By Delia / Last update October 15, 2021

Why copy Windows operating system (OS) to USB drive?

In this electronic information age, the importance of computer data is self-evident. More and more users are becoming conscious of backing up files and even operating system, so that when the unexpected happens, they can easily bring the computer back to life.

Among all the backup destinations, USB flash drive is a popular one due to its usability and portability. Sometimes you may also want to copy OS to flash drive as long as it has sufficient capacity.

In addition, when restoring one computer system image to another computer, you may need USB as a transport tool.  And the process will be like:  backup system drive to USB drive, insert the USB to target computer, restore the system image from USB drive.

What’s more, you can carry a USB stick around along with the system image stored in it, and insert the USB to any computer to use the familiar operating system and personal settings. This can also  be realized by Windows To Go Creator feature in AOMEI Partition Assistant.

Whatever leads you to copy Windows 10/8/7 OS to flash drive, you can try following ways to achieve it.

Transfer Windows OS to USB flash with built-in tools

Windows brings its built-in system backup utilities for computer users. They are Backup and Restore in Windows 7, Windows 7 File Recovery in Windows 8, and Windows 7 Backup and Restore in Windows 10/11. File History in Windows 8 and 10/11 is used to backup and restore files mostly. 

Nevertheless, when you select a USB flash drive as the destination storage for system image using these utilities, a warning says “The drive is not a valid backup location” will come into your sight and stop you from backing system up there.


A possible explanation for this is Windows find placing system image on USB drive is unsafe since the day Windows be created, because USB drives at that times are quite small. Of course, that won’t be an issue nowadays but store system image to large USB drive is important. It has to be larger than 8 GB of capacity. In that case, you can turn to another way.

Another way to copy Windows 11/10/8/7 to flash drive

If built-in tools fail to work or meet your requirements, third-party software is also an option. AOMEI Backupper Professional is a reliable backup and recovery solution for Windows-based computers such as Windows 11, 10, 8, 8.1, 7, Vista and Windows XP. It makes backup computer to USB flash drive as easy as backup to other hard drives.

This solution supports almost all removable USB drive (USB 1.0/2.0/3.0), thumb drive, pen drive etc. Backup for once or for long run depends on your requirements. Its incremental backup and differential backup will save much USB space for you. Download the free trial and give it shot.

Download Free Trial Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
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How to copy operating system to USB flash drive step by step

1. Connect the USB drive to computer. Install and launch AOMEI Backupper. Click System Backup under Backup tab.

Note: If you want to create a bootable copy of OS on USB flash drive, please go to Clone tab and choose System Clone instead.

System Backup

2. Select the USB flash drive that you want to copy operating system to. No need to manually choose system drive. AOMEI Backupper takes care of that.

Select Backup Destination

Select Usb Device

3. There are three options in the lower-left corner provided for customized configuration. Click Start Backup on completion.

Start Backup

Options: This offers password protect backup image, compression and split backup images options.
Schedule: Set up automatic backup on basis of daily, weekly, monthly, event triggers or USB plug in. If you want to auto copy Windows OS to USB flash drive once it's connected, you can choose the last one. In Advanced tab, you can also choose scheduled full backup, incremental backup and differential backup.
Scheme: This helps you auto delete old backups when backup image amount overpass the value you set.

★ Advanced way to copy Windows OS to a USB drive

Specialized onekey recovery software - AOMEI OneKey Recovery can also help you make a copy of Windows 11/10/8/7 and save it on a USB flash drive. Besides, it enables you to make a factory recovery partition to hold the system image. When your computer cannot boot, you can launch the system recovery process by pressing "F11" or "A".

OneKey System Backup


AOMEI Backupper strives to make difficult issues effective and easy. The event that copy operating system to flash drive cannot be completed using Windows tools is possible achieved via AOMEI Backupper. If necessary, restore system from USB drive to save your PC. After copying, you can do what you want with that USB drive, for example clone USB bootable drive. Other than copying OS to USB, you are able to backup files to OneDrive Cloud with this software as well.

If you want to protect unlimited computers within your company, you can pick AOMEI Backupper Technician. With the inbuilt AOMEI Image Deploy tool, you are also allowed to deploy/restore system image file on server-side computer to multiple client-side computers over network.