How do I install the Windows operating system

Install Windows 10 using a USB stick - this is how it works

Peter-Uwe Lechner, Panagiotis Kolokythas

With the appropriate tips and tools, Windows 10 can also be installed from a specially prepared USB storage medium.

You want to install Windows, but you don't have an internal DVD drive on your notebook or desktop PC and you don't have an external drive to connect to the USB port? After that, normally the only option is to use a USB stick. It is first made bootable and then the Windows setup is transferred from the original data carrier. Prepared in this way, you can boot the notebook and then install Windows as usual. It is important to note that the appropriate settings must be made in the BIOS so that booting from a USB stick is even possible (more on this here).

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Create USB setup stick: With tool for Windows 10

Because many notebooks and mini-PCs no longer even have a DVD drive, you simply load the new Windows operating system from the USB stick. Microsoft provides appropriate programs for this.

EnlargeThe Media Creation Tool for Windows 10 can be used to create a setup stick for the new operating system. The necessary files are downloaded from the Internet.

Create Windows 10 USB boot stick: For Windows 10, Microsoft offers the Media Creation Tool. With this tool (current status, May 12th, 2021: MediaCreationTool20H2.exe) you can easily create a Windows 10 boot stick and then install Windows 10 from it. The tool always downloads the latest version of Windows 10 and is thus updated twice a year when the major Windows 10 updates appear.

The operation and functions correspond to those of earlier editions. You select the desired language, system architecture (32 or 64 bit) and version. The practical thing about this is that you can switch off additional software when creating the installation medium, which will then no longer be installed in future installations. In the following step you choose the option "USB memory stick" and continue. Then Windows 10 will be downloaded from Microsoft and transferred to the stick. This can take a while - be patient. Once the process is complete, a computer can be booted with the stick and you can install Windows 10 as usual.

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Install Windows 10 on a hard drive or SSD using a USB stick

In our example, we are installing Windows 10 on a Samsung notebook without a DVD drive. Booting from the USB stick is set up accordingly. After starting the computer from the Windows boot stick, the installation wizard appears. First confirm the language settings and then click on the “Install now” button. The actual setup is now started.

Enter a valid license key for the new installation. Confirm the Microsoft license agreement and choose how you want to install Windows on your computer. For a new installation, click on the option "Custom: Install Windows only (...)". Windows automatically determines a possible installation drive. If available, you can choose another one. After clicking on “Next”, the installation begins, which takes some time. The PC then restarts. Windows is now ready for operation. At the end of the installation, Windows asks you to make a few adjustments to the settings - and Windows is ready to go.

Alternative: make a Windows setup stick with the freeware Rufus

As an alternative to Microsoft Media Creation, you can work with the free Rufus program, which can be downloaded without installation. Start Rufus by double-clicking on the EXE program file. On the user interface of the German-language tool, first select the drive with the inserted USB stick in the upper area, under the partition scheme the option “GPT partitioning scheme for Uefi computers” and the file system “FAT32”. You take over the other settings without making any changes and use the small button behind the entry "ISO image" to integrate the ISO file of the desired Windows system. Now click on “Start” and “OK” to prepare the USB stick for the Windows setup. This process takes some time, depending on the speed of the stick. Then you can proceed with the Windows installation.

Tip: FAT32 allows file sizes up to a maximum of 4GB. Especially when you create a Windows setup stick with all updates, it can happen that the install.wim file becomes larger than 4GB and therefore cannot be copied to a FAT32 stick. In order to still generate an installation stick for the UEFI mode, you need a total of two sticks. Format one of them as described for Rufus with FAT32 in the GPT partition scheme. In Rufus you then load an ISO file from which you have previously removed the install.wim. You get such a file, for example, if you edit your setup files with a tool like NTLite, and after unloading the image - but before creating the ISO - the file install.wim from the "sources" directory on another stick move. This stick must of course first be formatted with NTFS, and the file should end up there in a new "sources" folder.

To install, boot the PC from the FAT32 stick and start the Windows setup. Shortly thereafter, an error message appears. Then insert the NTFS stick with the install.wim and continue.

USB Stick Security: What You Need To Know

Boot the computer from the USB stick: Adjust the BIOS settings

Now insert the USB stick into the computer or notebook and reboot. In the event that the Windows installation does not start automatically when the computer is switched on, you must change the start sequence in the BIOS. Often times, the built-in hard drive is used as standard and other media such as DVD and USB stick are not addressed. So, during the startup process, press the key shown on the screen (usually Del, Esc, F2 or F10). Then look for the “Boot” menu (or something similar) in the BIOS / Uefi. Now move the entry for the USB stick to the first position using the buttons displayed on the screen. Next, save the settings and restart the computer. Some PCs also offer a menu that allows you to select the boot drive. You can reach it shortly after switching on the computer, usually using the F8, F10 or F12 keys.

EnlargeIn order for the computer to boot from the USB stick, this must be supported by the BIOS. Make the appropriate settings after restarting the PC.

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Customize Windows with special tools

There are a few tools that specialize in customizing Windows installation media. NTlite is particularly easy to use. The tool enables the integration of updates and drivers as well as some adjustments to the Windows configuration. The free version of NTlite is free for private use. For $ 45, you can purchase the home version from, which can also remove more Windows components for a leaner installation and offer more options for integrating device drivers and programs.

EnlargeNTlite can be used to create customized Windows installation media that integrate tools and drivers, for example.