How to create a copy of Windows software

Updated: 11/18/2022 by Computer Hope
Windows logo

Today, CDs and DVDs are used far less due to much faster and smaller storage media with more significant capacities (e.g., USB flash drives). Consequently, many users don't have (or never had) a Windows installation disc. However, you can create an ISO image file and load it on a USB drive or DVD-R using the steps below.

After doing so, you can use the disc or USB drive to reinstall Windows to your computer, which is needed to format your computer's hard drive and start over. Likewise, if you're installing a new hard drive on your computer or laptop, you need this bootable disc or USB drive to install a fresh copy of Windows.

Note

While these copies of Windows software are free to download, you need a valid product key to activate and use them legally.

Windows 11

  1. In a web browser, go to the Windows 11 installation media page.
  2. Under the Create Windows 11 installation media section, click the Download Now button button.
  3. After the tool finishes downloading, click the downloaded file to run it.
  4. Click Accept to accept the license agreement.
  5. If the What do you want to do screen is displayed next, select the Create installation media for another PC option, then click the Next button in Windows. button. Otherwise, skip to the next step.
  6. On the Select language and edition screen, check the box next to Use the recommended options for this PC if not already checked, then click the Next button in Windows. button.
  7. On the next screen, click the circle next to Create installation media for another PC, then click the Next button in Windows. button.
  8. On the next screen, choose USB flash drive (A) or ISO file (B), then click Next (C).

Screen where you choose where to download an ISO for Windows 11.

Note

We recommend choosing the USB flash drive option as it is a faster and better storage medium. Also, many new computers don't have a DVD-ROM drive.

  1. Locate your USB flash drive in File Explorer or choose another download location.
  2. Once your download has finished, you may use it to install the Windows 10 operating system.
Note

If you chose to download the ISO file, you need to burn it to a DVD before using it to install Windows 11.

Windows 10

  1. In a web browser, go to the Windows 10 installation media page.
  2. Under the Create Windows 10 installation media section, click the Download tool now button. button.
  3. After the tool finishes downloading, run and install it.
  4. On the next screen, click the circle next to Create installation media for another PC, then click the Next button in Windows. button.
  5. Ensure that the box next to Use the recommended options for this PC is checked, then click the Next button in Windows. button.

Checkbox for using the recommended installation options for Windows.

  1. On the next screen, choose USB flash drive (A) or ISO file (B), then click Next (C).

Screen where you choose where to download an ISO.

Note

We recommend choosing the USB flash drive option as it is a faster and better storage medium. Also, many new computers don't have a DVD-ROM drive.

  1. The tool automatically tries to locate a USB flash drive connected to your computer. Click next to start the download and install media creation process.
  2. Once the download and media creation process is finished, you can use the flash drive to install the Windows 11 operating system.
Note

If you chose to download the ISO file, you need to burn it to a DVD before using it to install Windows 10.

Windows 7 and 8.1

The steps for Windows 7 and 8.1 are nearly identical; the only difference is when you're prompted to enter your product key.

  1. Open your browser and go to the Windows 7 disc image page or the Windows 8.1 disc image page.
  2. Windows 7 users need to enter their product key, then click the Verify button in Windows. button.
  3. Select your edition (A), click Confirm (B), select your language (C), then click Confirm (D) again.

Options for creating an ISO in Windows 8.1.

  1. Select 64-bit Download or 32-bit Download, depending on the version of Windows on your computer.

Select 64 or 32-bit buttons.

  1. Once your download has finished, you can create a USB flash drive copy or burn a DVD.

Putting the ISO on a USB flash drive

After opening the ISO in File Explorer, you can drag-and-drop the file onto a USB flash drive.

ISO file being copied to a thumb drive.

Burning a copy to a DVD

  1. Open the ISO file in File Explorer.
  2. Right-click the ISO file, and select Burn disc image from the context menu.

Option to burn a Windows disc image.

  1. In the window that appears, choose your DVD burner drive and click the Burn button in Windows 10. button.