How to Make Hard Drive/USB Drive Bootable in Windows 10, 11

How to make a drive bootable in Windows 10, and what if cloned drive won't boot? This article will provide you detailed answers. In addition, there's a tutorial to create bootable USB in case you want to know.


By Delia Updated on July 24, 2024

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Full guide to making drive bootable in Windows 10 (2 cases)

Based on Google search results, there are mainly two scenarios for the question: one involves making another hard drive or SSD bootable (and resolving issues where a cloned drive won't boot), and the other involves creating a bootable USB drive. These are two distinct topics, but both will be addressed in this article. In summary:

How to make a hard drive bootable: It’s usually achieved by OS & data cloning. If you've tried cloning and the cloned drive won't boot, this may be due to wrong boot mode, wrong boot order, incompatible partition style, or corrupted boot files. You'd better use professional cloning software to minimize errors.

How to make a bootable USB drive: Windows does provide some utilities to make bootable USBs, which differ somewhat in functionality. Generally, the purpose of a bootable USB is to start a computer in a recovery environment for further repair or installation.

Quick Guide:

👉 How to make a hard drive bootable in Windows 10/11 easily🔥
👉 Why cloned drive won't boot and how to solve it
👉 How to make a bootable USB in Windows 10🔥
👉 FAQ about making drive bootable

How to make a hard drive bootable in Windows 10/11 easily

To make a drive bootable in Windows 10/11, clone is the easiest way. It can copy all the boot files required by Windows to run. However, since Windows itself does not have cloning capabilities, you can only use third-party disk cloning software.

bootable clone

Choose reliable bootable clone software

With so many cloning tools available, selecting a reliable one can be challenging. To make an informed choice, consider the following criteria: ease of use, compatibility with your operating system and devices, and the availability of customizable features. Ensuring the tool meets these standards will help you find a dependable solution for your cloning needs.

Reliable and Secure: The cloning software can ensure your disk is bootable in Windows 11/10/8/7/XP/Vista after cloning, without causing any mix-ups.

User-Friendly: Featuring a clear interface and intuitive design, this cloning software is easy to use. Even first-time users can navigate it quickly.

Wide Compatibility: Quality cloning software should work with various Windows versions, different drive sizes, and both MBR and GPT partition styles.

Customizable Features: Beyond the basics, excellent cloning software offers useful features like sector-by-sector cloning, SSD alignment, and partition resizing to enhance and optimize your cloning results.

Based on these criteria, I recommend you AOMEI Backupper Professional, which combines comprehensive and useful features in the simplest interface and process, allowing even non-tech-savvy users to complete cloning operations with a high success rate.

◾ The intelligent mode copies only used sectors, which makes cloning larger disks to smaller ones easy.
◾ For users who want to clone a hard drive to a larger drive without leaving unallocated space, its Edit Partition feature comes in handy.
◾ It includes a Create Bootable Media tool, which can be used to boot problematic Windows computers and perform disk clones in WinPE.
◾ It works on all Windows OS and allows you to clone both MBR and GPT system/data disks.

Download AOMEI Backupper to have a try!

AOMEI Backupper

Easiest hard drive clone software for Windows PC.

How to make a drive bootable via cloning (step-by-step)

With AOMEI Backupper, you can choose to clone the entire disk with Disk Clone or clone only OS with System Clone, it all depends on the size of the target disk and the items you want to move.

Follow the guide below to get started. These steps are applicable to make internal and external hard drives bootable in Windows.

Preparations for making the bootable drive

1. Connect the target drive that you want to make it bootable. If there's no spare slot to install it, try using a USB to SATA adapter or enclosure.
2. If there are some files on your target drive, please back up files to an external hard drive in advance because the disk will be overwritten after cloning.

Step 1. Choose "System Clone" to get started

Make sure the hard drive is detected by Windows. Launch AOMEI Backupper, and select the "System Clone" option under the "Clone" tab.

Choose System Clone

Step 2. Select the target drive that you want to make it bootable

The "System Clone" will select the boot-related partitions by default. Here, you just need to select your prepared drive as the destination path and then click "Next".

Note: The software will automatically detect if the target disk space is sufficient for the total things on the C drive you're migrating. If not, the software will prompt you to change to a larger one.

Choose Destination Partition

Step 3. Overview of the operation and "Start Clone"

In the operation summary window, tick "SSD Alignment" if the target disk is an SSD disk. Then, confirm the operation and click "Start Clone" to perform the system clone and make the disk bootable in Windows 10.

System Clone Preview


If your target hard drive is large enough to hold all the system-required partitions, and you want to copy every bit of data, even unused sectors, then you can tick "Sector By Sector Clone."
If you move the system to a larger drive, there will be one more option "Make full use of disk space". It is checked by default to avoid unallocated space after cloning.
You can also clone Windows 10 to a USB drive and boot from it as long as it has sufficient space.

Step 4. Boot from the cloned hard drive

When the cloning is completed, you can boot from the cloned drive.

It's recommended to shut down the computer completely and replace the old hard drive with the new drive. Restart the computer, if it starts from the cloned drive, then the cloning is successful.

If your computer has extra slots, you can connect the old hard drive again to use it as a secondary storage drive. Just make sure the new drive is the first boot option in BIOS or UEFI settings.

Change Boot Order Bios

Why cloned drive won't boot and how to solve it

My computer is running Windows 10. Yesterday, I cloned the C drive to the G drive(SSD) via a third-party clone software. However, when I try to boot from G drive, I find that the cloned SSD is not bootable. What should I do to make the cloned G drive bootable just like C drive? Can you give me some suggestions? Thanks in advance.

There are some common reasons that may cause HDD/SSD not to boot after clone, you can refer to these reasons and try to solve your problem:

Set the wrong drive to boot from. You need to get into BIOS or UEFI settings and change the boot order. Then, press F10 to save the change you did and boot from the cloned SSD.
GPT/MBR conflict. Note a GPT disk works with UEFI boot mode, while MBR works with Legacy BIOS. If your original boot disk is GPT, which means its boot mode should be UEFI, then if you clone it to MBR and try to boot from it, you will need to change the boot mode to Legacy accordingly, and vice versa.
Lack of the "system reserved" partition. You need to choose a professional clone software that can completely clone all partitions including the "system reserved" partition. In the case of AOMEI Backupper, you can ensure the system-reserved recovery partition is cloned by using "Disk Clone" with the "Sector By Sector Clone" option ticked.
The boot configuration data got corrupted during migration. Professional cloning software normally does not cause this problem, but if you encounter it, try using bootrec.exe commands in Command Prompt to rebuild BCD. Details can be found on how to make a cloned drive bootable.

How to fix cloned disk, not boot issue using CMD

There are a lot of reasons that could cause a drive to not boot after clone, and it may be hard to check and resolve the issue sometimes. In this case, you could try bcdboot command, which allows you to copy critical boot files to the system partition and create a new system BCD store. It may fix the bootloader on the cloned drive.

1. Type cmd in the search box and run as administrator.

2. Type bcdboot /? to get details if you are not familiar with this command.

BCD Get Details

3. Then, type bcdboot c:/windows /s x: and hit Enter. It's able to re-gen BCD files to x: partition, which refers to the second drive you want to make it bootable.

BCD Copy Boot Files

How to make a bootable USB in Windows 10

Some users may want to create a bootable USB in Windows 10 so as to boot and fix computer even when it fails. This is not difficult to achieve, but it's better to figure out your specific needs before you start.

Basically, there are 2 types of bootable USB:

Installation USB: Copy Windows 10 ISO to USB and therefore creating a bootable drive. It could be used to clean install Windows 10 from USB on the same or another computer.

Recovery USB: It contains all the advanced recovery options to help you troubleshoot Windows 10 even when the computer won’t boot. If you back up system files to the USB, you can also use it to reinstall Windows 10. Note it usually doesn’t apply to different computers.

bootable usb

How to create an installation USB

To create a Windows 10 installation to USB, you need to download MediaCreationTool first. Find "Create Windows 10 installation media" and click "Download tool now" below it. Then you need to prepare a USB flash drive with at least 8 GB.

1. Open the MediaCreationTool, choose Create installation media for another PC, and click Next.

Create Installation Media

2. Select the configurations of the Windows 10 ISO you will download. If you want to use the USB on the same computer, just let it Use the recommended options for this PC, otherwise please uncheck it to make your choices according to the actual situation.

3. Choose USB flash drive and click Next to create an installation USB. You can then use it to boot and (re)install the same or another computer.

Select Media

How to create a recovery USB

You need a USB drive with at least 16 gigabytes of space to create a USB recovery drive.

1. Search "recovery drive" on the Windows taskbar to run the tool. Tick the option Backup system files to the recovery drive, otherwise the USB cannot be used to reinstall Windows 10.

Create A Recovery Drive

2. Then select your USB drive to Create the recovery drive. When it's complete, eject the USB.

Click Create

3. When the computer fails, just connect the USB, start the PC and press the required key to enter BIOS, set the bootable USB as the first boot option, and save the settings.

After choosing keyboard layout, you can choose Troubleshoot > Advanced options to troubleshoot Windows 10 or select Recover from a USB to reinstall Windows.

FAQ about making the drive bootable

How do I make an ISO file bootable?
The ISO file you download on the Microsoft official site contains all the Windows installation files, to make it bootable, you just need to follow the on-screen guide to create a bootable CD/DVD or USB with it.
How do I know if a disk is bootable?
To check if a disk is bootable, the simplest and safest way is to let Windows boot from it. To make it, you need to enter the BIOS, set this disk as the first boot option, save changes and reboot.
Does cloning a drive make it bootable?
Cloning a hard drive is to make an exact copy of original disk, including the operating system, system reserved partition or EFI system partition, system drivers, etc. Thus, the cloned disk is bootable as usual.


Whether you want to make the drive bootable in Windows 10 or just create a bootable USB, you can read this article for help.

To clone the system drive while ensuring a secure boot, it's suggested to use reliable clone software like AOMEI Backupper. It makes the cloning process simple and effective and provides you with more advanced features, such as cloning larger drives to smaller SSDs with Intelligent Clone, improving the writing and reading speed of SSD disks with SSD Alignment, etc.

Also, it still supports creating a bootable USB so as to restore Windows 10 images to the new hard drive when your computer fails to boot. Of course, you can manually create a boot partition with the DiskPart command line tool.

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.