How to create a Windows 10 installation disk

Updated: 05/22/2018 by Computer Hope
Illustration: Windows 10 logo, USB flash drive, DVD-R.

If your computer runs Windows 10, it's a good idea to have a bootable Windows installation disk, in case you ever want to reinstall Windows on your computer.

If you don't have a Windows 10 disk, you can create one using the methods described below.

Requirements

Before you create a bootable Windows 10 disk, make sure you have the following:

  • A computer connected to the Internet, with a USB port or DVD burner.
  • A USB flash drive with a capacity of at least 8 GB, which is either empty or ready to be completely erased; or a blank DVD-R disk.
  • A valid Windows 10 license; either a numeric license key or a Microsoft account with a Windows 10 license that is associated with your computer.

Method 1: Use the Media Creation Tool

The Media Creation Tool is a program provided by Microsoft which will download all required files, and write them to your DVD or USB flash drive. Follow these instructions to download and use the Media Creation Tool.

Warning

The following steps will completely overwrite the data on your USB flash drive. All existing data on the disk will be destroyed.

  1. Open a web browser and go to Microsoft's Windows 10 download page. Under Create Windows 10 installation media, click Download tool now.

Screenshot: Download the Media Creation Tool from Microsoft.

  1. Run the installer. At the UAC prompt, click Yes. The installer will get things ready, then display Notices and License terms. Read the terms, and click Accept to proceed.

Screenshot: Accept the Media Creation Tool license.

  1. At the screen What do you want to do?, select Create installation media for another PC, and click Next.

Screenshot: At What do you want to do?, select Create installation media for another PC.

  1. At Select language, architecture, and edition, don't change anything if you're creating the installer for this computer. Make sure Use the recommended settings for this PC remains checked. (If you're creating a disk for another computer, uncheck this box and make changes now.) To continue, click Next.
  1. At the screen Choose which media to use, you can choose USB or DVD as the destination. In this example, we'll create a USB flash drive. Select USB flash drive, and click Next.

Screenshot: Select the destination media.

  1. You'll be asked to Select a USB flash drive. If your USB flash drive is not inserted, insert it now, wait a few moments and click Refresh drive list.

Screenshot: No drive found. Insert drive and click Refresh.

Then, select your USB flash drive, and click Next.

Screenshot: Select USB flash drive.

  1. Windows 10 will download the installer and write it to your USB flash drive. You can continue using your PC while it runs in the background.
  1. When it's finished, you'll see Your USB flash drive is ready. Click Finish. Setup will clean up its temporary files and exit automatically.

Screenshot: Disk creation complete.

You can now remove your USB flash drive from the computer. For information about how to use it, see how to boot with your installation disk, below.

Method 2: Download ISO and create bootable USB

You also have the option to download the Windows 10 ISO image file to your computer, then create your bootable disk manually with another program.

If you're using Windows, you must use the Media Creation Tool to download the ISO. If you're using another operating system, such as macOS or Linux, Microsoft offers a direct download.

Windows: Download ISO with Media Creation Tool

If you're using Windows, follow these steps to download the Windows 10 ISO with the Media Creation Tool. (Steps 1–4 are the same as in method 1.)

  1. Open a web browser and go to Microsoft's Windows 10 download page. Click Download tool now.
  1. Run the installer. At the UAC prompt, click Yes. Read the license terms and click Accept.
  1. Select Create installation media for another PC, and click Next.
  1. At Select language, architecture, and edition, don't change anything if you're creating the installer for this computer. Click Next.
  1. At Choose which media to use, select ISO file, and click Next.

Screenshot: In the Media Creation Tool, choose ISO file as the destination media.

  1. Choose a location on your computer to download the ISO file, such as your Downloads folder. Make sure you have enough space to download the file (it's big - between 3 and 5 gigabytes, depending on the version).

Screenshot: Choose download location for the ISO file.

  1. When the download is complete, Media Creation Tool will offer to Burn the ISO to a DVD, and display the full path and file name of the ISO file on your computer.

Screenshot: Optionally burn ISO to DVD.

Optional: if you'd like to verify the location of the file, click the file name to open the folder where it was downloaded.

Optional: if you'd like to burn a DVD of the ISO now, click Open DVD Burner. The Windows Disk Image Burner will open. Insert a blank DVD-R disk into your DVD drive and follow the instructions.

Screenshot: Optionally, run the Windows Disk Image Burner.

  1. Click Finish to close the Media Creation Tool.

You can now skip to the step Create bootable USB with Rufus.

macOS X, Linux: Download ISO directly

If you're using a non-Windows operating system, follow these instructions to download the Windows 10 ISO.

  1. Open a web browser and go to the Windows 10 ISO download site. Microsoft will detect your operating system and reroute you to the direct download page.
  1. Under Select Edition, select Windows 10 and click Confirm.
  1. Under Select the product language, select your language (English, for example), and click Confirm.

Screenshot: On the Microsoft Windows 10 ISO download page, select the edition and language of Windows 10.

  1. Under Downloads, you'll have the option to download the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows. If your computer has a 64-bit CPU, choose the 64-bit Download. If you're not sure, see how to determine if you have a 64-bit or 32-bit CPU.

Screenshot: Choose architecture (32-bit or 64-bit).

  1. The download will begin in your browser. Make sure you have enough disk space to download the file (it's big - between 3 and 5 gigabytes, depending on the version).

Create bootable USB with Rufus

Now that you've downloaded the ISO file, you need special software to create a bootable USB flash drive with it. Only copying the file to the USB will not work.

There are various programs which you can use to create a bootable USB flash drive in Windows, such as UNetbootin. In these instructions, we'll use a free Windows program called Rufus.

Warning

The following steps will completely overwrite the data on your USB flash drive. All existing data the USB flash drive will be destroyed.

  1. Open a web browser and go to the Rufus website. Scroll down to Download, and choose either Rufus or Rufus portable (either one will work).

Screenshot: Download Rufus from https://rufus.ie.

  1. When the download is complete, run the Rufus executable. You don't need to install it, the program will run without being installed.
  1. If your USB flash drive is not inserted, insert it now. It will be immediately recognized by Rufus.
  1. Click the disk icon. It looks like an optical drive and disk. Navigate to the Windows ISO you downloaded, select the ISO file, and click Open.

Screenshot: Click the disk icon in Rufus, select the Windows ISO file you downloaded, and click Open.

  1. The Rufus status line will say "READY". To write the ISO to your USB flash drive, click Start.
  1. Rufus warns you that all data on the USB will be destroyed. If you have any important files on the USB flash drive, this is your last chance to cancel, and back up your files. To proceed, click OK.

Screenshot: Final warning before overwriting USB.

  1. The ISO is written to the USB flash drive. It should only take a few minutes.

Screenshot: Rufus writing ISO to USB, in progress.

You'll know it's complete when the progress bar is fully green, and the status line says "READY" again.

Screenshot: When the progress bar is completely green, and the status says READY, writing is complete.

Click Close to exit Rufus.

How to boot with your installation disk

To use your Windows 10 installation disk, follow these steps.

  1. Verify that your computer's BIOS is configured to boot from a removable disk. To access your BIOS, you need to reboot the computer and press a specific key before boot sequence begins. For detailed instructions, see how to enter your BIOS setup.
  2. Then, if necessary, change your boot sequence so that your DVD/USB drive is listed before your HDD or SSD in your boot order. (If you don't see your USB drive in the list, insert your installation USB flash drive before powering on the computer and try again.)
  3. If your BIOS is properly configured, power down the computer.
  4. Insert your installation disk.
  5. Power on the computer.

Instead of loading the operating system from your HDD/SSD, your computer will boot from your removable disk, and Windows installation will begin.