Do you need installation media to reinstall Windows? Here’s how to create a bootable ISO CD, USB, or DVD from scratch!
Have you ever formatted a hard drive, but found that your computer doesn’t have a DVD or CD drive? Perhaps you think that the computer can boot from the USB drive, but the BIOS version does not allow it?
Installing a bootable version of Windows on DVD and USB drives can be a real life saver. Today, you will learn how to create a bootable version of Windows ISO on CD, DVD, and USB.
What’s an ISO?
Any file ending in .iso is an exact copy of the disk. It is a virtual copy of a CD or DVD, with the same file structure and the same data. The ISO copy is called an “image” of the original. The acronym ISO comes from the name of the organization responsible for the development of industry standards: the International Organization for Standardization.
Yes, it should be IOS, but they think ISO is better in all languages, because ISO is derived from the Greek isos, which means “equal”.
In this case, the ISO is a perfect copy of the original Windows CD or DVD.
What Does Bootable Mean?
Any medium, whether it is a hard drive, a USB flash drive, a CD or a DVD, as long as you can use it to start the computer, you can start it. In this case, we are creating portable media that boot from a USB drive or disk, rather than a computer’s hard drive. When installing Windows, the media you use must be bootable.
How to Make a Windows 10 Bootable ISO
By far the easiest way to create a Windows 10 bootable media is to use the Windows Media Creation Tool. The software can be downloaded for free from Microsoft.
The Windows Media Creation tool has the following features:
- Update the PC to Windows 10.
- Create a Windows 10 bootable USB stick.
- Download a Windows 10 ISO file to your computer.
The first two options in the list require you to just follow the instructions of the tool, you don’t need to deal with ISO files at all.
You can choose to download the 64-bit version, the 32-bit version, or both. There is also an option to use the recommended options for this PC. If you don’t know which one you need, use this setting.
For a 32-bit Windows installation, 4 GB is the smallest USB memory available. For 64-bit, you need at least 8GB. It is recommended to use something larger if possible. Keep in mind that this will erase the contents of the USB drive, so make sure to back up any data you want to keep first.
Download: Windows 10 Media Creation Tool for Windows
Where to Download a Windows 7 ISO
You download the Windows 7 ISO directly from Microsoft, but you need a 25-character product key to start the download. You can find your Windows Product Key through your original installation media or email from Microsoft at the time of your initial purchase.
Note that for this method to work, you cannot use an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) key. It must be from the Windows installation disc or a previously downloaded ISO purchased from Microsoft.
What If I’ve Forgotten My Product Key?
After purchasing Windows, you will receive a 25-character product key or digital license. You can install the operating system without any of them, but you will not be able to activate it.
If you lose your product key, you can find it again in a variety of ways. There is a free version of Magical Jelly Bean KeyFinder, which will display your CD key as shown above.
Alternatively, you can follow the advice provided by Microsoft on finding your product key.
Download: Jelly Bean KeyFinder for Windows (Free)
Where to Download a Windows 8.1 ISO
Windows 8.1 can still be downloaded from Microsoft. A product key is not required to obtain an ISO, but you will need it the first time you try to install it.
Download: Windows 8.1 ISO
How to Make a Bootable USB Flash Drive
The simplest way to create a bootable USB drive is with Rufus. Download, and open it by right clicking on it and selecting Run As Administrator.
Using Rufus takes four simple steps:
- Select your USB drive from the Device dropdown menu.
- Click Select by the Boot selection drop down and locate your Windows ISO file.
- Give your USB drive a descriptive title in the Volume Label text box.
- Click Start.
Rufus offers you the option to use the GPT file system for the UEFI system and MBR for the BIOS system. Rufus can detect which system you have and will usually choose the one that is right for you. If you don’t know what kind of system you have, let Rufus choose it for you!
Related: How to Delete Old Boot Menu Options on Windows 10
There are other tools to make a bootable USB, if Rufus isn’t for you, one of them will! You can also create a USB installation disc for Windows without additional software.
How to Make a Bootable DVD
There are several programs that can burn ISO to DVD and make it bootable. Burnaware is easy to use and provides a free version for home use.
To create a bootable DVD, open Burnaware and click on Burn ISO. Click Browse and locate your Windows ISO file. Insert a DVD and click Burn.
Alternatively, you can use Window’s native ISO burner. Right-click on your ISO file and select Burn disc image.
This will turn on the local recorder. It couldn’t be easier to use, just import the DVD and hit burn!
Please note that regardless of which method you choose, due to the small capacity, the DVD is only suitable for 32-bit Windows installations. It is strongly recommended to use the USB installation instead.
Download: Burnaware for Windows 10 (Free)
You Now Have a Bootable Version of Windows In Your Pocket
You now have a bootable version of Windows on your USB or pocket DVD. To use it, you need to change your computer’s boot sequence and start your PC from the selected drive. This will start the Windows installation wizard and you will be able to install Windows on your PC.
Related: How to Create a Bootable USB Drive From Your Windows CD