How to Create a Bootable USB Drive From Your Windows CD
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Do you have a Windows CD or DVD, but cannot use your optical drive to install your Windows operating system on your new computer? Maybe you are worried about CD/DVD rot and want to create a backup?

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

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

The Benefits of USB Flash Drive Installation Media

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

  • You can easily create backup installation media.
  • Significantly faster installation rate versus regular installation media.
  • Keep your original installation media in pristine condition.
  • Easy to carry multiple operating systems on a single USB drive.

Our relationship with Windows CDs and DVDs is different, too. For instance, you can purchase an official Windows 10 USB flash drive instead of a DVD or CD. Discs are still available but are far from the only method of installation. Furthermore, if you purchase new hardware with Windows preinstalled, there’s a chance you will never have installation media unless you make it yourself. (Read on to find out how!)

Copy Your Windows Installation Disc 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 USB bootable 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.

  1. First head to the WinToFlash site, then download and install the WinToFlash Lite edition. After installation, WinToFlash will open automatically.
  2. Accept the EULA, and view the non-intrusive advert before continuing.
  3. Make sure your Windows installation disc is your optical drive, as well as the USB flash drive you want to copy your installation too.
  4. Now, select Windows Setup Bootable USB Wizard, then I have CD inserted into my computer…, followed by Next.
  5. On the next page specify the location of your Windows installation disc 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.

novicorp wintoflash copy windows installation

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

The Windows CD to bootable USB flash drive copy process can take some time to complete, so go and pop the kettle on.

WinToFlash Multiboot

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

Note: WinToFlash Lite will only allow two ISOs on your multiboot. I’ve curated a comprehensive list of multiboot USB tools that do the job much better, and without restriction.

  1. Head back to the Wizard mode tab and select Mutiboot USB Drive Creation Menu.
  2. On the next screen, select Add. This opens the Add new item panel. Like other multiboot USB drive tools, WinToFlash has a long list of potential tools. Scroll down the list and select a tool.
  3. The option to Download selected ISO now will appear. Choose this option to download the latest version of the selected tool or OS. Alternatively, you can select and add ISOs already stored on your computer.
  4. Complete your selection and select Run.

novicorp wintoflash multiboot

Create Windows ISO From Original Installation Media Using ImgBurn

If you prefer a more manual approach to rip your Windows installation media, you can use ImgBurn. ImgBurn is a great free tool that you can use to write an image file to disc or create an image file from an existing disc.

  1. Head to the ImgBurn website. Download and install ImgBurn.
  2. After installing, open ImgBurn. Make sure your original Windows installation media is in your optical drive.
  3. Select Create image file from disc.
  4. Select the Windows installation media drive source, then set the Destination
  5. Hit the Read button to begin the process.

imgburn rip windows installation disc

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

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

Burn Windows Installation ISO to USB Flash Drive Using Rufus

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

  1. Head to the Rufus website, then download and install the latest version of the tool.
  2. Open Rufus. Under Device, select the USB flash drive you want to use.
  3. Under Boot Selection, hit Select, then browse to the location of the Windows installation ISO created in the last section.
  4. Set a new volume label, so you know what’s on the USB flash drive in the future.
  5. Select Start.

rufus boot selection option

Wait for Rufus to complete the burn process Once complete, you have successfully manually moved your Windows installation disc to a bootable USB flash drive. Better still, you made a Windows installation media backup in the process (the ISO from the last section).

Use the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool

WinToFlash is great for automating the disc 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 using Windows 10.

The Microsoft Media Creation Tool makes the process of downloading a Windows ISO simple. Accordingly, the Media Creation Tool automatically downloads an ISO to your specification, eliminating the need for copying physical media to your computer, then onto your USB flash drive.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Download and run the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool. Accepting the licensing agreement.
  2. Select Create installation media for another PC.windows media creator option
  3. Select the language, edition, and architecture of your operating system. The Media Creation Tool offers recommended settings. However, if you are downloading for a different system, you may need to change these.
  4. Next, choose either 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.
  5. In this case, choose USB flash drive and continue.
  6. 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 moment.

windows media creator set architecture

Can I Boot From USB?

This is a very common question. It is largely system specific but can be altered by the user via the BIOS. This is controlled by the boot sequence.

bios utlity boot sequence option

Your system will usually seek to boot from wherever your OS is installed. The drive containing your main OS will be the first option in the boot sequence. It is possible to manually override this, instead of booting from a USB drive containing new installation media.

BIOS configurations are different for each manufacturer. I would suggest searching the internet for “[hardware manufacturer] BIOS tutorial/boot sequence.”

Create a Bootable USB from a CD or DVD

You’re now ready to create a bootable USB flash drive from your Windows installation CD or DVD. This installation process should speed up your next clean installation while giving you the chance to get rid of some of those pesky old discs. Just remember to write down your license codes and keep them in a safe place!

Can’t find your old license codes? Here are your options for a cheap and legal Windows license Need a Legal & Cheap Windows License? Here Are Your Options Need a Legal & Cheap Windows License? Here Are Your Options Windows is expensive. Here's how to buy a Windows 7, 8 or 10 product key cheaply or get a license for free legally. Read More .

Explore more about: CD-DVD Tool, Install Software, USB Drive, Windows 10.

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  1. PJ
    April 25, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    Only1:Rfus.

    Now write an article worth a damn.

  2. Albin Jaison
    January 18, 2018 at 7:28 am

    Thanks

  3. Iryna
    November 12, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    It still doesn't answer the question: "How do I create a bootable USB from bootable DVD?" I don't have an iso file. I only have a DVD with a bunch of files and folders there.

    Wintoflash free version doesn't offer even the very basic functionality now. Are there any other options? Again, for converting bootable dvd to bootable usb, not Windows iso to usb.

    • Doc
      April 24, 2019 at 9:43 pm

      That's easy. Use something like CDBurnerXP (use the "Copy or grab disk" option) to create an ISO file from the physical disk.

  4. rudy
    March 19, 2017 at 1:45 am

    Three words - Macrium Reflect Free

  5. SD44
    March 19, 2017 at 12:23 am

    Terrible article. Unfortunately, WinToFlash only allows you to make a multiboot USB with 2 entries when using a personal/non commercial license. Utterly useless and a cheap trick on their part. On the other hand, it is your responsibility to research the programs you present more thoroughly...
    MUO used to be a place to learn new programs and features...too bad this is not the case anymore...

    • Gavin Phillips
      March 19, 2017 at 12:39 am

      I don't think that makes it a "terrible article" -- it is just an oversight on my behalf. But you're right, I should have picked up on that before posting. MUO is still very much a place to learn new programs and features, as there are thousands of other articles, even on this very topic.

      My apologies for the poor research. I was updating a much older article and used the program the original author had compiled the article around. If you'd like to create a multiboot USB, here is a fresh piece on the same topic I wrote in February:

      //www.makeuseof.com/tag/bootable-multiboot-usb/

      Again, my apologies.

      • SD44
        March 19, 2017 at 12:47 am

        I do believe you should be more careful when providing info about programs and when you fail to do that, then the article is indeed terrible.
        I am not a troll though and I do appreciate your courage to admit your mistake. In addition, your related article in February was excellent and very helpful. Please build on that and not this :)

        • Gavin
          March 20, 2017 at 10:07 am

          Thanks, SD - very reasonable of you :)

  6. Uncle G
    October 26, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    Don't use it, it hijacks your browser.

    • Doc
      April 24, 2019 at 9:44 pm

      What "hijacks your browser"? Please give more details.

  7. santhosh
    April 26, 2016 at 8:52 am

    It worked for me, maybe it works with Win 7, thanks for this blog

  8. wappy
    March 13, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    virus, don’t use it.

  9. buse
    January 12, 2015 at 8:31 am

    Wintoflash is nothing more than a virus, don't use it.

  10. Andreea
    November 8, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    Hi! I tried to make my USB flash bootable in order to install WinXP. WinToFlash made my flash bootable but it does not install XP. When I boot from the USB the cursor just blinks and stays there for ever. The installation process does not begin. Any ideas? Please....

  11. jax
    October 16, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    (long time user of these forum sites, first time commentor.)
    normally when i have an issue i perform a search to scour online forums for people who have had a similar issue and to read possible solutions. this method has worked about 99% of the time. however, after spending all day (literally, all day) yesterday trying to get not only xp onto my usb drive but make it bootable in the process, this site really became the salvation to my sanity (and what's left of my hair).
    that said, i think it is important that others realize that if the copy of xp they have is only sp1, they will need to integrate sp2 into it in order for the usb drive to work properly. the following site helped me to do just that:
    http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-22_11-5304468.html
    and this website provided me with the tools to make my usb drive bootable. so thanx Varun!
    what strikes me as "odd", is that while every one of these tutorial sites i came across usually begin with some iteration of the fact floppy drives are dead, and some computers either have a non-working optical drive or no optical drive at all, and so booting off a usb drive will become a necessity. that there is so many "possible" solutions to do this. and that the majority of them are crap. i mean, sure, from one of the tutorial sites i was able to make my usb drive bootable, but it was impossible to install xp since it was in a FAT16 environment.
    maybe there should be an option inside windows itself to format a usb drive and make it bootable (much like in win98 there was an option to format a floppy disk and make it bootable...), i don't know, something easier than spending a whole day trying different solutions, and honestly contemplating purchasing an external optical drive to get the installation done. ugh!
    and thanx again Varun!!!

  12. cheap computers
    October 9, 2009 at 5:02 am

    I think theoretically, the transfer speeds should be better and the installation process is a little faster.

  13. Sana
    October 3, 2009 at 7:16 am

    Thanks a lot dude...you are a just amazing...i spent a lot of time for this...thanks to u i got the answere...

  14. abass
    September 13, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    i love it, it really amazing incredible

  15. John
    September 11, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    As a novice, I went through the process of trying to make a bootable USB from this process. Process was easy to follow and it completed with no problems. Changed the BIOS to boot from a USB as 1st selection. Did a shutdown and power up. Other than the USB blinking a few times it would not boot up. Cursor stock in upper left corner blinking. Must of done something wrong. Used Boot CD that came with the Dell XPS M1330 (Vista Ultimate)

  16. batteries
    September 11, 2009 at 7:48 am

    Hi Varun am impressed by your work.
    Actually previously I have less knowledge about bootable USB and after your post it seems helpful.
    Anyways thanks for the brilliant post.

  17. Charlie
    September 11, 2009 at 6:49 am

    i do enjoy all the tips sent to me by oh use of. they have really helped me overcome some difficulties with computing.

  18. Peter
    September 10, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Installs from a USB drive are SIGNIFICANTLY faster than from a disc. I've done Vista and 7 installs from a USB drive that took about 15 minutes.

    As far as the size, for Vista or Win 7 you will need a 4 Gig drive. Considering you can buy a 4 Gig flash drive for $10 why bother with anything less?

    You actually don't even need to go to all the trouble in the article. Just copy all the files from your DVD or from the ISO file to the root of a freshly formated USB drive and you're ready to go.

  19. radd
    September 10, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    what is the smallest drive size I can use?

  20. Chris W
    September 10, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    UDB..lol. Considering the CD you usually install an OS from is around 700mb, a USB stick of the same size should do. Even if you slipstream SP3 onto the stick it will only be around 600mb. You can slim it down even further with a product like nLite.

  21. appsbyaaron
    September 10, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    Might be a stupid question but what size UDB drive is needed? 4 GB?

  22. ronit
    September 10, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    initially i taught its all fake but it work very simple...

    • Marco
      September 10, 2009 at 3:58 pm

      Hey Varun, thanks for the post, i wish i had seen this a week ago. My optical drive was broken and I had to reinstall my OS.

    • Guru
      May 17, 2015 at 11:21 am

      Thanks!! Worked like a Charm!