 7 you can connect to this page of the Microsoft website  and enter the product key of the operating system in the appropriate text field (it works only for retail versions of the operating system, therefore it does not apply to copies OEM pre-installed on computers) or, if you have a Windows 7 installation disk, you can easily turn it into an ISO image by following the instructions in my tutorial on  how to extract ISO files from DVDs and CDs .

How to create bootable USB

After finding all the necessary “equipment”,  click here  in order to connect to the main page of the Windows 7 software  USB / DVD Download tool , a free program that is used to create a USB stick for Windows installation. Once the software page is displayed, press the download button   to start the download procedure on your computer.

When the download is complete, open the installation package  Windows7-USB-DVD-Download-Tool-Installer-en-US.exe  and click first on  Run , then on  Next , then on  Install  and finally on  Finish .

Proceed now by double clicking on the Windows 7 USB / DVD Download tool icon that has been added to the desktop or search for the program by accessing the section in which all the programs and applications of the visible menu are grouped by pressing the Windows Start button or from the Start Screen.

Now, click on the Browse button   located on its main screen to select the Windows ISO image to be used to create the bootable USB. Continue by clicking on Next first  , then on  USB Device  and finally on  Begin Copying  in order to start copying the files from the ISO image to the USB stick.

How to create bootable USB

Once the copy has started, you will see a green progress bar appearing in the program window. Upon reaching  100%  you can finally say satisfied: you managed to create USB bootable all by yourself (or almost)!

At this point, if you want to take advantage of the bootable stick just created on your computer, leave it connected to the latter, restart your PC and then follow the operating system installation procedure that is shown on the screen. If instead you want to take advantage of the bootable key just created on a high computer disconnected from the PC in use, connect it to the PC you want to act on making sure it is turned off, start the latter by pressing the appropriate power button on the case and wait for the procedure installation process is started. If you use a recent UEFI-based PC, you may need to disable Secure Boot and / or activate Legacy BIOS mode as I explained in my tutorial on how to enter the BIOS / UEFI .

After booting the stick, wait for all the files necessary for the installation of Windows to be loaded, then install the operating system by following the simple wizard that will be shown on the screen. If you need help with that, check out my tutorial on how to install Windows 7 .

Create Linux bootable USB

Are you going to try Linux ? In this case you have to get the ISO image of the distro you want to try (eg Ubuntu , Mint or Debian ) and you have to transfer it to a USB stick of at least 4GB using Rufus .

How to create bootable USB

Rufus, if you have never heard of it, is a small free application that allows you to create bootable USB drives for all major Linux distros and all popular versions of Windows. At the moment it is available only for Windows (in the sense that it must be performed on Windows and then create the USB sticks containing the Linux distro) but in the future the situation may also change.

To download Rufus on your PC, connected to its official website and click on the item  Rufus 2.xx  which is located in the middle of the page. When the download is complete, run the Rufus-xx.exe executable   and click  Yes . Then select the drive for your USB stick from the Device / Drive drop-down menu  , click on the CD icon  located at the bottom right to select the Linux ISO image to copy to the stick and check that in the Partition scheme menus  and type target system  and  File System there are selected the MBR partition scheme options  for BIOS or UEFI and  FAT32  .

How to create bootable USB

To conclude, put the check mark next to the item Quick format (if it is not there yet) and click first on the Start button  and then on Write in ISO image mode and Yes to start the creation of the USB stick with Linux.

To start the USB stick on a PC equipped with the UEFI, you will almost certainly need to disable Secure Boot and you may also need to “manually” edit the files on the drive. To find out more about how to do it, see my tutorial on how to install Ubuntu from USB

Note: if Rufus doesn’t meet your expectations, you can use  UNetbootin which has fewer functions but is also compatible with Linux and macOS.

Create macOS bootable USB

If it is your intention to create bootable USB of macOS the first thing you need to do is get yourself a  pendrive  of sufficient capacity, personally I suggest you find one with at least  8 GB  of free space. Also make sure that the key to be used is empty or that in any case there are no important files on it since in order to use it you will need to format it.

In addition to a key of sufficient capacity to create bootable USB of macOS you need installation files of the operating system. If you do not know where to find them, open the  Mac App Store by  pressing on its icon in the Launchpad, if required enter the password for your Apple account and then click on the Purchased tab   located at the top right. 

Then locate the icon of the version of macOS you want to copy to the USB stick (e.g. macOS Sierra ) from the screen that opens and download it to your computer by clicking on the appropriate button. If you do not find the macOS version of your interest in the Purchased tab of the Mac App Store, look for it in the main section of the store as if it were any other application.

How to create bootable USB

Keep in mind that the download of OS is quite “full-bodied”, which is why in order to be completed and necessary some time may vary depending on the speed of your Internet connection.

Once you have found all the “material” necessary to create bootable USB  click here to connect immediately to the download page of  DiskMaker X , a free application that allows you to create a bootable USB stick of macOS.

After viewing the application page presses the item  Download DiskMaker X version number (xx MB) , where instead of the  version number  you will find the version of the application and instead of  xx  you will find the weight of the application, then wait for the DiskMaker X download is started and completed. Once the download is complete, press on the file that has been downloaded to your computer, drag the program icon into the Applications folder   as it is also indicated on the screen.

Now connect the USB stick in your possession to one of the USB ports of your Mac and then press the Launchpad icon attached to the Dock and then click on the DiskMaker X icon.

Once the program has started, press the button referring to the macOS version of your interest attached to the window displayed on the screen, press  Use this copy  and then click the  An 8 GB USB thumb drive button . To conclude, click on the Erase button  then create disk  to delete all the files on the USB stick that you have chosen to use and to start the procedure of creating a pendrive by which you can install the new operating system for your Mac.

How to create bootable USB

Then type the password of the Administrator account of your Mac and then wait until a special warning window appears indicating that the procedure by which to create USB bootable has been completed.

At this point if it is your intention to take advantage of the bootable USB stick just created on the Mac in use, restart the computer leaving the pendrive inserted, 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 drive, recovery partition, DVD and USB). Then select the device from which to install the operating system and click on the arrow located under its icon to start the macOS installation process.

How to create bootable USB

Keep in mind that starting with macOS 10.10 Yosemite, the recovery partition no longer appears in the menu for selecting the boot drive. To access the system recovery mode you must restart the computer and hold down the cmd + r keys   until the loading bar appears.

If instead it is your intention to take advantage of the bootable USB stick created on another Mac, connect the latter to the computer you intend to act on, restart it and then follow the instructions that I have already given you in the previous lines. If you have problems, check out my tutorials on how to install macOS Sierra and how to install OS X El Capitan to find out how to fix them.