5 Free Tools to Create Bootable USB on Windows 11 – Ranjan.info

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How often do your parents and coworkers complain about their slow computers? “Reinstall Windows!” Usually the answer is yes, but their computer's lack of a CD/DVD drive often throws everyone off. So, for the past few years, I have always had a bootable USB drive to help those people. Now is the time that every PC owner needs a bootable USB to keep their machine and data safe. But the barrage of free and paid software for creating a bootable USB drive can be confusing. So, I'm laying out the best free tools I've used over the past decade and more.

Why should you create a bootable USB from an ISO image?

Typically, you will need a CD or DVD to install, reinstall, or repair an operating system on a computer. Now that CD/DVD drives are rare, those old CDs/DVDs barely work with Windows or other OSs. But instead of creating (or burning) another CD/DVD after downloading an ISO file of an operating system, a bootable USB seems like a blessing. Mainly for these reasons:

  • Bootable USBs are small, so they are easy to carry, and physical scratches do not affect the files.
  • It works easily with USB ports on computers and does not require any special hardware.
  • Provide faster read and write speeds than CD/DVD.
  • Reusable (and rewritable) with the latest ISO files.

Besides losing the bootable USB, one of the hardest challenges of using it is having to tamper with the computer's BIOS to adjust the boot order. This means, you have to instruct the computer to use the bootable USB with the operating system before you can load the OS from your computer. This allows the recovery and rescue process to begin quickly. Downloading OS files while installing or reinstalling it can be nerve-wracking as a temporary connection may hinder the process. This is why a bootable USB with offline OS installation files is more reliable than an old, scratched CD/DVD.

Also read: Back up Windows 11 to the cloud before you restore it

To successfully create a bootable USB on Windows 11, I generally follow these three rules:

  1. The USB drive takes up at least 8GB of free storage.
  2. The USB drive is in FAT32 format.
  3. Verify whether the ISO file of the OS is completely downloaded or not.

Over the years, I found these to be the best software to create a bootable USB from ISO image on Windows 11:

1. Rufus

Works on: windows
Supports: windows, linux

Rufus has always been my favorite tool for creating bootable USBs for Windows and Linux operating systems. Although it has a complicated looking interface, I like the dedicated format options section for formatting a USB drive. Advanced formatting options also help detect bad blocks on a USB drive, which is helpful if you're using a real drive. It also allows choosing a MBR (for older Windows PCs) or GPT (for newer Windows PCs) Appropriate partition scheme for the target computer. You can also use it to flash BIOS, DOS-based firmware, or other system-level utilities to a USB drive.

download rufus

2. Balaena Etcher

Works on: Windows, Linux, MacOS
Supports: windows, linux

When I want to quickly create a bootable USB, Balena Etcher is my choice. Mostly, since it works on macOS. Its beautiful user interface is easy to understand and use. Just a few clicks are needed to instantly flash the ISO file on the USB drive. You can also add a URL to download an ISO or clone an existing drive. However, it will not warn you or prompt you if the USB drive is not in FAT32 format. Also, there is no option to format or modify partitions on USB storage. Still, the best thing about Etcher is that it has a 32-bit installer for older Windows and portable versions. But I don't like the fact that I need to install it to use it.

Download Balena Etcher

3. UNetbootin

Works on: Windows, Linux, MacOS
Supports: windows, linux

UNetbootin is designed to create bootable live Linux USBs, but it also works wonderfully with Windows ISOs. What has stuck with me is the same interface that has remained constant over the years. Like Etcher, it doesn't prompt if your USB drive is not in FAT32 format. I have spent hours flashing ISOs to USB drives with NTFS or AFPS formats. While the support for flashing ISOs to a hard drive is nice, I believe it is harder to format an entire drive to FAT32. The nice thing is that Unetbootin also lets me flash specific system utilities to a USB drive, such as Partition Magic, SystemRescueCD, Ophcrack, etc., on a USB drive.

download unetbootin

4. Windows Media Creation Tool

Works on: windows
Supports: windows

As the name suggests, the media creation tool only supports Windows operating systems. By default, an Internet connection is required to download Windows OS files to create a bootable USB or ISO file. Of course, I have to flash it to a compatible USB to make it bootable. Sadly, even this tool won't let me format or change the file partitions of the USB drive. A word of advice – when creating a Windows 11 bootable USB, use a drive with at least 8GB of storage space to install it on a computer with a 64-bit processor.

Download Windows Media Creation Tool

5. Yumi

Works on: windows
Supports: windows, linux

After Rufus, Yumi is my favorite tool, and I use it occasionally. Yumi lets me create Multibot USB drives to pack more than one operating system and other devices. Using a YUMI with a 128GB portable SSD, I use it like a Swiss army knife to troubleshoot friends' computers and hard drives. So, you can create a powerful bootable USB drive with multiple operating systems, antivirus tools, system tools, and anonymous browsers. The only quirk is that Yumi's interface is dated and feels like you're installing a software every time.

download yumi

Apart from these five, ventoy Quite popular because it works with different types of image files of operating systems. However, I prefer the simplicity of the above tools and they have served me well so far.

A bootable USB saves the day

I am no longer reinstalling Windows 11 on my PC because I have a bootable USB. And, it saves a lot of time when I need to reinstall or repair Windows 11 on my relatives, family or friends' computers. Of course, I have to remake a new one after Major Windows Update – the last one was 23H2, With a bootable USB, you can speed up the repair or reinstall process to save your or someone else's computer.

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By Ranjan