Windows 10 logo

Most modern computers don’t have a CD or DVD drive, so installing Windows 10 using a disc isn’t always possible. The good news is you don’t need discs anymore—all you need is a USB drive.

What You’ll Need

You’re going to need a few things to get started. First, you’ll need a USB drive with at least 8GB of storage space. If you don’t already have one lying around, you can find a decent USB drive online for a pretty cheap price. If you do already have a USB drive, be sure that there are no important files on it, as it will be wiped clean during the setup process.

You’ll need a computer running Windows to create the USB drive. When you’re done, you can remove the USB drive from that computer and insert it into the computer that you want to install Windows 10 on.

RELATED: How to Install Windows 10 on Your PC

Windows 10 Hardware Requirements

The destination PC that you plan to install Windows 10 on has to meet certain requirements to properly run Windows 10. Here are the minimum system specifications:

  • Processor: 1GHz or faster
  • RAM: 1GB for 32-bit or 2GB for 64-bit
  • Storage Space: 16GB for 32-bit or 20GB for 64-bit
  • Graphics Card: DirectX 9 or later with a WDDM 1.0 driver
  • Display: 800×600

Create the Installation Media

If you have everything you need and the destination device meets the minimum system requirements, you can start preparing your installation files. Go ahead and insert your USB drive into the computer that you want to make the USB drive on.

Warning: Any files on the USB drive will be erased during the setup process. Make sure that there are no important files on the USB drive.
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Next, head over to the official Download Windows 10 page on the Microsoft website. In the “Create Windows 10 Installation Media” section, click the blue “Download Tool Now” button.

Click the blue Download Tool Now button.

After the software finishes downloading, go ahead and open it. The Applicable Notices and License Terms window will appear. Read and agree to the terms by clicking the “Accept” button in the bottom-right corner of the window.

Click Accept to agree to the terms.

On the next screen, you’ll be asked what you want to do. Click the bubble next to “Create installation media (USB flash drive, DVD, or ISO file) for another PC” to select that option, and then click “Next.”

Click the bubble next to Create Installation Media

Next, select the language, architecture, and edition that you want to use. Click the down arrow next to each option to expand the list of available options for that item. Click the option from the drop-down menu to select it. Click “Next” to proceed.

Select the language, edition, and architecture.

On the next screen, you must choose which media to use. Click the bubble next to “USB Flash Drive” to select it, and then click “Next.”

Click USB flash drive.

After that, select which flash drive to use from the list under “Removable Drives.” Click “Next” to proceed.

Select the USB drive to use.

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The downloading process will begin. This will take a while.

The downloading process begins.

After the download is complete, click the “Finish” button, safely remove the USB drive from the computer, and then insert it into the computer that you want to install Windows 10 on.

RELATED: How to Never "Safely Remove" a USB Drive Again on Windows 10

Install Windows 10 from the USB Drive

Once the USB drive with the installation files is inserted into the destination PC, you’ll need to set the boot order so that the computer loads the operating system from a different location—in this case, from the USB instead of from the hard drive.

To do this, you need to access the boot menu on startup. When booting your computer, press the appropriate key to open the BIOS or UEFI controls. The key that you need to press depends on your computer, but it’s usually F11 or F12.

RELATED: How to Boot Your Computer From a Disc or USB Drive

Once you’ve selected the USB drive from the boot menu, your PC will reboot from the USB drive and ask you to press any key to begin the setup of the installation media.

At the beginning of the setup process, you’ll need to choose the language to install, the time and currency format, and the keyboard or input method. In most cases, you won’t need to change anything here, but if you do, click the down arrow to display a list of options, and then click the option that you want to select it.

Click “Next” to continue.

Choose language to install, time and currency format, and keyboard and input method.

On the next screen, click “Install Now.”

Click Install Now

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You’ll briefly see a screen that lets you know that the setup is starting. After that, the Windows Setup window will appear. Here, enter the product key in the text box if you have one. If you don’t have a product key, then you can still run a limited version of Windows 10 that works—you’ll just need to enter a product key later to unlock everything.

If you entered a product key, press “Next.” If not, click “I don’t have a product key.” In this example, we’ll choose “I don’t have a product key.”

Enter the product key or not and click next or I don't have a product key.

Next, you’ll need to select which Windows 10 version to use. If you have a Windows 10 key, be sure to select the correct Windows 10 version, as keys only work for certain versions. Click the version to select it, and then click “Next.”

Click the OS you want to install.

On the next screen, check the box next to “I Accept the License Terms,” and then click “Next.”

Accept the license terms and then click Next.

The next screen asks you to select which type of installation you want to perform. Since we’re doing a fresh install, click “Custom: Install Windows Only (Advanced).”

Click Custom install

Next, choose where you want to install Windows 10. If you have a brand new hard drive, it might say “Drive 0 Unallocated Space” under Name. If you have multiple drives, select the drive that you want to install the OS on, and then click “Next.”

Select drive you want to install Windows on.

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Finally, the Wizard will begin installing the Windows files. The amount of time that the installation takes depends on the hardware you’re using.

Once the Wizard finishes installing the files, your computer will reboot. In some unusual cases, you’ll get stuck in a boot loop where the system tries to bring you back to the installation process. This happens because the system might be trying to read from the USB drive instead of from the hard drive that you installed the OS on. If this happens, just remove the USB drive and restart the computer.

Now that you have Windows 10 up and running, the fun really begins. Windows 10 is highly customizable, including things like the Start menu, the Taskbar, the Action Center, your icons, and even the overall Windows 10 appearance. Make Windows 10 yours.

RELATED: The 35 Best Tips and Tricks for Maintaining Your Windows PC

Marshall Gunnell
Marshall Gunnell is a writer with experience in the data storage industry. He worked at Synology, and most recently as CMO and technical staff writer at StorageReview. He's currently an API/Software Technical Writer at LINE Corporation in Tokyo, Japan, runs ITEnterpriser, a data-storage and cybersecurity-focused online media, and plays with development, with his RAID calculator being his first public project.
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