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How Do I Create a Bootable USB Thumb Drive from an ISO?

ISO files are disk images often used to distribute software. In years past, we burned them to CDs. As the ISOs themselves became larger, we’d burn them to DVDs instead. In either case, we would then boot from the CD or DVD to run whatever the software provided. A good example might be operating system installation DVDs.

More and more machines are coming without optical drives — that is, they don’t have the ability to read a CD or DVD, much less boot from it.

Fortunately, there are tools we can use to take an ISO that contains a bootable image and place it on a USB thumb drive from which you can boot.

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There are actually several tools, but one I’ve run across that seems to do the job simply and well is called Rufus.


Download and run Rufus directly from the Rufus website.

Rufus Main Window

Under “Device”, select the USB thumb drive you want used. If none appear, make sure you’ve inserted one and Windows recognizes its presence.

Under “Boot selection”, use the Select button to locate the .iso file you want to copy to this USB thumb drive.

In the example below, I’ve inserted an unlabeled USB thumb drive that appears as “E:”, and I’ve selected the file HBCD_PE_x64.iso (the most recent Hiren’s Boot CD), that I’d downloaded previously.

Rufus Selections

That’s all I needed to do. Click Start to begin the process.

You’ll get a warning.

Rufus Warning

This operation erases everything that’s currently on the USB flash drive and replaces it with the contents of the ISO. Make sure that’s what you want to do and click OK.

Exactly how long this takes will vary depending on the size of the ISO you’re writing, the speed of your hard disk, the speed of your flash drive, and whether you’re using a USB 2 or 3 interface.

After all is said and done, you have a bootable USB flash drive.

Hiren's Boot CD

Podcast audio


Video Narration

11 comments on “How Do I Create a Bootable USB Thumb Drive from an ISO?”

  1. Leo strikes again: right on point! Just what I’ve been looking for. Hence: Thank you Leo.

    No wonder I’ve been following Leo for at least a decade. Remember Buy Me A Latte? Buy Me a Beer? Never did, but bought some excallent books…

  2. You did not mention it the article but don’t you first have to check the BIOS to ensure that the USB drive is earlier in the sequence than the hard disk, so that the system will boot from your USB drive before booting from the internal hard drive?

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