How to Boot Windows 10 from USB Flash Drive (2 Approaches)

You can boot Windows 10 from USB flash drive for system reinstallation or recovery, but how? Here’s a brief introduction to different bootable USB drives, and the approaches to boot from USB either in Windows or at startup.


by Delia Updated on May 20, 2024

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Case: I want to install Windows 10 from USB flash drive

"Hello guys, I bought a new flash drive, a Cruzer Blade 16GB to make a fresh install on Windows 10, but the Windows doesn’t boot from a flash drive. Am I doing something wrong?"

A similar situation may happen to a lot of people. Many people wonder how I can boot Windows 10 from USB flash drive. Don't worry, you will find your answer in the following content.

What's a bootable USB drive?

A bootable USB drive lets your computer start up from an external storage device like a USB drive. It comes in handy when you can't access your computer's regular operating system due to technical glitches or other issues. To make one, you'll need to download the ISO image of the operating system or software you want to use. 

How to create a bootable USB in Windows 10?

>> For installing a clean copy of Windows 10 or repairing installing Windows 10 with an in-place upgrade on the same or another PC, you could download MediaCreationTool from Microsoft, and use it to create an installation USB.

create installation media

>> For troubleshooting or reinstalling Windows 10 on the same computer, you could use Windows built-in utility to create a recovery USB. Remember to tick "Back up system files to the recovery drive."

create recovery drive

*You can find detailed steps with screenshots to create Windows 10 bootable USB.

Before starting to Boot Windows 10 from USB Flash Drive

Before you take action to officially launch Windows 10 from your USB flash drive to upgrade your system, you need to prepare some proper knowledge and materials just in case.

To start, get a USB flash drive with at least 16GB of space. This gives you enough storage, but if you can, go for a 32GB drive for even better results. Then, get a license to run Windows 10. You can buy a license or use one you already have on your account. Once you've got that, use a Windows USB tool to set up the USB drive with Windows 10.

Now, you can move on to the instructions to boot your Windows 10 from your USB flash drive.

Approach 1. Boot Windows 10 from USB flash drive (inside Windows)

If you can still log into Windows normally, then the steps are rather simple.

☛ For a recovery USB drive:

1. Connect the USB, click on Start > Settings > Update & Security > Recovery in Windows 10, and you will find a Restart Now button under the Advanced Startup section.

advanced options

2. Tap it and the computer will reboot to Windows 10 recovery environment, you can then choose Recover from a USB to reinstall Windows 10, or choose Advanced options for troubleshooting.

☛ For an installation USB drive:

1. You can connect the previously created installation USB, and select it in File Explorer.

2. Double-click setup.exe in the root directory to run the installer, and follow the wizard to install Windows 10 updates (i.e. in-place upgrade).


Approach 2. Boot Windows 10 from USB flash drive (at startup)

Whether it’s an installation USB or a recovery USB, you can boot from it during startup to rescue a faulty computer. The difference is that the former can be created on a normally working PC and used on another PC, while the latter can usually only be used on the computer where it was created.

To repair or install Windows 10 from USB during startup, you can change BIOS/UEFI settings to make the bootable media on top of the boot order list.

1. Connect the USB drive, power on the PC, and press the required key to enter BIOS/UEFI. The key is usually F1, F2, F10, F12, Delete. etc. If you are not sure, read the motherboard manual or search the PC model on the Internet.

2. Then, find the boot menu and make the bootable USB flash drive the first boot option among all the devices. Save the settings and exit. The computer should restart and boot from the selected USB drive automatically.

change boot order

3. After selecting the keyboard layout, you can proceed to the next step. With an installation USB, you will be led to the process of clean installation; and with a recovery USB, you will enter the Windows recovery environment for further operation.

Note: USB booting on UEFI systems requires the “Secure Boot” option to be disabled. If your computer uses UEFI, you need to temporarily disable the option. In addition to “Secure Boot”, it may be called by other names like “Legacy Boot”, “Legacy Support”, “CSM”, “Launch CSM”, etc.

Easy alternative: create bootable media to restore the system from the startup

If you don't necessarily need to reinstall Windows 10 but want to effectively fix system problems and get your computer working properly, you can try this alternative to save time and effort.

AOMEI Backupper Standard is a free backup & restore program with comprehensive functions. It works with all Windows OS (11/10/8.1/8/7/XP/Vista) on all brands of computers, and the operation is much easier than Windows built-in tools.

♦ With the System Backup feature, you can create an image of the operating system and schedule backup to run it daily, weekly, monthly, etc. To save storage space, you can also perform incremental or differential backups to back up only changed files each time.
♦ The Create Bootable Media tool enables you to make USB bootable. Thus when a computer fails to boot, you can use the USB to boot it to WinPE and restore the system to an earlier normal state to solve all the problems.
♦ The System Restore can also be done easily and efficiently. AOMEI Backupper supports you in restoring Windows 10 from USB or transferring system images to a new hard drive easily.
♦ In addition, if you want to restore the system to different hardware, you can also upgrade to the Professional edition to enjoy the Universal Restore feature.

Download the free standard edition to have a try:

Download FreewareWin 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download


Install the software, and choose Backup > System Backup to create a system image on removable devices or network location. You can also add a schedule to automate the backup on a regular basis.

▶ How to create Windows 10 bootable USB:

1. Go to the Tools tab and select Create Bootable Media under Common Tools.

create bootable media

2. Select Windows PE and the created disc will support booting from both legacy/MBR and UEFI/GPT. Click Next to continue.


3. Select the bootable media. Here choose USB Boot Device as an example and click Next.

select usb

When the process is complete, you will get a bootable USB flash drive.

▶ How to restore Windows 10 from a USB flash drive:

1. Insert the bootable USB, enter BIOS/UEFI, and choose to boot from it. When the computer boots into WinPE, AOMEI Backupper will pop out, you can then select Restore > Select Task/Select Image File to locate the system backup.

select system image

2. Choose Restore this system backup and click Next.

restore this system backup

3. Confirm the operation and Start Restore.

start restore

1. If this system image is created on another computer with different hardware, please tick Universal Restore (supported by Pro edition) to make sure Windows 10 can boot properly after recovery.
2. If you only want to perform Windows 10 recovery on the same computer, then you don’t necessarily have to create a bootable media, just select Recovery Environment in the Tools tab, and Enable the boot option of the AOMEI Backupper recovery environment. It works just as a bootable USB but can only take effect on the current PC.

What are the Benefits of booting Windows 10 from a USB flash drive?

The above case described one of the most common intentions, i.e. a clean installation or upgrading of Windows 10. Booting Windows 10 from a USB flash drive can be incredibly useful for several reasons:

1. Reinstallation or Recovery: If your Windows 10 system encounters issues or becomes corrupted, booting from a USB flash drive allows you to reinstall or recover the operating system.
2. Portable Solution: Using a USB flash drive gives you a portable solution for accessing and troubleshooting your Windows 10 system on different computers.
3. Backup Option: It serves as a backup option in case your computer's internal storage fails or becomes inaccessible.
4. System Maintenance: Booting from a USB flash drive can also facilitate tasks like system maintenance, disk partitioning, and data recovery without affecting your main system.

Besides, when you encounter system errors that seriously affect normal operation, you may also want to boot from a recovery USB for troubleshooting or factory resetting. No matter what your purpose is, a bootable USB drive is a must. Learn what USB you can use for what situation, and how to boot Windows 10 from it.

Troubleshooting your booting from the USB drive

What if your new OS didn’t load from your USB device?

If your new operating system didn't load from your USB device, start by checking the boot order sequence in BIOS again. This is often the main issue people face. Make sure the BIOS settings are configured correctly before trying anything else.

Is it necessary to format USB for Windows 10 installation or recovery?

In fact, Windows MediaCreationTool will reformat the drive automatically, and Recovery Drive will create a FAT32 formatted USB that can boot in both BIOS-based and UEFI-based PCs. So you don’t need to do it manually.

Will installation media or recovery drive erase your data?

Reinstalling Windows from a USB recovery drive will remove your files, while clean installing Windows 10 from the installation USB should not (but there are still users who have lost some files in the process).

In any case, it’s recommended to backup important data in advance to avoid any unwanted data loss.

After creating a bootable USB drive for Windows 10, you can try the following methods to boot from it.


Whether your purpose is system reinstallation or troubleshooting, you could boot Windows 10 from a USB flash drive. This post introduced 2 types of bootable USB drives and the approaches to boot from them.

If you find both methods are complicated, you can also use the effective alternative, AOMEI Backupper to create bootable media and perform system recovery. As an all-around data protection solution, it also offers functions to back up individual files, folders, partitions, or the entire disk in daily use.

In addition to backup and restore, AOMEI Backupper is also a powerful disk clone software. It allows you to migrate the hard drive to SSD, or transfer OS to another hard drive.

Delia · Editor
Delia owns extensive experience in writing technology-related blog posts, and has been a part of AOMEI since 2020 to provide expertise in data security and disaster recovery. She works with Windows operating systems, SQL databases, and virtualization platforms such as VMware and Hyper-V, specializing in troubleshooting and advising on data protection and migration.