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Installing Windows 10 on a USB drive with Microsoft’s Media Creation Tool

Creating a USB thumb drive loaded with Windows 10 installation media is very easy thanks to Microsoft’s Media Creation Tool. With a prepared USB drive you can install the latest version of Windows on a new PC or have an install drive at the ready should your current rig start to malfunction.

If you’ve never used the Media Creation Tool, however, even this simple process might be a little overwhelming. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a Windows 10 USB drive with the Media Creation Tool.

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The first thing you need to do is go to Microsoft’s dedicated website for Windows 10 downloads, and click Download tool now to grab the Media Creation Tool. Now would also be a good time to insert the USB drive you want to use as your installation media. It needs to be at least 5GB in size (you’ll see “4GB” in the tool, but Microsoft confirmed the larger number), and make sure you know which drive letter it’s been assigned (D, E, F, etc.) once you plug it in.

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Ian Paul/IDG

Once the tool is downloaded, double-click the MediaCreationTool.exe file to launch it. After clicking through the licensing agreement, you’ll have the option either to upgrade your current PC or create installation media. We want the latter, so select the radio button labeled Create installation media (USB flash drive, DVD, or ISO file) for another PC and click Next.

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Ian Paul/IDG

By default, the Media Creation Tool will download the same version of Windows that’s on the PC you’re currently using. If that’s fine, click Next.

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Ian Paul/IDG

If you need to change anything such as the default language, edition of Windows 10 (Home or Pro), or the architecture (32- or 64-bit), deselect the check box labeled Use the recommended options for this PC. The change most users will likely need to make is to the architecture. If you try to upgrade a 32-bit PC with a 64-bit version of Windows, for example, it won’t work. Once you’ve made the necessary changes, click Next

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Ian Paul/IDG

Now you have to decide whether you want to create installation media or just download an ISO file. We want to create a USB flash drive, so select that radio button and click Next.

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Ian Paul/IDG

On the next screen, you’ll be prompted to choose the USB drive you want to use. Make sure you know the correct drive letter as mentioned earlier. Select it so it’s highlighted (the “D” drive is selected in the case pictured here), and click Next.

Now the Media Creation Tool will begin downloading Windows 10 to your PC. Once it’s downloaded the tool will then put Windows 10 on the USB drive. After that’s done, your drive will be ready. Next click Finish, let the tool clean up, and unplug your USB drive.

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