5 Free Tools to Create USB Boot Drives for Windows
Having a bootable USB drive for Windows on hand is essential for any computer user chiefly, of course, in case the machine fails to boot. With more secure operating systems and virus protection today, such occasions are not as frequent as they once were. No matter – you could still run into problems like a defective hard drive, OS upgrades not working and even the need for a clean installation when the system clogs up with all kinds of internet and uninstalled software leftovers and everything slows down. And when there’s a need to work on another system a portable Windows USB boot drive will save you many a headache – even if it’s not a Windows computer.
Creating a USB boot drive for Windows can be a straightforward procedure with the use of any one of several available free applications.
A small utility that proves to be a fast Windows USB boot drive creator
Creating a boot drive for Windows on a memory stick, pen or key drive is relatively fast and very easy with the highly comprehensive Rufus user interface. You just need to download the executable file, launch the utility and make your device, boot and partition selections, then choose your file system and cluster size, and you’re ready to click the Start button.
If you’re creating your boot drive from an unknown Windows OS source, you can even click the check button beside the ‘Select‘ button to obtain the Secure Hashing Algorithm code. This can be checked on the Microsoft Developer Network to ensure that it is an original adulterated program.
Rufus supports a number of languages and when in use on a non-native keyboard, your bootable drive will even select the correct keyboard layout. It requires Windows 7 or later, will even create your Windows USB boot drive from the necessary files burned to a CD and works with a large, continually expanding list of ISOs.
Create a multi-Windows USB boot drive with any ISO or a DVD
WinUSB provides an easy three-step procedure for creating a USB boot drive for Windows without any need to format the optical device. It’s as simple as downloading and launching the executable file:
- Select the USB device from the dropdown list in the user interface
- Click one of the buttons listed in the ‘Add‘ panel at left to display the selected distribution source, the ‘Next‘ button
- Either select a drive formatting option (if notified that the space on the drive is limited) and click the ‘Yes‘ button, or just click the ‘Yes‘ button if there is no space issue
A window will pop up to notify you when the process is finished. This will also give you the option of returning to add additional sources of the OS to the drive. You can add other drivers – e.g. WiFi and LAN – by clicking the ‘OS & Drivers‘ button in the Add panel.
Create and verify your OS on a USB drive or SD card
Etcher is as simple as:
- Select image
- Select drive
Seriously, the application’s simple interface makes it very easy to create a boot drive for Windows, and the free utility verifies the flash drive or SD card to ensure that you have no negative experience such as attempting to boot and discovering the media is corrupted. The open-source utility is good for running on any platform.
Downloaded and launched, the program’s easy to navigate interface displays the three steps involved. You are able to simultaneously create several images on one or two devices. Clicking the ‘Select Image‘ button will enable you to browse for your source files, the ‘Select Drive‘ allows you to select the USB drive and/or SD card and clicking the ‘Flash‘ button begins the process and changes it to a progress indicator.
Designed for beginners and experienced developers alike, Etcher’s simple design creates operating system images on portable media without error – even on SD cards otherwise known to be error-prone in OS flashing – and is also a fully extensible tool.
Create a Windows OS USB flash drive complete with BIOS support
WinToUSB installs a fully-functional OS on an external hard drive, a USB flash drive or a Thunderbolt drive. In a few minutes, the free utility enables you to create a portable Windows 7, 8 or 10 OS from a range of sources, including your existing installation.
An easy to use wizard interface takes you through the process. You are notified to select the operating system you want to install from a displayed list and click ‘Next‘ to display a destination screen. Aside from the USB drive, you also select the system and boot partitions here along with the installation mode. You can create your Windows USB boot drive to install on BIOS or UEFI computers.
The next screen displays your source and destination information and an ‘OK‘ button that you click to begin the process. The free utility also has the capacity to create a bootable Windows Preinstallation Environment USB drive for use on servers, workstations, and offline troubleshooting. WinToUSB is for Windows 7 and later, requires a 1 GHz CPU, minimum 256 MB RAM, and 1024 MB hard disk space.
The bootable USB drive multiple operating systems, diagnostic and antivirus tools creator
YUMI stands for ‘Your Universal Multiboot Installer’ and it will create your boot drive for Windows to include disk cloning and diagnostic tools and antivirus utilities.
The comprehensive user interface provides a host of options and you can run the free utility consecutively to add more operating systems. The Drive and Distribution Source and options window guides you to select your USB drive and ISO and provides checkboxes for you to check the required format, remove installed files, etc. You also specify the file size on a slider. From there, you create your bootable drive.
The resulting Multiboot USB portable drive stores your files in a Multiboot folder leaving room on the drive for other files.
Interested in more OS / Shell Enhancement tools? Check out our Free OS / Shell Enhancement Tools category.