How To Install Windows 11 From a USB

Windows 11 was officially announced in June, but it’s finally available for download. There are already some new devices with the operating system pre-installed, and more are coming soon.

If you have a compatible Windows 10 device, you can install Windows 11 now. The Windows 11 download page is live now, with Setup Assistant making it easy to get up and running.

That’s also where you’ll find the official ISO file. That’s the easiest way to transfer it to another USB stick or flash drive and install on as many eligible devices as you like.

Although it is officially supported by Microsoft, the process is still quite complicated. Here’s what you need to know.

Check if you have enough space

Before you continue, make sure you don’t run out of space at any stage. The Windows 11 ISO file is 5.1 GB in size, so you’ll need that spare space on the device the file is being downloaded to, whatever flash drive you’re using, and the target devices.

If this proves difficult, the tips in our guide to freeing up space in Windows 10 can help. If there are files you don’t need right away, you should back them up and then do a factory reset. You can then choose what you want back on your PC at a later date.

Download ISO file

Previously, the download process involved signing into a Microsoft account and signing up for the Windows Insider Program. Now it’s much simpler:

  1. Visit the official Windows 11 download page
  2. Under ‘Create Windows 11 installation media’ click ‘Download now’
    Windows 11 ISO file
  3. The Media Creation Tool will now download. Once done, double click to run it
  4. Follow the step-by-step instructions to download the ISO file
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If you need to keep any of your existing files and data, make sure you select this option. Once installed, this will run Windows 11 as if you just got the device out of the box.

However, the process of installing it from USB is a bit more complicated.

Transfer it to USB

The first stage is easy. The ISO file will appear in File Explorer (or Finder, if you’re on a Mac), just like any other download. Just plug in your USB stick or other flash drive and transfer it as usual – it’s a large file, so this may take a minute or two.

Once it’s on the USB, make sure you remove it before unplugging it.

Run Windows 11 from USB

This is where things get complicated. The USB stick you just used needs to be bootable to run Windows 11 once plugged in. Microsoft recommends using Rufus for this:

  1. Download and run the latest version of Rufus (3.15 at time of writing) for a device that also has Windows 11 downloaded
  2. Plug in the USB to which the ISO file will be mounted. Make sure it has at least 8GB free and all other files are deleted
  3. From the main Rufus window select the relevant USB under ‘Devices’
  4. Select ‘NTFS’ under ‘File System’ and ‘MBR’ under ‘Partition Scheme’
  5. To the right of ‘Boot Selection’ click ‘SELECT’ and select the ISO file
  6. Click ‘Start’ to begin the process – how long this takes depends on the speed of your USB stick
Image: Rufus

Once done, you now have a USB stick that can be used to cleanly install Windows 11 on any compatible device.

  1. Plug the USB stick into the target device
  2. Reboot the device
  3. Before the Windows logo appears, hold down the F8 key to enter Safe Mode
  4. From here, select ‘Use device’ and select the USB stick
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Your PC will now boot running the Windows 11 ISO file you downloaded. If not, you may need to disable Secure Boot in the BIOS settings.

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