How to Boot From USB Using Windows 7

Written by rebecca o'brien
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How to Boot From USB Using Windows 7
Use USB drives to troubleshoot broken computers or run new operating systems. (Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Bootable USB drives are a relatively new computer toy, and they have limitless uses. When a computer is so broken it won't even boot into Windows, bootable USB drives will let you run diagnostic tools to find the error. They can also boot into a different operating system, like the many "live" versions of Linux that can be run off a USB drive. Before you can boot from USB, you'll need to adjust a few settings in your computer's BIOS.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Bootable USB drive

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  1. 1

    Restart your computer.

  2. 2

    Enter the BIOS. During the boot screen --- usually, where the manufacturer's logo is displayed --- you will see instructions for which key to press to enter the BIOS or "boot options." See the Tips section for common keys.

  3. 3

    Open the Boot Order menu. In most BIOS menus, you navigate through menus using the left and right arrow keys.

  4. 4

    Move "USB" to the top of the boot order list. Your BIOS may be more specific, with an option for "USB Device" or "USB Hard Drive." Usually, you will use the plus ("+") and minus ("-") keys to reorder the boot items.

  5. 5

    Plug in the USB drive.

  6. 6

    Save your changes and exit. F10 is the common shortcut to save and exit the BIOS manager. Your computer will restart, and should now boot into the USB drive.

Tips and warnings

  • The USB drive you are using must be bootable or "live."
  • Common keys to enter the BIOS manager: F2, F10, F12, DEL
  • If you will be booting from USB frequently, the best boot order is: USB, CD, Hard Disk. Your computer will boot from the first option that works, for example, it will boot from the hard disk if there is no bootable USB or CD found.
  • - Editing your BIOS can result in unexpected performance, or computer failure. If you are unfamiliar with editing your BIOS, take careful notes of what you did in case you need to undo changes.

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