Booting your PC or laptop from a USB device sounds dramatic, but it\’s a necessary process in several situations.
These include installing Windows 10 or using a cloning utility that doesn\’t natively run within Windows. Before you begin, there are three things you\’ll need for the process to work:
- a bootable USB stick.
- a laptop or PC set up to boot from USB devices
- Software that will run from a USB drive
How do I make my USB device bootable?
A PC or laptop won\’t be able to start from a USB drive unless it is formatted correctly and has the appropriate files and software on it which enable it to boot.
A common mistake is to copy an ISO file (containing an operating system) to a USB drive and assume this is all that\’s needed for it to boot and install Windows, Ubuntu or another operating system. You need to use software which can write the files to the drive and also make it bootable.
Several utilities can do this, including Rufus (which supports many operating systems) and Microsoft\’s own Media Creation Tool which you can use to legally download Windows and put it on a USB stick.
A tiny minority of old PCs may lack the ability to boot from USB, but anything within the last decade should have the option. If you\’re still having problems, check that USB ports haven\’t been disabled in the BIOS. Different BIOSes work in different ways, but use the information on screen to work out how to make a USB drive the first boot device.
Bear in mind that the USB stick may need to be plugged into a USB port for it to appear in the list of boot options.
Once you\’ve set everything correctly, use the \’Save & Exit\’ option in the BIOS to save your changes and reboot the system (often this is the F10 key). Then your PC or laptop should boot from the USB drive when it restarts.
You might like to read our guide which explains how to build a PC