A bootable Windows 10 installer is essential for DIY enthusiasts or users who want to keep a backup that will allow them to do a clean install or system repair. Fortunately, Microsoft made it a lot easier to do so—all you need is a flash drive. So, what size of flash drive do you really need for a bootable Windows 10 installer?
You need a 4GB or 8GB flash drive for a Windows 10 installation, depending on the version compatible with your computer. If your PC uses a 32-bit system, you can create a Windows 10 installer using a 4GB flash drive. However, if you have a 64-bit system, you’ll need an 8GB flash drive.
In this article, I’ll talk about everything you need to know about bootable Windows 10 flash drives. I’ll also answer some questions to help you create an installer, pick the correct Windows 10 version and edition, and some essential information you need to consider before installing Windows 10 on your PC.
What’s the Smallest Flash Drive You Can Use To Install Windows 10?
Theoretically, the smallest flash drive you can use to install Windows 10 is 4GB. This space will be enough for you to have the 32-bit installer and use it on your PC for a clean install or system repair.
However, it’s unlikely that your computer is still running on 32-bit because most consumer products are already using a 64-bit system. Since there’s a decent chance that you’ll need a 64-bit version, you’ll need an 8GB flash drive to create a bootable installer.
Regardless of your computer’s system architecture, an 8GB flash drive would be a better option. Flash drives are so cheap that the difference in price between a 4GB and an 8GB may not even affect your decision. Although you won’t need the entire 8GB for the installer, it’s still the best option for Windows 10.
Which Windows 10 Version Should You Use?
Computers that use a 32-bit system are still everywhere: in schools, offices, and other businesses that don’t need to upgrade their system architecture to 64-bit. It will also be difficult to determine just by looking at and using a computer whether it’s using a 32-bit or 64-bit architecture.
Most apps with 32-bit versions will work fine on 64-bit computers. That’s why most users won’t realize the type of architecture that their device uses.
The only time most people figure it out is when they accidentally install the 64-bit version of an application on a 32-bit computer, which won’t work. 32-bit versions of any application are primarily for legacy support to keep older systems running properly.
How to Know if Your Windows 10 is 32-bit or 64-bit
To be sure about the version you need for your computer, you’ll have to check System Information. You can search for it inside Windows 10 or on the internet.
If you already have Windows 10 installed on your computer, it’ll be easy to search for your system type. Here’s how you can do it:
- Go to the Windows Search Box and type in System Information.
- This will open a new window with all the information about your computer.
- Look for an item called System Type.
- If your computer runs on a 64-bit system, the value for this item is x64-based PC. If you’re using a 32-bit computer, the value is x86-based PC.
How to Know Your System Type Without Windows 10
It can be a bit tricky to look for a computer’s system type without Windows 10, but it’s still possible. The easiest way will be to look for your processor’s architecture type on its box, in case you still have it with you.
Another way to find the system type of your computer is through the BIOS. Some motherboards will provide you with all the information you need about your computer’s internal peripherals. To open the BIOS, simply restart your computer and use the hotkey for BIOS while it’s booting up.
Motherboard manufacturers assign different hotkeys for their BIOS, but the most common ones are Escape (Esc), F1, F2, F10, and Delete (Del).
If your BIOS doesn’t have this option, then a surefire way to find your computer’s system type is to search for your processor on the internet and look at its specifications.
How To Create a Bootable Windows 10 Flash Drive Installer
Now that you know your computer’s system type and already have a USB flash drive with enough space, it’s time to create a bootable Windows 10 installer.
Fortunately, Microsoft made it easy for everyone to have their bootable installer. You can get the Windows download tool here.
Remember, before you open the Windows download tool, make sure that your flash drive doesn’t contain important files. The setup wizard will reformat your flash drive during the creation of your installer, so you will lose all of your files—if there are any—that are not related to the Windows 10 installer.
Once you have the download tool and flash drive ready, run the file on your computer, and it will start a setup wizard that will guide you through creating your bootable Windows 10 installer.
Take note that this wizard will ask you to choose the edition you want to install and the architecture type of the computer where you want to install Windows 10.
It will take a few minutes for the process to complete, but it shouldn’t take much effort. If you need a visual aid to make it easier for you to create a bootable Windows 10 installer, here’s a video from Tech Insider that goes through that process step-by-step:
Different Windows 10 Editions: Which One’s Best for You?
Aside from the different Windows 10 versions, you also need to determine the edition you want to use. There are a lot of Windows 10 editions that you can choose from, but realistically, only one of them will be relevant to most users.
Here are the different editions that you can choose from:
- Windows 10 Home: This edition is sufficient for most users. It has all the features you’ll need for everyday computing and is cheaper than the Pro edition.
- Windows 10 Home N/KN: This is a special edition that is similar to Home. The only difference is that it doesn’t come with multimedia apps pre-installed. However, if your computer is not from Europe (N) or Korea (KN), you don’t need to install this edition.
- Windows 10 Pro: This edition is for advanced users, professionals, and businesses. It’s basically Windows 10 Home with added tools for professionals, such as BitLocker and Remote Desktop. It can be tempting to install the Pro edition, but these added tools won’t be helpful for most users. Plus, the license is a bit more expensive compared to Home.
- Windows 10 Pro N/KN: Similar to the Home N/KN edition, the Windows 10 Pro N/KN doesn’t have multimedia apps pre-installed.
Other Windows 10 Editions
You probably have heard about different Windows 10 editions that I didn’t discuss. In fact, some of them are in the options you’ve given when installing Windows 10 on a computer. However, it’s likely that you won’t have access to their licenses or can’t really use the additional features they have.
- Windows 10 Education: You can’t buy this edition or get a license for it. It’s an exclusive edition for schools, giving them a more affordable version of Windows that they can install on several computers within the campus.
- Windows 10 Enterprise: Consumers can’t buy this edition or get a license for it. The Enterprise edition includes all the Pro edition features, with added features for IT admins to remotely manage an employee’s computer.
- Windows 10 IoT: A lesser-known, stripped-down Windows 10 edition. The primary purpose of the IoT edition is to run on low-powered devices. Instead of running the entire Windows 10, it will boot to a default app, significantly reducing the resources needed to run it.
Reasons Why You Need To Keep a Windows 10 Installer
Once you’ve installed Windows 10 on your computer, it can be tempting to delete the file or get rid of the flash drive. After all, you won’t need to do a clean install regularly, right? Well, that’s a good point, but there are a few reasons why you may want to keep a Windows 10 installer accessible:
- Repairing your current Windows: When you update a driver, which you should do regularly, there’s a very small chance that it might cause issues with your operating system. A Windows 10 installer will make it easy to repair your system without going through the same installer creation process again.
- Software corruption: Viruses, malware, software incompatibilities—all of these can make a computer inoperable. Fixing it will be easy if you have a spare computer that you can use to create a new Windows 10 installer, but what if you don’t? How can you fix the issue without going to a technician?
- Reformatting a computer: There are many reasons why you might consider reformatting your computer. If your computer starts to run slow or if you change a major peripheral in your computer, you’ll want to reformat your computer and do a clean Windows 10 install.
Frequently Asked Questions
USB 2.0 or USB 3.0: Which One Is Better for Windows 10 Installation?
There’s no noticeable difference when installing Windows 10 from a USB 2.0 or a USB 3.0 flash drive. USB 3.0 will be slightly faster, but not so much that it merits paying for it just to install Windows on your computer.
The installation process mainly depends on your computer’s hardware and not on the data transfer speed of the flash drive that you’re using.
Will I Lose All My Files After Booting From a USB?
You won’t lose the files in your computer when you boot from a USB. It’s just a command that tells your computer to load whatever bootable file is inside the flash drive. If you remove the flash drive and restart the computer, it will just boot from your hard drive.
However, if the Windows installation process gets to a point where it asks you to reformat your storage, then you’ll lose all the files inside that storage. If you have partitions in your hard drive, you can pick the partition you want to reformat, which deletes all the files in that partition.
How Long Does a Clean Windows 10 Installation Take?
A clean Windows 10 installation takes about 15 to 20 minutes. An older computer might take 30 minutes, while there are times when the entire installation process can take more than an hour.
Installing Windows on your computer is correlated with the specifications of the device that you’re using. Throughout the installation process, your computer will reboot several times, affecting the time needed for a clean install.
Can I Use the Extra Space in My Windows 10 Bootable Flash Drive As Storage?
You can use a flash drive as storage even if you have a Windows 10 installer in it. There won’t be any difference; you can use it just like an ordinary flash drive for storage.
However, if you’re planning to keep a copy of the Windows 10 installer, it would be best to have a dedicated USB flash drive that you’ll solely use for installation. Also, after making your flash drive bootable, it may not have your preferred format for storage.
If you want to create a bootable Windows 10 installer, I recommend getting at least an 8GB flash drive. Even if your computer still uses a 32-bit system, you’ll most likely need a 64-bit version as soon as you upgrade your processor.
Aside from this, the price difference won’t be that significant, and you’re not wasting disk space either because you can still use the excess space as storage if you want. What’s important is that you have a flash drive that you can use whenever you need to install or repair Windows 10.