Have a UNIVERSAL SERIAL BUS boot drive handy if you ever need to reinstall Windows 10 on your COMPUTER. 


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The very first time I heard the word “bootable USB,” I felt a tinge of panic. It’s a task that sounds complicated and something that needs plenty of tech savvy, however in reality, it only takes a few clicks of the mouse along with a solid internet connection. Don’t feel intimidated at all. I promise. 

Creating a Windows 10 bootable USB drive is something you should definitely do if you own a Windows computer. The backup media can save you both time and a headache if you ever need to reinstall Windows. And if you’re building a gaming PC, this really is one of the last things you will have to finalize your build.

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Besides an empty 8GB USB drive and a Windows PC, you’ll need to set aside about half an hour, maybe longer, depending on your online speed.

For those curious, it’s possible to use a Mac to produce a Windows 10 boot drive, but the process is fairly involved and requires familiarity with Terminal, the Mac’s command-line tool. It’s perhaps not a process that I’d recommend for the average user. I recently built my first gaming PC, and despite my mild level of comfort with Terminal, I still found using a Windows computer to be a safer and easier process.

Use Microsoft’s media creation tool

Microsoft has a dedicated tool that you can use to down load the Windows 10 system image (also referred to as ISO) and create your bootable USB drive. 

Get started by going to this page, scroll down to Create Windows Installation Media and click on Download tool now. Once the download finishes, double-click the file called MediaCreationToolxxxx to operate it. (The last four digits of the file name indicate the version variety of Windows 10. Right now, the filename is MediaCreationTool20h2, but that will change as newer versions are released.) The file ought to be in your Downloads folder.


Select Create installation media from the narrow your search of options. 


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

When this program opens, accept Microsoft’s conditions and terms, then select Create installation media (USB flash drive, DVD, or ISO file) for another PC, and click Next.


Adjust your settings as needed. 


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

4. You’ll be asked to choose the language, edition and architecture you want to use. By default, the tool will use the very best options for the PC you’re creating the boot drive on. You can change some of the options by unchecking the next to Use the recommended options for this PC and taking advantage of the drop-down options. If you’re unsure about whether you need a 64-bit or a 32-bit architecture, select Both from your Architecture drop-down.

Note, that according to Microsoft’s support page, if you plan on using this tool to flash a different edition of Windows 10, for example Windows 10 Pro (or vice versa) on a different PC, it will be included whenever you select Windows 10 because the Edition. In fact, basic Windows 10 is the only option, so do not stress yourself looking for a Pro option. 


Select USB flash drive. 


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

5. Click Next when you’ve adjusted the choices, leave USB flash drive selected, and plug your USB drive into your computer. Select Next to continue.


Double-check that you have been selecting the proper drive for the USB thumb drive. 


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

6. Finally, select the USB drive from the list. If you have more than one drive linked to your computer and are unsure what kind to pick, disconnect the extra drives. Picking the wrong drive might be catastrophic, as this process erases everything on the drive along the way. With the right drive selected, click Next.


It’ll have a bit of time to complete, but Microsoft’s tool takes care of the others for you. 


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Microsoft’s tool will require care of the rest from there. Go get a drink, take a walk or browse the internet while the tool does its job. The process should take about 30 minutes, give or take, depending on your internet speed.

When the tool is done, click Finish and remove the USB drive from your computer. Going forward, if you need to install or reinstall Windows, you can connect the drive to your computer and reboot it. Your PC should boot towards the drive, giving you the option to set up Windows. 

If that does not happen, you’ll need to reboot your personal computer in to its BIOS firmware — usually done by pressing Esc, F2, or perhaps a similar key while the computer is starting up — and alter the boot drive or “bootmenu” to your flash drive. The process for each computer (or motherboard if you’re creating a gaming PC) will be different. I would recommend consulting your manual for instructions. 

You may also use the media tool to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10, following these instructions. After getting Windows 10 installed, here are some tips to help get you started. If reinstalling Windows 10 feels like too much, use these tips to troubleshoot and speed it up.