Installing Windows 11 from a Bootable USB flash drive

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Windows 11

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Installing Windows 11 from a Bootable USB flash drive: This step-by-step guide details how to install Windows 11 from a USB stick to your computer or laptop. The manual will also work in cases where a clean installation of the OS is performed from a DVD, there will be no fundamental differences. Also, at the end of the article there is a video about installing Windows 11, by watching which some steps can be better understood. Also available as a separate material: Installing Windows 11 on a Mac.

Windows 11

As of 2020, downloading Windows 11 installation using the methods described below downloads Windows 11. If you have already installed licensed Windows 11 on your computer or laptop, obtained in any way, you do not need to enter the product key during installation. For more information about activation features, see the article: Activating Windows 11 (you can work without activation, see Using Windows 11 without activation). If you only need to fix problems with the installed OS, while it starts up, you can use an easier method: How to reset Windows 11 to factory settings or automatically reinstall the OS.

Creating a bootable device for installation

Preparing for installation, booting a computer or laptop from a USB flash drive

Before you start installing the system, take care of your personal important data (including from the desktop). Ideally, they should be saved to an external drive, a separate hard drive on your computer, or to “D drive” – ​​a separate partition on your hard drive if available.

windows 11 bootable

Another step before proceeding with the installation is to put the boot from a USB flash drive or disk into the BIOS (UEFI) of a computer or laptop. To do this, restart the computer (it is better to restart, and not turn off-on, since the Windows fast boot functions in the second case may prevent you from performing the necessary actions) and:

  • Or go to BIOS (UEFI) and install the installation drive first in the list of boot devices. Logging into BIOS is usually done by pressing Del (on stationary computers) or F2 (on laptops) before the operating system starts loading. More details – How to put a boot from a USB flash drive in BIOS.
  • Or use the Boot Menu (this is preferable and more convenient) – a special menu from which you can choose which drive to boot from this time, is also called by a special key after turning on the computer. More details – How to enter the Boot Menu.

After booting from the Windows 11 distribution kit, you will see the message “Press any key to boot from CD ort DVD” (does not always appear) on a black screen. Press any key and wait for the installer to start. Possible problem at this stage and its solution: BIOS / UEFI does not see the Windows 11 bootable USB flash drive.

The process of installing Windows 11 on a computer or laptop

  1. On the first screen of the installer, you will be asked to select the language, time format and keyboard input method – you can leave the default values, Russian.
  2. The next window is the “Install” button, which should be clicked to continue, as well as the “System Restore” item below, which will not be considered in this article, but is very useful in some situations.
  3. You will be taken to the window for entering a product key to activate Windows 11. In most cases, except when you purchased a product key separately, just click “I do not have a product key.” Activation will occur automatically after connecting to the Internet, if previously licensed Windows 11 was installed on this computer or laptop. Additional options for actions and when to apply them are described in the “Additional information” section at the end of the manual.
  4. The next step (it may not appear if the edition was identified by a key, including from UEFI) – select the edition of Windows 11 to install. Choose the option that was previously installed (if activation of the pinned digital license is required).
  5. Read the terms of the license agreement and accept them. Once done, click the “Next” button.
  6. One of the most important points is the choice of the type of Windows 11 installation. There are two options: Update (it is possible to perform only if a new system is installed, when the old OS version is installed on the disk) – in this case, all parameters, programs, files of the previous installed system are saved, and the old system itself is saved to the Windows.old folder (but this option is not always possible to run). That is, this process is similar to a simple update, it will not be considered here. Custom installation – this item allows you to perform a clean installation without saving (or partially saving) user files, and during installation, you can partition disks, format them, thereby clearing the computer from the files of the previous Windows. It is this method that will be described.
  7. After specifying a custom installation, you will be taken to the window for selecting a disk partition for installation (possible installation errors at this stage are described below). At the same time, if this is not a new hard drive or SSD, you will see a much larger number of partitions than you saw in Explorer before, an example is shown in the screenshot. I will try to explain the options for action (also in the video at the end of the instructions, I show and tell in detail what and how you can do in this window).
  • If your computer has multiple physical disks, they will appear as Disk 0, Disk 1 and beyond. Everyone can have multiple sections. Regardless of which drive you install Windows 11 to, Disk 0 will be used to write system files, hidden partitions and boot loader. Therefore, ideally, install the OS on Disk 0 (otherwise, if this disk is turned off, the system on another disk will not start). If, for example, you purchased a new SSD and it is displayed as Disk 1, you can try to find a separate item in the BIOS to indicate the order of hard drives and put SSD in the first place, or change the SATA cables (if this interface is used) between the two drives, so that the desired drive appears in the installer as Drive 0.
  • If you had Windows preinstalled by the manufacturer, then in addition to the system partitions on Disk 0 (their number and sizes may vary 110, 300, 450 MB), you will see another (usually) 11-20 gigabyte partition. I do not recommend touching it in any way, as it contains a system recovery image that allows you to quickly return your computer or laptop to its factory state when the need arises. Also, do not modify system-reserved partitions (unless you decide to completely wipe the hard drive).
  • As a rule, during a clean installation of the system, it is placed on the partition corresponding to the C drive, with its formatting (or deletion). To do this, select this section (you can determine it by its size), click “Format”. And after that, having selected it, click “Next” to continue installing Windows 11. If messages appear about the inability to install to this section, click on the message to get information about the error (they are discussed later in the instructions). Data on other partitions and disks will not be affected. If you had Windows 7 or XP installed on your computer before installing Windows 11, it is more reliable to delete the partition (but not format it),
  • If you skip formatting or uninstallation and select a partition for installation on which the OS is already installed, then the previous Windows installation will be placed in the Windows.old folder, and your files on the C drive will not be affected (but there will be a lot of junk on the hard drive).
  • Best practice: if there is nothing important on your system disk (Disk 0), you can completely delete all partitions of this disk one at a time, select a single unallocated space on Disk 0 and click the “Next” button this will avoid almost any errors and problems. You can create disk D (if required) after installing the system.
  • If the previous system is installed on partition or drive C, and to install Windows 11 you choose another partition or disk, then as a result, you will have two operating systems installed on your computer at the same time with the choice of the one you need when you boot your computer.

Note: if, when you select a partition on a disk, you see a message that it is impossible to install Windows 11 on this partition, click on this text, and then, depending on what the full text of the error will be, use the following instructions: The disk has a GPT partition style when installation, The selected disk has a MBR partition table, on EFI systems Windows can only be installed to a GPT disk,  We were unable to create a new or find an existing partition when installing Windows 11

  • After choosing your variant of the partition for installation, click the “Next” button. Copying Windows 11 files to your computer begins.
  • After the reboot, you will not need to take any action for some time – “Preparation”, “Component configuration” will take place. This may cause the computer to restart and sometimes freeze with a black or blue screen. In this case, just wait, this is a normal process – sometimes it takes hours. Important: if after a reboot you start the Windows 11 setup program again, just put the boot from the hard drive or SSD in BIOS or Windows Boot Manager in UEFI, or disconnect the USB flash drive, or do not press any key when prompted to do so.
  • The next step is to configure the basic parameters of the system. The first point is the choice of the region.
  • The second step is to confirm that the keyboard layout is correct. 
  • The installer then prompts you to add additional keyboard layouts. If you do not require input options other than Russian and English, skip this step (English is present by default). 
  • If you have active network adapters, you will be prompted to connect to the Internet. You can do this, especially if you plan to use a Microsoft account. If you need a local account, I would recommend not to connect to the network until the installation of Windows 11. To do this, click on the item “I do not have Internet” and “Continue limited installation” in the next window.
  • If you have an Internet connection, you will be offered two options for setting up Windows 11 – for personal use or for an organization (use this option only if you need to connect your computer to a work network, domain and Windows servers in your organization). Usually you should choose the option for personal use.
  • The next step of the installation is to set up a Windows 11 account. If you have an active Internet connection, you are prompted to set up a Microsoft account or enter an existing one. You can click “Offline Account” at the bottom left to create a local account. If there is no Internet connection, a local account is created. When installing the latest Windows 11 versions, after entering your username and password, you will also need to ask security questions to recover your password if it is lost.
  • When using a Microsoft account, you’ll see a prompt to use a PIN to sign in. You will also be prompted to set up OneDrive.
  • If you select Offline account, you will be prompted again about the benefits of using a Microsoft account (opt out) and then asked to enter your computer username. Do not enter the name Administrator, as it is assigned to a hidden system account. Any user you create with any name will be a Windows 11 administrator anyway.
  • Enter a password for your account, confirm it, and then select and provide answers to security questions to be used in case you forget your password.
  • You will be prompted to enable Windows 11 Activity Log – a new feature that stores a history of programs, documents, sites used, and can be accessed from other devices with the same Microsoft account. Enable or disable – at your discretion.
  • And the final step of the setup is to configure Windows 11 privacy settings, which include location data transmission, speech recognition, diagnostic data transmission, and the creation of your advertising profile. Read carefully and disable what you don’t need. I turn off all items, but if you have a laptop or tablet, you can recommend leaving the Location and Find device enabled, this can help you find it in case of loss.
  • Following this, the last stage will begin – setting up and installing standard applications, preparing Windows 11 for launch, on the screen it will look like the inscription: “This may take several minutes.” In fact, it can take minutes or even hours, especially on “weak” computers, you should not forcefully shut down or restart it at this time.
  • And finally, you will see the Windows 11 desktop – the system is installed successfully, you can start setting up and studying it.

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