How to Run Windows 10 From a USB Drive
You run Windows 10 on your own computer, but now you're using another PC outfitted with an older operating system. If you prefer to use the newest version of Windows, though, there's a way to run Windows 10 directly through a USB drive.
You'll need a USB flash drive with at least 16GB of free space, but preferably 32GB. You'll also need a license to activate Windows 10 on the USB drive. That means you have to either purchase one or use an existing one that is associated with your digital ID.
You can then use a Windows USB utility to set up the USB drive with Windows 10. Once you're done, you'll be able to boot up off the drive to launch Windows 10.
The major downside of booting from a USB drive is that Windows 10 will run slower than it does off your hard drive. But if you're in a pinch you can at least work with the OS and access different apps this way.
Microsoft once offered its own tool called Windows to Go, which could generate a bootable Windows USB drive with the Enterprise and Education versions of Windows 10. However, the company has stopped development on that program and no longer updates it.
Instead, you can turn to two utility programs, WinToUSB and Rufus. These tools can create a bootable drive from any version of the operating system and on any type of USB drive.
Running Windows 10 From a USB Drive
If you want to run Windows from a USB, the first step is to sign into your current Windows 10 computer and create a Windows 10 ISO file that will be used to install the operating system onto the drive.
To do this, browse to the Download Windows 10 website. This site offers the latest edition of Windows 10, which at this point is the Windows 10 November 2019 Update, or Windows 10 version 1909.
Click the Download tool now button, then double-click the downloaded MediaCreationTool.exe file to install the program. At the first screen for Applicable notices and license terms, click the Access button. Then click the Create installation media (USB flash drive, DVD, or ISO file) for another PC button and hit Next.
At the Select language, architecture, and edition screen, confirm that all of the options are correct and then click Next.
You'll then need to choose what media you want to use. Given the option between a USB flash drive and an ISO file, click ISO file. Then click Next.
Choose a location on your hard drive to store the Windows.iso file and click Save. Windows 10 will then generate the necessary ISO file. When the process is done, click Finish.
Next, it's time to enlist the aid of a third-party Windows USB program. Let's kick things off with WinToUSB. This program comes in three flavors: Free, Professional, and Enterprise.
Start with the free version to see if you like it, but be aware that the freebie poses certain limitations. Most notably, you can create an installation of Windows 10 Home but not Professional or Enterprise.
If you need either of these editions, the Professional version of WinToUSB costs $29.95, while the Enterprise option will run you $199.95. Download and install the WinToUSB software from the dedicated website.