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  • Installing Windows with a USB Stick

    Home Forums AskWoody support Windows Windows 10 Windows 10 version 1903 – May 2019 Update Installing Windows with a USB Stick

    This topic contains 14 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by

     Rick Corbett 3 weeks, 4 days ago.

    • Author
    • #1844123 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      I have noticed that a lot of posters when upgrading or clean installing Windows always download to a USB stick and use that to install a new version on windows. I am curious what the advantages are compared to the online options Microsoft offers such as if upgrading .

      First obviously the check for updates. If for some reason that is not available the upgrade assistant. Also i believe you can use the download tool to directly download rather than copying it to a USB Stick.

      Clean Install. You can use the reset option though i am not a fan of this as it just re installs the OEM version that your Computer came with Crap-ware and all. I personally love the Fresh Start option as it installs a Clean Pristine copy of Windows without all of the OEM Crap-ware. I Rarely see anyone mention this option.

      Anyway as i said just curious as to advantages or disadvantages to these options. Love to hear your opinions.

      Barry (Seeker)
      Windows 10 Home V 1903

    • #1844479 Reply


      If I want a clean install (and have taken a human readable backup) I prefer the USB option because it allows me to wipe the partitions and reformat the drive during the install – thus insuring no root kits and a clean drive.  You cannot do this from an online or in-system upgrade or refresh.

      On small networks without PXE I also like the USB option even when upgrading because it saves on the huge 5GB download per client machine.

      And if you use USB3 it’s much faster than using a DVD-ROM.


      ~ Group "Weekend" ~

      2 users thanked author for this post.
    • #1844656 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      I prefer using removable media to upgrade to have better control over when the download occurs and when the upgrade install occurs. We have a real slow internet connection and big downloads are best during times the family does not need the internet.
      Using either an usb or a dvd media to upgrade is equally fine with me. Many newer devices do not have a dvd drive, so usb is required in those cases. If the size of the Windows 10 upgrade iso exceeds the size a dvd can hold (4.7 GB), an usb would be required in that case too.
      I prefer to install offline because of issues in the past using microsoft’s method of upgrading online. The downloading of drivers and additional updates can make the download and install times much longer than anticipated.
      Removable upgradable media can be made from a computer other than the one you wish to upgrade. This is helpful if you are currently having problems or want to help others upgrade. In helping others, I prefer using a dvd or an usb that can be locked to be read only. Assuming enough room, you can also upgrade from an iso downloaded to your device.
      I began using removal media because of an incident with a Windows 10 upgrade continuously restarting it’s download. With media in hand, the problem was solved.

      1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #1844662 Reply


      I use the MCT to download the .iso file for both the x86 and x64 versions and create the DVD+R/DL [Dual Layer] disc.  I also plug in a USB drive of 16GB or 32GB to create the bootable drive.  Both media contain an x86 and an x64 Folder which allows the correct version be copied to the internal drive and install from there for Upgrades.

      The reason for a 16GB or 32GB Thumb drive is the combination creation of both x86 and x64 may take just under 8GB so extra space is always good.  I usually also store the offline files for the succeeding Build updates.  A caution exists as has always, the MCT will wipe anything off the USB drive and reformat as FAT32 which has a limit of partition size of 32GB regardless of whether the drive is larger .

      Before you wonder "Am I doing things right," ask "Am I doing the right things?"

      1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #1845386 Reply

      Rick Corbett

      I am curious what the advantages are compared to the online options Microsoft offers such as if upgrading .

      IMO the advantages are speed, versatility and customisability.

      Speed: Once you have your MCT-created USB media, it’s *very* quick to install by comparison to MS’ online methods. I can usually do a complete clean install in less than 20 mins using a USB2 MCT-created media source. I use a 2-stage install – the first stage is the MCT install with no internet connection. The second stage is to update the install by enabling an internet connection *after* I’ve made several changes (e.g. turning off telemetry). I haven’t yet tried it with a USB3 stick but that’s mainly because I tend to deal with older kit without native USB3 capability. I did try the MS methods in the past but became frustrated by the number of failed upgrades and rollbacks… plus you have the storage overhead of the windows.old folder until it’s finally deleted.

      Versatility: I use an 8GB USB2 stick so – like @berton – I can have both x32 and x64 installers available at the same time. It doesn’t matter if the internet connection is flaky because I *never* let the device connect online during initial installation, nor do I ever use a Microsoft Account… only local accounts. (I created a Microsoft account when Win 10 was first released to see what the effect was and to take some screenshots. I haven’t used it since.) Like @netdef, I prefer to wipe all partitions so a ‘clean’ install is *really* clean.

      Customisability: Now I know how to pause the install during OOBE (Out Of the Box Experience, i.e. the initial setup GUI phase), I use this to customise the install (for example, by removing all the crapware for ALL users) and setting up MY ‘Look and feel’ preferences (to act as an account template) before even the first account has completed creation. The MS online method means that the same customisations are applied *after* OOBE and usually only effective for the current user, not *all* users (unless you want to fiddle around carrying out the same customisations for each new account that’s created).

      Of course YMMV but the approach I use works for me.

      Hope this helps…

      1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #1845387 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      Customisability: Now I know how to pause the install during OOBE (Out Of the Box Experience, i.e. the initial setup GUI phase), I use this to customise the install (for example, by removing all the crapware for ALL users) and setting up MY ‘Look and feel’ preferences (to act as an account template) before even the first account has completed creation.

      Rick have you explained this somewhere?


      Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.
      • #1845417 Reply

        Rick Corbett

        I referred to the process very vaguely in this post. Let me know if you would like more detail and I can provide a better step-by-step explanation in a new topic.

        The basic process is really very simple and I’ve now carried out nearly a dozen ‘temporarily interrupted’ installs of 1809 and now 1903.

        Hope this helps…

        1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #1846634 Reply

          AskWoody Plus

          I agree; a detailed step-by-step description would be most appreciated, even if not all of the mods are implemented by each user.

          • #1846678 Reply

            Rick Corbett

            No problem… I can probably cook something up that hopefully will help, if only as an aide-mémoire for me. 🙂

            Look out for something like Can you customize the initial Windows 10 installation?

            4 users thanked author for this post.
    • #1846717 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      Thanks for the Interesting posts. Next Feature update or next time i do a clean install i will probably give it a try.


      Barry (Seeker)
      Windows 10 Home V 1903

      • #1846727 Reply

        Rick Corbett

        Hats off to Microsoft for still making Windows such an eminently customizable platform… (although this is changing over time with each version update).

        I am (very) gradually changing from Windows 7 to Linux (mainly Mint Cinnamon 19) and macOS (Mojave at the moment).

        However, whilst initially *very* critical of Windows 10, I’ve kept up with developments and my latest device – a refurbished HP EliteDesk (I’m an impoverished pensioner) – is staying with its MAR installation of Win 10. (Actually that’s a lie… I’ve already wiped the MAR Win 10 1809 install and replaced it with 1903 to get rid of all the MAR crapware. It just happened that the MCT webpage had already changed to delivering 1903 by the time the PC was delivered… otherwise it would be 1809. 🙂 ).

        It’s going to replace my ancient (probably 7-8 years old now) HP 6005 Pro (running Windows 7 Pro) which – with a failing CPU fan in a non-serviceable and sealed enclosure – is no longer cost-effective to repair.

    • #1848641 Reply

      Rick Corbett

      Look out for something like Can you customize the initial Windows 10 installation?…

      Have a look at new topic called Customize the initial Windows 10 installation.

      Hope this helps…

      3 users thanked author for this post.
    • #1849622 Reply


      maybe unrelated to this but the 1903 Media Creation Tool now downloads “1903 refresh” ESDs that create install media that contains build 18362.175 (from the KB4503293 cumulative update) instead of 18362.30.

      and yes it’s far better (and maybe faster) to use a USB stick than with a DVD disc

    • #1849715 Reply

      Rick Corbett

      and yes it’s far better (and maybe faster) to use a USB stick than with a DVD disc

      Data transfer rates:
      DVD (1x): 1.321 MB/s (max)
      DVD (16x): 21 MB/s (max)
      USB2: 480 MB/s (max)
      USB3: 5.0 Gbit/s (max)

      In my experience it’s MUCH faster to install Windows from USB compared to DVD. Even though I have a portable optical drive for more recent laptops that don’t include one, I cannot remember the last time I used it. Then there’s the hassle of needing D/L disks if you want the convenience of both 64-bit and 32-bit installers on the same optical disk.

      I’ll keep the slimline portable DVD drive, just in case (I also have an Apple Slimdrive… last used about 4 years ago?) but I very much doubt I’ll use either optical drive again.

      I’ve only ever used USB2 sticks up until now but have just ordered 3 x Kingston 8GB USB 3.0 DataTraveler I G4 F USB sticks to test with my Dell laptops which have native USB3 ports.

    • #1858871 Reply

      Rick Corbett

      I’ve only ever used USB2 sticks up until now

      The USB 3 sticks turned up so I thought I would run a comparison of the built-in Reset vs *really* clean installs from USB2 and USB3 sticks.

      For hardware I used a Dell Latitude E7740 Core i5-4200U with 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD and integrated USB3 ports running Windows 10 1903 using a local account and with internet access removed.

      This was so I could time how long it took to get to the initial Windows 10 desktop after the OOBE (Out Of the Box Experience). (If an internet connection was detected then the results may have been skewed by the installer setting up a connection then trying to integrate updates during the installation.)

      For USB sticks I used 2 Kingston DataTravelers – one a USB2 8GB DT101 G2 and the other a USB3 8GB G4 – both created by Microsoft’s Media Creation Tool (MCT) using Win 10 1903 x64.

      The results were as follows:

      • Built-in Reset: 15 mins 29 secs including 3 or 4 restarts (one of them was so fast I don’t believe it was an actual restart, just a prolonged blanking of the screen)
      • Clean install from USB2: 10 mins 25 secs inc. 2 restarts
      • Clean install from USB2: 9 mins 42 secs inc. 2 restarts


      1. The installs from USB were timed from the moment I booted from the laptop’s Boot Menu after selecting the USB stick as boot device.
      2. The Reset was timed from the moment I clicked on the final button in the Reset wizard (Settings > Update & Security > Recovery > Reset this PC > Remove everything > Just remove your files)
      3. Each time I halted the stopwatch the moment the mouse cursor changed to a stable arrow on the initial Windows desktop.
      4. During the clean installs from USB I chose to delete all partitions, i.e. a *really* clean install to wipe out any previously stored data. Obviously this is not possible using the built-in ‘Reset’ as the (re)installation data is stored on these partitions, mostly (or wholly) in the ‘recovery’ partition.

      Final thoughts? There is, of course, the time overhead of downloading the MCT utility and creating the USB installer itself. However, I do a lot of tinkering/testing and I’m constantly re-installing this laptop from scratch. (VM’s are great for testing but just don’t give accurate performance comparisons.) As a result I’ll probably use the USB installer dozens of times, so the initial overhead is absorbed as a one-off (until the next version is released and I start from scratch again). Your usage may be very different and only you can tell which method is most suitable.

      I was surprised by the results. I hadn’t timed a Reset before and my previous impression was that it took *much* longer. I was wrong. However, the last time I used this was with Win 10 1709 and I may have used the option to keep personal files. (I can’t remember exactly… except it didn’t work and I’ve used clean installs ever since.)

      I was also surprised that there was so little difference between the USB results. I had been expecting the USB3 stick to be *much* faster installing due to the native USB3 ports. I was wrong again.

      NB – I use a freeware, portable utility called USB Image Tool to store backup images of the USB sticks themselves so I can revert easily to earlier versions or restore corrupted installers.


      Hope this helps…

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