Windows 10 tip: Use an ISO file to create a bootable USB flash drive

Your emergency repair kit should include a recovery drive that contains the installation files for the latest Windows 10 version. Here's how to create this indispensable tool quickly and easily.

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Every time Microsoft releases a new feature update for Windows 10, you should build a new recovery drive containing the setup files for that update. You can use that drive to repair a damaged installation or to reinstall Windows on a new PC.

You can use the Media Creation Tool to create a bootable USB flash drive, as I describe in my installation FAQ. But I recommend a slightly different approach: Use the option to download the Windows 10 installer as an ISO file, and then use that file to make bootable installation media.

Double-click to open the ISO file as a virtual drive in File Explorer, then drag its contents to your recovery drive.


After the download is complete, you can double-click the ISO file to mount it as a virtual DVD drive and run Setup directly from the mounted drive. From that same File Explorer window, you can also create bookable Windows 10 installation media on a USB flash drive.

In addition to the ISO file, you also need a USB flash drive at least 8 GB in size. This process will delete all data on the USB drive, so back up any important files before proceeding. Then follow these steps:

Plug the USB flash drive into your PC and use the Recovery Media Creator tool create Windows 10 recovery drive. (The easiest way to find this tool is to type Create a recovery drive in the search box on the taskbar, then click the shortcut from the search results. For full details, see "Windows 10 tip: Create a recovery drive.")

Open File Explorer and double-click the recovery drive you just created to open its contents in a window.

Open a second File Explorer window, locate the Windows 10 ISO file you downloaded, and double-click to mount it as a virtual drive.

Position the two File Explorer windows side by side and drag the full contents of the mounted drive to your USB flash drive. Choose the option to overwrite all existing files.

Label the drive (including the version number) and keep it in a safe place.

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