How to boot Windows 10 from a USB drive

How to boot Windows 10 from a USB drive

Use Windows 10 from USB or "Windows to Go"

In this guide we will see how to start a Windows 10 installation from a USB drive that we can take anywhere in our pocket , from where we can easily start one of these units in order to maintain our desktop environment wherever we go , with our settings of security and privacy at all times, just as if we had a laptop always with us.

In the same way, this type of USB installations can be used as diagnostic and repair tools, and they are very useful, especially when we have to make a diagnosis of some equipment that cannot start by itself or that, for some reason, is not fit for use with the installation on your hard drive.

This is something similar to what we could do with Linux distributions, which usually support this type of operation natively, in the same way that Windows did partially in its Enterprise and Pro editions , and although Windows to Go no longer It is supported , and therefore we cannot officially create new units, there are third-party tools with which to create these bootable units.

In this guide, therefore, we will teach you both how to download the Windows 10 ISO image, as well as how to download one of the two applications necessary to carry out this entire process, in addition to providing some advice in this regard.

Tools to boot Windows 10 from a USB drive

In this guide we will focus on two tools that will help us to reach the same goal, having a bootable Windows 10 drive that allows us to use the operating system inside.

As a subsection, it should be noted that the general concept we have of a Windows 10 bootable drive is one that allows us to install the operating system on the computer, but in this case, as we are going to see, it is a drive that contains a functional installation of the system and will allow us to start it to work with it.

One of the tools is called WinToUSB , and although it has a free version that will allow us to create Windows To Go drives with Windows 10 Home and Education , but it will not allow us to do it with Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise, for which we will have to buy the Professional or Enterprise licenses that cost $ 29.95 and $ 199.95 respectively.

On the other hand, we can use another totally free tool that we have probably used before, and Rufus will allow us, in addition to creating bootable drives with the disk image that we provide, as would be the case to install Linux or Windows, to create one. Drive Windows To Go quickly and easily.

Requirements to create a USB drive with Windows 10

The requirements to create one of these drives are not too special, and it is that we will only need a USB drive of at least 16GB (32GB is recommended), a Windows 10 disk image that we can download from the official website with the tool Microsoft's media creation, and some idea of ​​what kind of computers we hope to use our bootable USB drive on, something we'll get to later.

Although a minimum 16GB drive is needed, it is also interesting to use somewhat larger drives, or even adapter boxes for SSD drives , because depending on the USB drive we use, we will notice a degradation in system performance that can be quite severe , especially if the random read and write performance is poor.

Create a USB drive with Windows 10 in WinToUSB

To download WinToUSB we will only have to go to the official website of the application to get it in its free version , something we can do from this link.

In the same way, we will have to obtain an ISO image of Windows 10, something that, again, we can obtain completely free of charge from Microsoft's own page with the media creation tool, located at this link.

Once the WinToUSB tool is installed, we can also start downloading the Windows 10 ISO from Microsoft's media creator , and the process is very simple. We just have to open the file that we have downloaded, which does not require installation, accept the license terms, and select the version of Windows we want.

By default, the box that will select the recommended configuration for our computer will be marked, but if we plan to connect this unit to a computer with a 32-bit processor, it would be advisable to create the unit with a Windows 10 32-bit ISO image, as it will continue running on 64-bit machines, while a 64-bit installation won't work on 32-bit machines.

Finally, we will select the format we want, that is, ISO file , and we will save it in a location that we can easily reach , in our case the desktop.

Returning to WinToUSB, to create our Windows To Go image, we will select the top icon of the three that appear on the left , and then we will select the image that we have downloaded through the Microsoft media tool.

A list of the system versions that we can choose will appear, and as we mentioned before, only the Home and Education versions can be transferred with the free version of the application , although for the vast majority of cases it will be more than enough.

Once we have selected the operating system we want, we will select the drive in which we want to install Windows, and in this case it is a Maxtor 6L200PO 200GB hard drive in an external box via USB . Emphasize that we have tested with a 16GB USB drive as indicated by the minimum specifications, but since the partitionable size is always slightly lower, a drive of at least 32GB is necessary.

We will be asked to select a partition system , and although the one that would most interest us would be MBR for BIOS and UEF I if we do not know which computers we are going to connect to, in this case it is part of the payment application, so We will use a GPT partition scheme for UEFI , suitable for machines manufactured in the last 10 years or so. In the case of having older computers that make use of a traditional BIOS, it will be necessary to use MBR for BIOS , although this can cause us some problems in UEFI computers.

In the next step, we are asked to select the partitions corresponding to the EFI system and system startup, which, as we can see, are selected automatically, so there is no need to modify any parameter here.

By clicking Next, the installation will begin in the selected unit, so that after a wait that will depend on the type of unit we use and its speed, we can disconnect the unit and take it with us wherever we want.

Create a USB drive with Windows 10 in Rufus

This time we find a slightly friendlier and easier to use program, and Rufus is a totally free program , perhaps known to many thanks to the ease with which we can create bootable drives to install any operating system on a computer.

Once Rufus has been downloaded from its official website, which we can do in a portable version , we will execute it and it will present us with this simple interface, in which we can select our USB drive, in addition to the ISO image that, as with the method above, we will have to download with the Microsoft media creator.

It should be noted that , although with the default configuration we cannot see external hard drives , by checking the "List USB hard drives" box we will be able to access them, although this is rather a security measure to avoid overwriting a hard drive by mistake. In any case, this time we are going to use a 16GB SanDisk USB drive since the program is able to recognize that it is a drive of such size, unlike WinToUSB.

Once the same options as in the previous image have been set, we will see a dialog that will allow us to choose the version of the operating system that we want to install, and that this time it will allow us to select Windows 10 Pro for all those users who need the extra functions that this contributes.

It should be noted that it might be necessary to disable Secure Boot when using a USB drive with Windows 10 created with Rufus , as it is an open source tool under a GPTv3 license, and Microsoft decided to prevent any piece of software from receiving signatures for Secure Boot if it was created under this same license.

How to boot a USB drive with Windows 10

In general, to boot from a USB drive we will do it exactly the same as if we were to install Windows from a USB drive or CD, using the boot menu of our BIOS.

As a general rule, the key to access the BIOS boot menu will be F8, or for example, in the case of the HP laptop shown in the image, the key to press will be F9 , although if it is not, always We can read the legend that the POST screen of the equipment gives us or, in the worst case, try the most common keys for this, which usually range between the different function keys, the Esc key and the Del key.

We can also find, as we mentioned before, that we have to make changes in the BIOS of the computer to be able to boot without problems, as would be the case of disabling Secure Boot, so that entering and navigating the BIOS is something that we can see with greater detail in this guide on how to enter the BIOS.

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