Bootable USB : How to Make it Happen on Various Systems

Bootable USB drive is a USB drive consisting of an “image” of a bootable operating system. Images are special files generally of ISO, IMG, and DMG file types which contain all of the information from a bootable CD/DVD.

This is useful especially if we do not have a CD/DVD-ROM drive!

Bootable USB are most commonly used to install or repair operating systems such as Windows or Linux. It can also be used in starting apps from outside of the operating system. Let’s check out how to make the most common types of bootable USB flash drives using different methods.

How to Make Bootable USB : Methods

  • Bootable USB from an Image on Windows
  • Bootable USB from an Image on a Mac
  • Windows 10 Recovery Drive
  • Bootable Installer for a Mac

Bootable Drive from an Image on Windows

Download or create an image file. You must have an image file generally ending in .ISO or IMG which you wish to turn into a bootable USB drive, then it is great!

Download Rufus from https://rufus.ie. Rufus is a free, lightweight tool that is recommended widely by developers and specialists across the internet. To download it, scroll down the page given above and click the first link under the “Download” header. It will be the latest version of the tool. In case, download doesn’t start automatically, tap Save to start it.

Double-click the downloaded file to run Rufus. It is the file called rufus-3.11.exe in default Download folder. You have to tap Yes when prompted to open the file.

Insert USB flash drive. Ensure to use a drive that is large enough to accommodate the size of image file. In case, you already have files on the drive, back them up before continuing. This process will erase everything on it!

Select USB drive from the “Device” menu. It is placed at the top of the Rufus window.

Select Disk or ISO image from the “Boot selection” menu.

Select image file. Select button to the right of the checkmark, navigate to and press ISO or IMG file, and Tap Open. Update the “Volume label” field to match ISO. If you want to give the drive another name, replace the text with anything you want to.

Click Start to create the drive. Rufus will copy the image file to the drive, to make the drive bootable when download is completed. When the drive is ready, press Close at the bottom-right to exit Rufus.

Creating a Bootable Drive from an Image on a Mac

Download an image file. You will require a bootable image to create a bootable USB flash drive. Image files generally end with .ISO, .IMG, or .DMG. If you already have an image file you wish to turn into a bootable USB drive, you’re good to go!

Download Etcher from https://www.balena.io/etcher. Etcher is a free, widely-recommended tool that allows to create bootable USB flash drives from image files on Mac. Press the Etcher for MacOS option below the animation to download installer.

Insert a USB flash drive. USB flash drive should plug into one of the rectangular or oval USB or USB-C ports on computer’s housing. Traditional flash drives only fit one way. Do not force fit the drive. it will delete everything on flash drive. Back up files so no to lose any data. The flash drive should be at least 16 GB to accommodate operating system files.

Open Etcher on your Mac. Once the installer is downloaded, double-tap the file but possibly with a different version number). You can either double-tap the Etcher icon to run the application, or drag it to the Applications folder to install it.

Select the image file. ISO, IMG, or DMG file create the bootable USB drive. It will be placed in Downloads folder in case you downloaded the image file.

Select flash drive. If the drive is already selected and it’s not the right one, click Change to select the correct one now.

Press Flash to create the bootable USB drive. Etcher will copy the image file to flash drive, that makes it bootable. You will see a success message after completion.

Click Eject if you see a disk error. If you see an error that says “The disk you inserted was not readable by this computer,” Just tap Eject instead of “Initialize,” and then unplug the drive.

Creating a Windows 10 Recovery Drive

Insert a USB drive that’s 16 GB or larger. Having a bootable Windows recovery drive gives you access to troubleshooting tools If you ever experience problems booting into Windows 10, It may allow to reinstall Windows. You won’t be able to use recovery drive for other things, like file storage after making it a bootable recovery drive. Creating a recovery drive will delete files that were present on the drive already. If there’s data you don’t wish to lose, back it up now.

Open the Start menu and type create a recovery drive. A list of search results will come up.
When unable to see search bar after clicking the Start menu, tap the circle or magnifying glass to its right.

Tap Create a recovery drive in the search results. Press Yes to start the application.

See box beside “Back up system files to the recovery drive” and tap Next. Option gets selected by default, but it’s a good idea to ensure. Windows will scan for USB drive.

Select USB drive and tap Next. A warning message will appear, letting you understand that everything will be erased if process continued.

Review the warning message and tap Create. The process will reformat the USB drive and installs the Windows recovery media.

Tap Finish to close window. Bootable Windows 10 recovery drive is now ready for use.

Creating a Bootable Installer for a Mac

Download macOS. You can use the method to create the drive in case you are able to install macOS from a USB drive. Everything required to upgrade or reinstall macOS is built into the computer. But if you required to install macOS on multiple computers, a USB drive will be helpful. MacOS Catalina, Mojave, and High Sierra can all be downloaded from the Mac App Store. If the installer runs automatically, close the window.

Insert a USB flash drive. Flash drive should plug into one of the rectangular or oval USB or USB-C ports on Mac’s housing. Traditional flash drives only fit one way, so don’t force the drive if it doesn’t fit. The drive should be at least 12 GB and formatted as Mac OS Extended.

Open a Terminal window. You’ll find the Terminal app in the Applications folder under Utilities.

Enter the command for your version of macOS. Type or paste the appropriate command for operating system, and then press the Return key to run it:

  • Catalina: sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Catalina.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia –volume /Volumes/MyVolume
  • Mojave: sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Mojave.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia –volume /Volumes/MyVolume
  • High Sierra: sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ High\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia –volume /Volumes/MyVolume

Enter your administrator password and press ⏎ Return. It runs command and prompts to confirm.

Press the key to confirm and then tap ⏎ Return. It will create an image of the installation files on the USB drive. You will get the word “Done” and return to the prompt while the process is complete which means to eject the drive and use it to boot one or another Mac.

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