NOTE: This method is compatible with all recent versions of the Windows operating system, including the latest Windows 10.
We here at Into Windows love installing Windows operating system from USB flash drive. Over the last couple of years, we have posted a number of articles covering methods and free tools out there to create bootable USB drive and install Windows from the USB drive or external hard drive.
Even though there are plenty of tools out there to prepare bootable USB without having to open the Command Prompt, all these tools have one downside in common. When you are preparing bootable USB with the help of one of these tools, you’ll lose all data on the USB flash drive. That is, your USB drive will be erased before beginning to transfer setup files on to your connected USB drive. In simple words, these tools don’t let you create bootable Windows USB drive without formatting it.
Popular tools, including Rufus and Microsoft’s own Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool need to format the drive first to make it bootable. While we can always backup data from USB drive to a location on the hard drive, users who have tens of GBs of data on the USB drive and don’t have enough free space on the hard drive might want to know how to prepare a bootable Windows USB drive without having to format the selected USB drive.
Luckily, there is a free (free for personal use only) tool out there to help you create a bootable Windows 7/8/8.1 USB drive without destroying the data on the USB. The tool you need is the very popular EasyBCD, it’s the same tool that we use to edit boot menu and change various boot settings. I know, most users aren’t aware of the fact that EasyBCD can be used to create bootable USB as well.
In this guide, we will show you how you can use EasyBCD software to prepare a bootable USB without formatting it.
IMPORTANT: This guide might not work if your USB drive is in the NTFS file system. During our test, we noticed that the USB drive must be formatted in the FAT32 file system. If the file system is NTFS, you might get an error while booting from USB.
Creating bootable Windows USB drive without formatting the drive
Step 1: Copy all files from your Windows 10/8.1/7 DVD or extract the contents of the ISO file to the root of the USB drive. Be sure to copy all files to the root of the USB drive and you shouldn’t copy setup files into a folder.
Step 2: Download EasyBCD (it’s just 1.54 MB) and install the same on the PC on which you’re preparing the bootable USB.
Step 3: Fire up EasyBCD program. Click Yes button when you see the UAC dialog box.
Step 4: Once EasyBCD is running, click BCD Deployment button (located in the left side).
Step 5: Now, on the right side, under Create external bootable media section, select the USB drive that you would like to make bootable without formatting and then click Install BCD button.
Click Yes button when you see the following dialog.
That’s it! Your USB drive is bootable now. Once done, you can check if your USB drive is really bootable by following our how to test if a Windows USB drive is bootable guide. The recently reviewed Win Toolkit also lets you make your USB bootable without formatting it.
Hope this helps!