How to create a bootable Windows 10 Technical Preview USB drive

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Microsoft has released Windows 10 Technical Preview, giving early adopters like you and me the opportunity to experience some of the lovely new features that the operating system will bring to the table when it officially launches next year. The highlight is, of course, the new Start menu, but the other changes add up to give us what could very well be the sleek and modern Windows we have all been waiting for: touch-friendly, yet still great with a keyboard and mouse.

This all sounds very intriguing indeed, especially if you have been holding off on upgrades so far. If you want to take the plunge and test Windows 10 Technical Preview directly on your PC, without taking the virtualization route, then you already know that your best install option is a bootable USB drive. Luckily, you came to the right place -- here is everything you need to do.


First Off, the Requirements

In order to create a bootable Windows 10 Technical Preview USB drive you will need to prepare the following, before we can go any further:

  • Windows 10 Technical Preview ISO, which you can download from here;
  • Windows 10 Technical Preview product key: NKJFK-GPHP7-G8C3J-P6JXR-HQRJR (taken from the page linked above);
  • Archiving tool like 7-Zip or WinRAR (either one is fine for the job);
  • USB drive -- the minimum size is 4 GB for the 32-bit version and 8 GB for the 64-bit version. Also, the faster the USB drive is the less time everything takes;
  • Windows PC.

Creating the Bootable USB Drive

After you have ticked every item on that list, you will have to install the archiving tool of your choosing (if you do not have one installed already) and then extract the contents of the Windows 10 Technical Preview ISO to a folder on your Windows PC. This option is revealed by right-clicking on the said file. Keep in mind that the partition you will use needs to have enough free space to accommodate the extra content. Also, a backup of the files on the USB drive is recommended.

Afterwards, you will need to attach the USB drive, and follow the next steps to make a bootable Windows 10 Technical Preview USB media:

  1. Open a Command Prompt window. To do this, trigger Run (Windows key + R will do the trick, or you can find it in the Start menu), type "cmd" and then hit the OK button.
  2. Use the "diskpart" command to open the disk partitioning software. Validate the UAC prompt, if asked, to carry on.
  3. Use the "list disk" command to reveal the list of attached physical storage media. This will show all the HDDs, SSDs, USB drives and so on.
  4. Identify the disk number of the USB drive you are using for this process (look at the size column for easy identification; based on my experience, it is usually listed last).
  5. Use the "select disk X" command to select it, where "X" is the disk number of your USB drive.
  6. Use the "clean" command to erase the contents of the USB drive.
  7. Use the "create partition primary" command to create a primary partition on the USB drive.
  8. Use the "select partition 1" command to select the previously created partition.
  9. Use the "active" command to make said partition appear active, or validated.
  10. Use the "format fs=ntfs quick" command to format the said partition as NTFS, using the Quick routine.
  11. Use the "assign" command to assign a drive letter to the USB drive. Afterwards, it will show up as a drive under My Computer.
  12. Copy the extracted contents of the Windows 10 Technical Preview ISO to the USB drive

If you prefer a visual step-by-step guide, check out the slideshow below.

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How to Start the Install?

Now that you have the bootable Windows 10 Technical Preview USB drive ready to go, you are probably wondering what is the next step. Well, to kick off the install you have to boot from that USB drive.

Booting from a USB drive can be enabled by altering the boot order under BIOS settings to have USB at the top, quickly triggering the boot menu after turning on the PC and manually selecting the USB drive, or, if you're lucky, the PC is already set up to boot from a USB drive. Afterwards, with the device attached, you can install Windows 10 as you normally would any other Windows release.

Update: You can also use the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool for this process, as my colleague Brian Fagioli has pointed out on Twitter. It may be designed for Windows 7, but it apparently gets the job done for Windows 10 as well.

Photo Credit: Mario Lopes/Shutterstock

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