How to Create a Bootable USB Drive from Your Windows CD/DVD

By | May 1, 2022

Do you have a Windows CD or DVD, but can’t use your optical drive to install the Windows operating system on your new computer?

You can use a USB flash drive to install Windows. Flash drives are smaller, have more storage, and if you use the right tools, you can boot multiple operating systems from the same drive.

Here’s how you can create a bootable USB flash drive from your Windows installation CD.

Benefits of USB Flash Drive Installation Media

There are situations where a USB flash drive installation media is better than a DVD or CD:

  • You can easily create backup installation media.
  • Significantly faster installation rate than traditional mounting media.
  • Keep your original installation media clean.
  • It’s easy to carry multiple operating systems on a single USB drive.

Our relationship with Windows CDs and DVDs is also different. For example, you can buy an official Windows 10 USB flash drive instead of a DVD or CD. The disc is still available but it’s far from the only method of installation. Also, if you buy new hardware with Windows pre-installed, there’s a good chance you’ll never have installation media unless you create your own. (Read on to find out how!)

Copy Your Windows Installation Disk Using WinToFlash

If you have a Windows installation disc that you want to update to a USB flash drive, WinToFlash makes it an easy task to create a CD to a bootable USB drive. The WinToFlash Lite edition will create a bootable USB flash drive directly from your existing Windows installation CD. Here’s how you do it.

  • First go to the WinToFlash site, then download and install the WinToFlash Lite edition. After installation, WinToFlash will open automatically.
  • Accept the EULA, and view non-intrusive ads before proceeding.
  • Make sure your Windows installation disc is your optical drive, and also the USB flash drive you want to copy as well.
  • Now, select Windows Setup Bootable USB Wizard, then my CD is inserted into my computer…, followed by Next.
  • On the next page specify the location of your Windows installation disk in the first box, and the destination USB flash drive in the second. Select Next to confirm your settings, agree to the terms of the license agreement, and Continue.

Please note that this process will format your USB flash drive and you will lose all existing data permanently.

The process of copying the USB CD to a bootable USB flash drive can take some time to complete, so go and pop up the kettle.

WinToFlash Multiboot

WinToFlash also has multiboot support. You can build a custom bootable USB drive with Linux distros, recovery discs, and other handy tools. The only limitation is the size of your USB drive.

Notes: WinToFlash Lite will only allow two ISOs on your multiboot.

  • Return to the Wizard mode tab and select Mutiboot USB Drive Creation Menu.
  • On the next screen, select Add. This opens the Add new item pane. Like other multiboot USB drive tools, WinToFlash has a long list of potential tools. Scroll down the list and select a tool.
  • The option to Download the selected ISO will now appear. Select this option to download the latest version of the selected tool or OS. Alternatively, you can select and add an ISO already stored on your computer.
  • Complete your selections and select Run.

Create Windows ISO From Native Installation Media Using ImgBurn

If you prefer a more manual approach to ripping your Windows installation media, you can use ImgBurn. ImgBurn is a great free tool that you can use to write image files to disk or create image files from existing disks.

  • Go to the ImgBurn website. Download and install ImgBurn.
  • After installing, open ImgBurn. Make sure your original Windows installation media is on your optical drive.
  • Select Create image file from disk.
  • Select Windows installation media drive source, then set Destination
  • Press the Read button to start the process.

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The disc creation process depends on the write speed of your optical drive, so this could take a while.

Once your Windows installation media (ISO) image file is finished ripping, you can move on to the next section where you will use Rufus to create a bootable USB flash drive.

Burning Windows Installation ISO to USB Flash Drive Using Rufus

Now you can burn the Windows installation ISO that was removed from your original installation disc as a bootable USB flash drive. Rufus is a useful tool for all kinds of bootable USB burning tasks. It’s simple and gets the job done — a great combination! Here’s what you need to do:

  • Go to the Rufus website and download and install the latest version of this tool.
  • Open Rufus. Under Devices, select the USB flash drive you want to use.
  • Under Boot Selection, press Select, then browse to the location of the Windows installation ISO created in the last section.
  • Set a new volume label, so you know what’s on the USB flash drive in the future.
  • Select Start.

Wait for Rufus to finish the burning process. Once done, you have successfully moved your Windows installation disc manually to a bootable USB flash drive. Better yet, you back up the Windows installation media in progress (ISO from the last section).

Use Windows 10’s Media Creation Tool

WinToFlash is great for automating the disk to USB flash drive process. ImgBurn and Rufus are great if you want to do it yourself. But you don’t have to use either of those methods. At least not if you don’t want to and you’re on Windows 10.

The Microsoft Media Creation Tool makes the Windows ISO download process easy. Therefore, the Media Creation Tool automatically downloads the ISO to your specifications, eliminating the need to copy physical media to your computer, then to your USB flash drive.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Select the language, edition, and architecture of your operating system. The Media Creation Tool offers suggested settings. However, if you download for a different system, you may need to change it.
  • Next, select the USB flash drive or ISO file. The latter creates an ISO file with the details you entered on the previous page, which you can install using a USB burning tool like Rufus.
  • In this case, select the USB flash drive and continue.
  • Select the USB flash drive, then create the installation media. The Media Creation Tool will download the latest version of Windows 10, so it will take a while.

Can I Boot From USB?

This is a very common question. These are mostly system specific but can be changed by the user via BIOS. This is controlled by the boot order.

Your system will usually attempt to boot from wherever your OS is installed. The drive containing your primary OS will be the first option in the boot order. It is possible to overwrite it manually, instead of booting from a USB drive containing the new installation media.

The BIOS configuration is different for each manufacturer. I suggest searching the internet for “BIOS tutorial/boot sequence [[pabrikan]].”

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