Reasons to Make External Hard Drive Bootable Windows 10

Why do we need to make external hard drive bootable Windows 10? There are two major reasons, which have been listed below:

  • When Windows 10 fails to boot due to a virus attack, hard drive failure, or system crash, we can use the Windows 10 bootable external hard drive created earlier to quickly start the computer to avoid being unable to use our computer at important times.
  • After cloning the system to the external hard drive, when we need to use our own computer, but the computer is not around, then we can use the bootable hard disk to boot other computers so that we can use our own operating system anytime, anywhere.

How to Make External Hard Drive Bootable Windows 10?

There are 2 Windows built-in features that we have tried to make a Windows 10 bootable external drive: Windows To Go and Command Prompt.

Method 1: Windows To Go

It is well-known that Windows To Go can be used to make the external hard drive bootable Windows 10. We can use Windows To Go to copy all the system files to an external hard drive to make it bootable.

But there are 2 limitations using Windows To Go to create bootable external hard drive, and we have listed below.

  1. Only Windows 10 Enterprise or Education or Professional version has the built-in feature – Windows To Go.(Windows 8/8.1 Enterprise Edition also has this feature.)
  2. Windows To Go can only run when the USB drive is certified and the minimum available storage space is 32GB. If the USB drive does not have enough space or is not certified, Windows To Go cannot be used to create a Windows bootable USB drive.
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Here is the way to use Windows To Go to make Windows 10 bootable USB drive:

Step 1:Download Windows 10 ISO file in our computer and insert a certified USB drive larger than 32GB into the computer.

Step 2:Type control panel in the search box and then click Control Panel.

Step 3: Set View by: Small icons or type Windows To Go in the right top search box, and then click Windows To Go.


Step 4: Choose the drive we want to use in Create a Windows To Go workspace window. Then click on it and click Next to continue.


Step 5: Click Add search location to search for the Windows 10 ISO file and choose the Windows 10 ISO image to continue.


Step 6: Choose whether to set a BitLocker password. If we set a password, then we need to type our password to unlock the drive in the future. Or we can click Skip to continue.


Step 7: All the data on the USB drive will be removed because the USB drive will be reformatted. And it is highly recommended to use MiniTool ShadowMaker – a piece of professional backup software to back up important files before clicking Create.


Step 8: After finishing, choose whether to boot the computer from the new created Windows 10 bootable USB drive by choosing Yes or No. We can test whether the USB drive is bootable by choosing Yes and clicking Save and restart. Or we can choose No and click Save and close.


After finishing these operations, we can make USB drive bootable Windows 10.

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Method 2: Command Prompt

We can also use Command Prompt to make the external hard drive bootable Windows 10. But if we enter the wrong command, then we may lose data or damage system files.

There are two things we need to do to make the external hard drive bootable Windows 10 using Command Prompt.

Format External Hard Drive 

Step 1: Insert the external hard drive into our computer. Type cmd in the search box and right-click Command Prompt and choose Run as administrator to continue.

Step 2: Type the following instructions one by one to format the external hard drive, and remember to press Enter after each command.


list disk

select disk n (n represents the drive letter of the external hard drive)


create partition primary

format fs=ntfs quick

assign letter=H (we can use another letter to assign primary partition)


Copy Files from a DVD to Bootable USB Using CMD

Step 1: Insert a DVD (G) inside the DVD drive to copy data from it to create a bootable USB drive. (If the drive letter of the mounted DVD drive in the File Explorer is not G, then change it.)

Step 2: By default, the active directory of the Command Prompt’s administrative permissions is located at C:\Windows\System32, so we need to set the DVD (G) as active directory using CMD. In Command Prompt window, type G and press Enter, then enter cd boot and press Enter.

Step 3: Enter bootsect /nt60 H and press Enter. Then type exit and press Enter to close Command Prompt. (H is the drive letter of the external hard drive.)

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After completing these instructions, we have made external hard drive bootable Windows 10. But if we enter the wrong commands, we may lose data, so we can use third-party software to recover data.

The above two methods are too cumbersome, but fortunately, we found that MiniTool ShadowMaker has a powerful feature called Clone Disk, which can help us easily and safely make bootable external hard drive Windows 10.

Bottom Line

To sum up, there are two built-in features that we can use to make bootable external hard drive Windows 10, and using Windows To Go is a little easier to do that compared to Command Prompt.