With Windows 10, Microsoft has streamlined the way you download and create Setup media, which may confuse some who are used to doing things the old way. Here’s the foolproof way to do this correctly with Windows 10.
As I wrote back in February in Tools of the Trade: Windows USB/DVD Download Tool, Microsoft has for several years offered a handy tool, the Windows USB/DVD Download Tool, which, along with a Windows Setup disk image in ISO format could be used to create Setup media for Windows 7 and 8. It worked well in its day.
The problem with the Windows USB/DVD Download Tool is that it formats USB-based Setup media with something called a MBR (Master Boot Record) partition. This type of disk works fine with BIOS-based PCs, meaning that you can select the USB flash drive using your PC’s boot menu and boot from that disk, initiating Setup. But these drives cannot boot on newer PCs that use UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) firmware. So the Windows USB/DVD Download Tool, great as it was, needs to be retired from our collective toolboxes. (Unless you need to make DVD-based Setup media, I guess.)
For Windows 10, there are two ways to solve this problem.
Let Microsoft do it for you
The first and easiest way is to simply use Microsoft’s Media Creation Tool, which you download from the Download Windows 10 web site. (Get the version—32-bit or 64-bit—for the PC on which you will create the media.) In the first step of this wizard, you are asked if you would like to “Upgrade this PC now” or “Create installation media for another PC.” Choose the latter option.
In the next phase of this wizard-based application, you select your language, Windows 10 Edition (typically Home or Pro), and then the architecture (32-bit/x86, 64-bit/x64, or both).
Here, you select “USB flash drive.” The wizard will tell you how much space it needs—3 GB to 6 GB, depending on the choices you made earlier—and will then prompt you to insert the USB flash drive if you haven’t already. Then it will download the Setup media and apply it to the USB flash drive.
From here, you’re good to go, though depending on your needs, you may need at least two flash drives, one for Windows 10 Home and one for Windows 10 Pro. (I use 8 or 16 GB flash drives and include both 32-bit and 64-bit versions on each. Hey, you never know.)
Use Rufus to copy a Setup ISO to USB
If you would prefer to download the ISO files—which can also be used to install Windows 10 in a virtual machine and can be stored on a PC or network drive for offline use—you can use the Media Creation Tool mentioned above to do so. Just choose “ISO file” instead of “USB flash drive” in the third part of the wizard.
As noted, in the old days, we would have used the Windows USB/DVD Download Tool to turn one of these ISOs into a bootable USB-based Setup drive. But now, something new is needed. I’ve found that Rufus works the best, and it’s not that hard to configure correctly, though the interface may seem daunting at first.
Here, you only need to make a few changes:
Partition scheme and target system type: change this to “GPT partition scheme for EUFI”.
File system: change this to FAT32 (Default). (Doing so will change Cluster size to 8192 bytes, which is just fine.)
Create a bootable disk using ISO image: Click the disk icon next to this option to select the ISO file.
Once you make these changes, Rufus will report its ready to start.
Press Start to make the bootable USB-based Setup media. You’re good to go.