Creating a Windows 11 installation drive takes some work. Here’s what you need to know

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It is always a good idea to have a backup of your current operating system on a USB drive. In case. We show you how to create one for Windows 11.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Microsoft recently released Windows 11 as part of its Insider program, allowing anyone with a compatible PC to install and test one of the biggest Windows updates we’ve seen in years. If you hesitate to test it, here is how you can check if your pc will run it, and then install it. However, part of testing an unfinished operating system is encountering issues and bugs. Sometimes these issues may require you to reinstall Windows 11.

An easy way to do this is to use a USB install drive, which contains a copy of Windows 11. Microsoft is expected to release Windows 11 later this year, maybe in October, but until then it should be seen as a constant work in progress. With the update safely stored on a flash drive, you can reinstall it at any time, if the issues become severe enough that your only option is to reinstall the update.

You can also use a USB drive to make it easier to install Windows 11 on multiple computers or use it to quickly set up a virtual machine to make testing possible without risking your personal data.

Microsoft has yet to update its media creation tool, or release the official ISO images required to create a bootable drive. I have contacted the company regarding the schedule for an official release and will update this message when I have a response.

To create a Windows 11 install drive, you’ll need an empty 8GB USB drive, a Windows PC, and a few hours of your time. You can download the system image using a Linux or Mac computer using the same website that we describe below, but we’ll focus on using a PC for this guide. Below are the steps you will need to follow.


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A few tips before you start

Microsoft has not officially released the ISO for Windows 11 on the Insider site, as is currently the case for Windows 10. If you follow the steps below, we’ll walk you through downloading Windows 11 at using a third-party website. Before downloading any software from a third party site, I recommend that you do some research to see if it is reliable or if there are any red flags.

If you don’t feel comfortable downloading software, especially a full operating system, from a third party, I suggest you wait for Microsoft to officially release ISO images and / or tools.

uup-dump-windows-11

Until Microsoft provides an official download link for Windows 11 ISO, it’s as good as it gets.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani / CNET

Where to download Windows 11 ISO

To download all the necessary files that you will need to create your USB drive, use your PC to visit UUP Dump. Under the heading Quick options look for the line that reads Latest version of the development channel. (Currently, Windows 11 is only available as an Insider Preview in the Dev Channel.)

If you have an Intel PC, click the x64 button. If you have an Arm-based Windows computer, such as the Surface Pro X, you will need to click the arm64 button.

On the next screen, click Cumulative Update for Windows 11 (10.0.22000.65) (or whatever the current build number was at the time). Select your language, then click following. Choose which edition of Windows 11 you want to download – I chose Home because that’s what most of my PCs run. Then click following.

Then you will see a long list of options. I left them alone, but make sure you have Download and convert to ISO selected with a check mark next to Include updates. Finally, click Create a download package.

b262b5a1-6452-4ac4-a475-ffbb9337fe51-1-105-c

Make sure you click “More Info” before “Run Anyway”.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani / CNET

When the download is complete, locate the ZIP file in your Downloads folder. Right click on it, select Extract all, and choose an easy-to-remember location to save all files. I created a folder on my desktop named “Windows11ISO”. The lack of spaces in the folder name is important because the download tool will not work if there are spaces in the name.

Go to where you extracted the files and locate a file named uup_download_windows and double click on it. You may see a pop-up informing you that Windows has blocked the file from running, but in this case, we want to run the file. To do this, click on More information > Run anyway.

A Command Prompt window will open, detailing the current step and progress of the download process.

The download will take some time, especially if you have a slow internet connection. A bunch of random text will scroll in the window as the command does its job, sometimes with red text saying “error”. Don’t worry, let it finish.

UUP dump success

Processing the download and turning it into ISO is the longest part of this whole process.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani / CNET

If an error is preventing the command from doing its job, which has happened to me, you will see text telling you that there was an error, as well as press any key to continue. Once you press a key, the window closes. I ran the uup_download_windows file a second time and it was completed successfully.

All in all, it took me over two hours to download the files and create the ISO image on a Surface Pro X, but on a Surface Laptop 4, the whole process took less than an hour. You can either step away from your computer until it’s finished, or get a head start on the next step by downloading and installing Rufus, the program we’ll be using to flash the ISO to a computer. USB key.

You will know the download is complete and all files are processed when you see Press 0 to exit at the bottom of the command prompt window.

Once the ISO is complete, this is what Rufus should look like before flashing Windows 11 to your USB drive.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani / CNET

How to flash Windows 11 to your USB drive

To turn a standard USB drive into an installation drive, you will need to use a program called Rufus. This is the same application that Microsoft itself uses in its guide to create a Windows 10 boot drive. Visit the company’s website to download and install Rufus, which should only take a few seconds. It’s a small program.

After UUP Dump finishes downloading Windows 11 and you press 0 to exit the command prompt, plug in your USB drive and open Rufus. Select your USB key using the Apparatus scrolling menu. Remember that everything on your USB drive will be erased during this process. So make sure it’s empty and / or that you have everything you need.

Under Start selection to select Disc or ISO image then click on the text that reads TO SELECT and choose the ISO file you created in the previous step.

There is a section in Rufus titled Image option with several different settings – leave everything as default. The same can be said for the format options, unless you want to change the name of the USB drive to something like “Installing Windows 11” or the same way.

Click on Start when you are all options are set. You will, again, have to wait for the program to do its job, but this should be a much faster process than downloading and creating the ISO. It took a little over 15 minutes on a Surface Pro X for me.

Windows 11 update on a laptop

Now you can easily install Windows 11.

Sarah Tew / CNET

What to do with a Windows 11 install drive

Once Rufus is done, you can remove the USB drive from your PC and keep it in a safe place in case you need to reinstall Windows 11 on your PC, or you can plug it into another PC and use it. to install Windows 11 by opening the drive and double-clicking the setup.exe drop off. A few seconds later, a Windows 11 installation screen will appear, guiding you through the process.

Alternatively, you can try using the USB stick as a bootable installation drive. However, this is where things get even more complicated due to the fact that Windows 11 requires Secure Boot and the USB drive we just created is not compatible with this feature. I suggest waiting for Microsoft to release an official tool, but if you insist, I have found a guide that walks you through the additional steps of creating a bootable USB drive compatible with Secure Boot on Tom’s Hardware from step 11.

Curious about Windows 11? We have your back. There is a big the redesign of the interface makes its debut which includes a centered Start menu, but don’t worry, you can move it to the left corner if you want. And, finally, if you’ve ever wanted to use Android apps on your PC, well, Microsoft makes it possible.


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