3 ways to boot your Windows 10 PC from a USB flash drive

There are many situations in which you might want to boot your computer using a USB flash drive. Maybe because you need to install Windows on your PC or maybe because you want to try the latest version of your favorite Linux distribution. Whatever reasons you might have, here are three different ways to use a bootable USB flash drive to start your computer:

1. Use Windows 10's Settings to make your PC boot from a USB flash drive

Start by plugging in the bootable USB flash drive to a USB port on your computer. Then, open the Settings app and head to Update & Security.

Update & Security settings in Windows 10

Select Recovery on the left, and then scroll on the right side of the window until you find the Advanced startup section. In it, click or tap the Restart now button.

Advanced startup recovery options in Windows 10

Windows 10 restarts and then shows a screen where you can "Choose an option." Click or tap on "Use a device."

Choosing to use a device to start the PC

Next, you should see a list of all the devices that your computer can boot from, including the USB flash drive that you plugged in. Click or tap on it.

Selecting the USB flash drive from which the PC should boot

Your computer then restarts and boots from the USB flash drive that you chose.

2. Use the Boot Menu to select the USB flash drive as the first boot option

If you are lucky, then all that you must do to boot from a USB flash drive, regardless of the operating system installed on your PC, is choose the USB flash drive from the Boot Menu of your BIOS. Make sure that your USB flash drive is bootable and then plug it into any USB port on your computer.

Next, power on your computer (or restart it if it was on). Immediately after powering it on, when the BIOS/UEFI screen appears, access the Boot Menu by pressing the right key(s) for it. Most PC manufacturers use the F8, F9, F10 or F11 keys for that, and many computers show the Boot Menu key(s) right after you power them on. However, if you cannot identify the right one, check the documentation for your computer's motherboard, or device manufacturer. The Boot Menu access key(s) should be mentioned in their user manuals.

Once the Boot Menu appears on your screen, use it to select the USB flash drive from which you want to boot and press Enter on your keyboard. Note that the USB flash drive can bear different names depending on what the PC or motherboard manufacturer wanted. Some list it as Removable Device, some as USB-HDD and so on.

Selecting to boot from a USB flash drive, in the Boot Menu

Once you have pressed Enter, the computer should boot from the USB flash drive.

3. Use the BIOS/UEFI to change the boot devices order and move the USB flash drive to the top of the list

Start by accessing your BIOS/UEFI. You should be able to do that by pressing the right key (combination) immediately after you power on your PC. Although the manufacturer of your PC or motherboard can choose whatever key it wants you to press, commonly used keys include Delete, F1, F2, F10, and F12. If none of these works, you can find the right key to press in the manual of your PC or motherboard.

If your PC has UEFI (a newer type of BIOS), it may boot so fast that you do not have time to press any key to access it. In such a situation, follow the steps described here: How to access the UEFI BIOS Firmware on Windows tablets, laptops and convertibles.

Once you have entered the BIOS/UEFI, browse through its configuration options until you find a page called Boot or similar. There you should see the boot order used by your computer. In this list, you must choose the USB flash drive to be the first device used for booting. Remember that the USB option can be named differently on your PC: check for Removable Devices, USB-HDD or similar names. Moving the USB flash drive to the top of the boot list is usually done using the keyboard keys +, -, F5 or F6. Your BIOS/UEFI should display some helpful information about this topic.

Moving the USB flash drive to the top of the boot order list

Once you have chosen the USB flash drive as the first boot option, save your settings (usually done by pressing F10 on your keyboard) and Exit BIOS/UEFI. Your computer should restart and then automatically boot from the USB flash drive.

Saving the settings in BIOS/UEFI

IMPORTANT: If your computer uses UEFI, you might not be able to make the previous settings. In that case, you must first disable (temporarily) the Secure Boot option. This option can also have different names depending on what the manufacturer wanted: Legacy Boot or Legacy Support, CSM or Launch CSM, and so on. Choose to enable the options that start with Legacy or which have CSM in their names.

Which is your favorite method to boot from a USB flash drive?

Now you know three different ways to use a USB flash drive to boot your computer. Which of them is your favorite? Do you use the options built into Windows 10, or do you prefer to do it from BIOS/UEFI? Did you manage to boot your PC from a USB drive? If you did not, what went wrong? Comment below and let's discuss.