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Installations from a USB flash drive have become one of the easiest ways to update your computer with a new operating system How To Install Windows 8 From A USB Stick How To Install Windows 8 From A USB Stick If you’re looking to install Windows 8 and your computer doesn't have a DVD drive, you’re not alone. Whether you have a Windows 8 DVD or a Windows 8 ISO file you've downloaded from Microsoft,... Read More . A USB installation is quick, extremely portable, and has the added bonus of reverting back to a storage device following the install. I cannot tell you how many discs I ruined over the years by messing up the write process, but I have a lot of very shiny drink-coasters in my living room.

You’ll find a fair few ISO to USB tools out there, and they feature a range of tools for beginners and advanced users. To keep this test fair, I’m going to use each tool to burn a copy of Windows How To Create A Windows USB Installation Disk With WinUSB [Linux] How To Create A Windows USB Installation Disk With WinUSB [Linux] We've shown you before how to install Windows 7 from a USB drive, but the process assumes you have access to a Windows computer to begin with. That's not always the case, particularly if you're... Read More 10 Insider Preview 10130 x64 to an 8GB Integral drive, formatted each time. Let’s take a look at the burn time, and the resources available to each software. For science!

By the way, we’ve previously covered how to legally download Windows ISO files How to Legally Download Windows Installation Files for Free How to Legally Download Windows Installation Files for Free Windows can get seriously broken. What you often need to do is to install it from scratch. And we show you how to get legal installation files for Windows 7 through 10. Read More .

A Mini-Glossary

Before we plough into the testing phase there are a handful of acronyms I’d like to spell out, and a few other bits of ISO to USB jargon How To Format A USB Drive & Why You Would Need To How To Format A USB Drive & Why You Would Need To Read More we’ll clear up.

  • Bootloader Options: the bootloader loads the operating system. Some ISO burners allow you to choose the Bootloader you’ll need for your desired operating system installation.
  • grub4dos: a bootloader package designed to allow users to select between multiple operating systems installed on a single system.
  • syslinux: a lightweight bootloader package designed to allow users to select between multiple Linux or Unix installations.
  • QEMU Emulator: short for Quick Emulator, is a hardware virtualization tool. In this context, it allows users to test their USB before proceeding with the burn process.
  • Cluster Size: defines the smallest available space for storing data. Instead of assigning individual disk sectors, the file system assigns contiguous groups of sectors, called clusters.
  • File System What A File System Is & How You Can Find Out What Runs On Your Drives What A File System Is & How You Can Find Out What Runs On Your Drives Read More : controls how data is accessed and stored. Without it, your data would lump together with no beginning or end. A file system offers definition for easy access. There are different file systems available, though your burning tool should be discern your requirements via the ISO you use.
  • Bad Sector: Some ISO to USB tools allow you to perform a bad sector check 5 Signs Your Hard Drive Lifetime Is Ending (And What to Do) 5 Signs Your Hard Drive Lifetime Is Ending (And What to Do) Since a majority of people today own laptops and external hard drives, which get dragged around quite a bit, a realistic hard drive lifetime is probably around 3 - 5 years. This is an extremely... Read More . Before the burn commences, your USB will be scanned, fixing any irregularities to ensure your installation is smooth. Somewhat similar to defragmenting your desktop, but on a much smaller scale.

1: Rufus

Features: Partition schemes, file systems, mode of bootable, bad sector check

First up, Rufus. Rufus comes as a very small executable with minimal options for tinkering, aside from partition scheme, file systems, cluster size, and the type of bootable you’ll be creating. Once you’ve selected the bootable disk type and the ISO image you’ll be burning, you can happily hit Start and wait for the process to finish.

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Rufus ISO to USB

Rufus clocked in with a 16m55s according to my phone, but also has its own timer, which showed 17.02, though the built in timer did fluctuate throughout the process. At one point, it was over 10s behind my phone, but closed the gap to a mere 7s at the finishing line. Obviously, I am right, but it is still a good time.

Rufus Timing

2: Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool

Features: None

Such an eloquent name. You select your ISO. You select your media type; USB or DVD. You click Begin Copying, and off it goes. In what is the most basic of basic GUIs, and with only two options, the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool How To Make a Bootable USB, CD or DVD to Install Windows Using an ISO File How To Make a Bootable USB, CD or DVD to Install Windows Using an ISO File Need installation media to reinstall Windows? In this article we'll show you where to get Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10 installation files and how to create a bootable USB, CD, or DVD from scratch. Read More is almost sublimely simple, comparable only to ISO to USB.

Windows_7_USBDVD_Download_Tool_2015-08-22_16-10-21

Timing-wise, it clocked in with 16m53s, leaving it sitting pretty. A definite winner for those wanting a serious no-frills burning tool.

Windows 7 USBDVD Timing

3: RMPrepUSB

Features: Bootloader options, file systems and overrides, grub4dos How To Fix Bootloader Problems Due To GRUB How To Fix Bootloader Problems Due To GRUB Read More , syslinux, QEMU Emulator

RMPrepUSB is one of the most complete ISO to USB packages on this list. Aside from the above mentioned features, it comes packed with a host of other BootLoaders, DiskDoctor, Speed Tests, and individual user configurations for those drives you constantly prepare.

RMPrepUSB_v.2.1.728

With a time of 22m36s RMPrepUSB isn’t the fastest of the bunch, but certainly makes up for it in customization. Bonus points for the centralized tooltip, constantly updating as you scroll over menu items.

ISO to USB Timing

4: WinSetupFromUSB

Features: Bootloader options, three formatting tools including RMPrepUSB, QEMU Emulator

WinSetupFromUSB offers a mid-range of features. It isn’t quite RMPrePUSB, but it has so much more to offer than the other basic burners we have already covered, particularly the inclusion of FBinst Tool, Bootice, and RMPrepUSB. Each of these additional tools come with popup instructions detailing their use alongside WinSetupFromUSB, but can all be used with their original functions i.e. RMPrepUSB opens in its own dialogue with the customizable ISO/USB interface mentioned above.

WinSetupFromUSB ISO Tool

As for speed, 23m29s represents one of the slower tools on the list, but is included due to the wealth of customization available to users.

WinSetupUSB Timing

5: UltraISO

Features: Write method, Hide boot partition

You can use the UltraISO trial version an ISO to USB tool. Whilst the trial version restricts the size of ISOs created, it does nothing of the sort if you’re burning something created elsewhere. On opening UltraISO, browse to your ISO location in the bottom half of the file explorer. Once located, double click. This loads the ISO image for burning. Then head to Bootable > Write Disk Image. Be sure to use the USB-HDD+ option for best results, unless advised otherwise. Hit Write and off you go!

UltraISO

UltraISO clocked in with a 20m24s, sitting nicely in the middle of the pack, and made the cut against the very similarly timed WiNToBootic through its additional features such as image mounting and ISO creation.

UltraISO Timing

6: YUMI

Features: Multiboot, inbuilt download selector

YUMI, or Your Universal Multiboot Installer, is another multiboot installer with settings for a massive range of ISOs. Unlike Xboot, YUMI asks if you’d like to add another ISO or Distro The Best Linux Distributions The Best Linux Distributions There are many Linux distributions available for a number of different purposes, which makes it difficult to choose at times. Here's a list of the very best to help you decide. Read More to your USB following a successful burn, so don’t worry if you cannot find the multiboot builder.

YUMI_2.0.1.8_Setup

It clocked in with a stupendously fast 14m50s and takes the crown by just over two minutes, plus it has the best name on the list, so obviously another massive point for that.

YUMI Timing

The ISO to USB Winner Is…

YUMI! If we are talking time, plus the bonus of being able to create a multiboot USB packed with everything you might ever need.

ISO USB Timing Table

However, let’s not discount those more advanced ISO to USB tools, RMPrepUSB and WinSetupFromUSB. While their speed performance couldn’t match YUMI, the massive range of tools and customizable settings more than make up for it.

Finally, I’ve been using the ISO to USB tool for its ridiculously simple interface and fairly reasonable burn time, but even that has been bested by Rufus, so now I don’t know what to do, other than switch to something faster.

Other Tools We Tested…

I tested a full 10 different ISO tools, as you can see from the above table, noting their speed. But speed isn’t only variable we look for in a burner. Here are the fallen few:

  • XBoot is another multiboot tool featuring an inbuilt downloader, but timed in over 24 minutes. YUMI blew it away!
  • WiNToBootic fits into the basic features category, alongside the Windows 7 USB/DVD Tool and Rufus, but clocked a slower 20m14s.
  • Passcape ISO Burner is a multifunction burning tool, but it wouldn’t work for me. I have read other positive reviews, so it could be worth a look for other individuals.
  • ISO to USB is another very basic burner, and one I’ve used extensively. However, it didn’t make the cut through a slow time and lack of features.

Hopefully you’ll have a clearer picture of the USB to ISO offerings available to you as more and more of us switch to a world without optical disk drives No DVD Drive? No Problem! Create And Mount ISO Files For Free With These Tools No DVD Drive? No Problem! Create And Mount ISO Files For Free With These Tools My computer doesn’t have any optical drives anymore. That means CD drives, DVD drives, Floppy drives--they’ve all been cut out and done away with forever. If a particular piece of peripheral gear doesn’t have a... Read More .

What’s your tool of choice? Did I miss anything you would have nailed on? Let us know what you think below!

  1. Michael Weldon
    July 25, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    I'm a massive Puppy Linux fan.....and for me, there is only ONE USB installer to even consider; PUI. The Puppy Universal Installer. It not only installs Puppy to USB, it will install Puppy onto virtually anything. IDE HDDs, SATA HDDs, USB HDDs, USB flashdrives, the anciemt SCSI drives, the equally ancient iOmega 'Zip' drives, SD & SDHC cards.....you name it, it does it, flawlessly.

    Hardly surprising about the flashdrives, actually, since Puppy was originally designed, nearly 13 years ago, TO run from flashdrives.

    As far as the other tools go, I've had luck with YUMI on other Linux installs. It's a good tool. Also UNetbootin, for creating Live USB 'keys'.

  2. onrad
    July 23, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    WARNING: malware in rufus!!

    • Lewenlyn
      August 25, 2016 at 7:12 am

      Idiot....probably on your PC. People like you should kill yourself!

      • Dom
        October 6, 2016 at 6:37 pm

        dude, wtf

  3. sarfraz
    July 9, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    Thank you for such a wonderful blog..

  4. mahris
    May 31, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    Thank you for the nice report.
    But 2: Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool should be moved to the very bottom.
    I had to make Windows 7 setup disk from ISO file.
    I started with number 2. And it told me that my ISO is not ISO. This file is recognized by lot of programs - VmWare, DKLite, WinRar and other. Did not explore deeper - maybe, toll did not like file size (4G).
    Uninstalled number 2, downloaded Rufus and live with it.

  5. Dhanaprakash
    April 12, 2016 at 4:09 am

    I will give the 1st rank to Easytoboot (E2B)
    Easytoboot (E2B) is the ever best tool for creating multiboot pendrive

    • Roy K.J.
      June 23, 2016 at 7:32 pm

      You are correct Mr.Dhanaprakash. Easytoboot (E2B) is the ever best tool for creating multiboot pendrive as it needs only copy and paste of .iso files after creation of e2b pendrive ,hence no extracting of.iso file is needed and so no file corruption in common situations. K.J.Roy.

  6. FileEagle.com Chris
    September 17, 2015 at 9:43 am

    Thanks for your list.

  7. Fernando Scheps Serra
    September 7, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    I like SARDU which allowed me to add more ISO images afterwards by re-reading the configuration of the USB unlike Yumi which doesnt allow me to add but all the times re-formats the USB drive (unless I havent found a way to do it and its supported).

    Now I am about to test the SARDU Pro version which supports multiple Windows versions and more. Seems very cool, lets see..

    • Gilbert J.
      September 8, 2015 at 1:05 am

      I haven't had that problem with YUMI.
      I did once check out SARDU, but it came bundled with some sort of junkware, which led me to pass on it.

      • Davide Costa
        September 25, 2015 at 9:41 pm

        Hi,
        No junkware or toolbars in SARDU 3.x

  8. Pedro Mulas
    September 7, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    If Easy2Boot can cope with only half of the ISO's it claims to have tested, it certainly is the top multiboot tool. I've only tested it with a Win based image alongside a typical Ubuntu ISO, but it worked smoothly, once you adjust the pendrive contents to avoid uncontinous clusters. Easy2Boot may not be the easiest to use, but it is very powerfull, supporting just about any image deemed worthwhile (FalconFour, Sergei Strelec, any @buntu, Win installs, etc, etc.)

  9. Emil Baticulon
    September 7, 2015 at 6:05 am

    Linux Live usb creator or LiLi http://www.linuxliveusb.com/

  10. Dick Eastman
    September 6, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    Please note that all of these products are for the Windows user. There is nothing listed here for the Macintosh user.

    • Jeff
      August 18, 2016 at 8:07 pm

      Incorrect, Dick. YUMI is actually Linux.

  11. Joe Birch
    September 5, 2015 at 8:25 am

    Using Linux it is so easy with Unetbootin

  12. David Singleton
    September 5, 2015 at 5:56 am

    It reads the USB then goes on to boot in windows. There is a trick of doing an advanced boot, then selecting usb, does the same thing. The only think I could get to boot properly was a Win 10 install image.

  13. Gilbert J.
    September 5, 2015 at 12:51 am

    YUMI is great for running multiple ISOs off a USB drive. I've used it for setting up USB drives with a selection of rescue tools, and for putting a selection of Linux distros on one USB for people to try them out. I've never tried using it for installing an operating system on a computer, as the instructions have this to say:
    "Important Note: YUMI was intended to be used to try to run various "LIVE Linux" Operating Systems from USB. Installing Linux from the YUMI created USB Drive to a Hard Drive is not officially supported. If the installer portion of any Live Linux distro does work, consider it a bonus."
    For installing Linux on a computer I use LinuxLive USB creator to install the ISO on a USB drive. It doesn't support multiboot USBs, but it works well for installing a single distro on a USB and for installing the OS to a computer.
    Recently Easy2Boot was recommended to me. I haven't had occasion to try it out yet, but I plan to take a look at it when I next need to set up a multiboot USB drive.

  14. David Singleton
    September 5, 2015 at 12:23 am

    I have used some of these and they do work great, but are there any newer tools to handle making a UEFI boot USB easier, rufus is supposed to do that but for me it has been hit and miss, I have a Surface Pro 3 and it is hell trying to get it to boot to USB.

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 5, 2015 at 5:46 am

      I've heard about this Surface Pro-Linux problem in the past too. What's the error you get, David? I'm curious as to what makes the Surface Pro different to other laptops/tablets in this regard.

  15. Matteo Bernardini
    September 4, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    Its good that you didnt mention UNETBootIn, as its more the time you spend thinking what is wrong when you boot up your ISO from USB after using it than anything else.

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 5, 2015 at 6:12 am

      Bwahahaha I feel your pain, Matteo, I feel your pain

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