How to Install Windows 11 From USB [Step by Step 2023]

You have just built a new PC. It’s turning on, so everything went well when assembling the parts. You now need to install an OS to complete the build!

In this guide, I will take you through the steps on how to install an operating system on your hard disk and activate it. 

The process differs when installing Windows on a PC, macOS on Mac computers, and one of the Linux distros on a PC. 

But since most gamers use Windows, we will be installing Windows 11. But the process is similar when Installing other versions of Windows, including 10, 8.1, and 7.

What You Will Need:

  1. Access to a laptop or another PC with internet access.
  2. 8GB USB Flash Drive (16GB or More Recommended). 

NOTE: This process also works when reinstalling the Windows 11 OS on old or used PCs. In that case, I have included the optional steps to make it successful!

how to install windows 11 from USB

Step #1: Create Windows 11 Installation Media

To install the OS on your hard disk on a new PC, we will use the Microsoft Windows 11 installation media to create a bootable USB drive with Windows 11.

You can then plug the bootable USB drive into your new PC, boot from it, install Windows 11, and activate it. The process will work when performing a Windows 11 reinstallation on the hard disk of a used PC. 

NOTE: You will need to separately purchase Windows 11 to get the product key for activation.

1.1 – Download Windows 11 Media Creation Tool

This step requires a laptop or another PC with internet access. You can borrow and complete the process from there if you don’t have one!

Visit the Microsoft Windows 11 download page via this link, navigate to the “Create Windows 11 Installation Media” section, and click the “Download Now” button. 

This step lets you download the Windows media creation tool that will allow you to create a bootable USB drive with Windows 11 in it!

1.2 – Insert the USB Drive into the Laptop/PC

While downloading the program, plug in the USB flash drive and back up any data because the process will wipe it clean!

Once it’s complete, run the program as with any other software. Accept the terms of the agreement and change the language if necessary. Then click “Next.” 

1.3 – Choose a USB Flash Drive Media

On the next screen, you will be asked to choose the media to install Windows 11. Just select the first option; USB Flash Drive. Then click “Next.”

The next screen will show you a list of connected USB flash drives. Select the one that you just plugged in and click “Next.”

NOTE: All the files in the flash drive will be deleted. If you still need them, this is the time to back them up or move and save them in another location on the PC. 

This step will take a few minutes to complete. Ensure the laptop or PC has enough power or is plugged into the mains so you don’t interrupt the process. 

Once the process is complete, a new window will appear with the message “Your USB flash drive is ready.” Congratulations, you have just made yourself a bootable USB drive with Windows 11!

TIP: The process for making a bootable USB flash drive with other versions of Windows is the same. You must select the Windows version on the respective screen during installation. 

Step #2: Prepare Your PC’s for a New Windows 11 Installation

Now that your bootable USB flash drive is ready, the next step is installing Windows 11 on the hard drive of your new PC. 

Remember that you can install Windows 11 on a used PC or laptop hard drive using the bootable drive. The reinstallation process is almost similar! 

But before you go ahead and start the Windows 11 installation process, there are a few things to get out of the way to ensure the process is seamless. 

2.1 – Backup Your Files (Optional)

NOTE: This step is optional and only applies to those reinstalling Windows 11 on an existing PC. If it’s a new installation on a new PC’s hard drive, you should skip it! 

If you’re reinstalling Windows 11 on a used PC, you must back up your data since the new installation might overwrite your existing data. 

TIP: You can back up on remote storage, external hard drives, or USB flash drives, depending on the volume of the files.

2.2 – Disconnect Your Extra Hard Drives (Optional)

NOTE: This step is optional and doesn’t apply if your PC (new or old) has only one hard drive (M.2, SSD, or HDD).

But if you built your PC with multiple drives, an M.2 or SSD drive for the boot storage and other storage drives for games and video files, please disconnect them. 

The system should remain with the drive you want to install Windows 11 onto! It helps ensure you get a clean Windows 11 install on the right storage drive. 

TIP: Disconnecting the secondary storage drives is also safer for used PCs since it prevents you from formatting them accidentally if they have your precious files.

Step #3: Insert the Bootable USB Drive into Your PC

Your PC’s hard drive is ready for a clean Windows 11 installation. Insert the bootable USB flash drive into one of the USB ports and power it on.

NOTE: In most cases of Windows installation on a new PC’s hard drive, the system will boot straight from the USB flash drive to the Windows 11 installation screen.

3.1 – Change the Boot Order in BIOS (Optional) 

If the system doesn’t boot directly to the USB drive, don’t panic! Just restart the PC and quickly click whatever button it says on the flash screen to enter the BIOS. 

The right key to enter BIOS will depend on your motherboard. But it’s usually the delete key or F12. You can consult your motherboard’s manual if necessary.

From there, you will need to find the menu with boot options. Find the section with “Boot Override” and select the bootable USB flash drive you made. 

Save changes and exit! Your PC may need to restart. It will boot from the USB flash drive, and you can continue the Windows 11 installation process. 

3.2 – Windows 11 Installation Setup

You will be directed to the Windows Setup screen, whether installing it into a new PC’s hard drive or reinstalling it into a used PC’s hard drive.

You can change the current setup screen’s language, time, currency, and keyboard layout. Or you can choose to leave the default settings and click “Next.” 

Step #4: Install Windows 11

On the new screen, click the “Install Now” button. You will be asked to enter your product key on the next page. If you have one, this is the time to enter it.

If you don’t have a product key, don’t worry! Just click the “I don’t have a product key” text at the bottom of the screen.

TIP: You can use Windows 11 for free if you don’t mind the watermark. But I’ll help you activate it later and remove the watermark!

4.1 – Select the Windows 11 Edition

On the next screen, you will be prompted to select your edition of Windows 11. If you enter the product key on the previous screen, the system will auto-select it!

NOTE: The Windows edition you select needs to match your product key. Simply put, you cannot use a Windows 11 Home key to activate Windows 11 Pro, and so on!

Select Windows 11 Pro if you are undecided on which edition to choose and you don’t mind using a genuine activation key from third-party sites.

4.2 – Complete the Windows 11 Installation

You’ll be asked to accept the license terms on the next screen. Next, you’ll see two options; 

  1. Upgrade: Install Windows and keep your files, etc. 
  2. Custom: Install Windows only. 

Select the “Custom” option. Next, you will be prompted to select where to install Windows. But since you disconnected all your secondary storage drives, you should only see one option. 

TIP: If you didn’t disconnect your other storage drives and you can identify the drive that you want Windows 11 to boot from, select it here!

If you’re installing Windows 11 on a used PC that had partitions before, you may see them listed there. In that case, you should delete the partitions so you’re only left with one! 

Once everything is clear, select the drive and click “Next.” Windows 11 will now install itself into the PC. It might restart itself severally, don’t interrupt the process until it’s done!

4.3 – Complete Windows 11 Customization

Once done, Windows 11 customization screens will appear. You will be asked to select the region of your choice, etc. 

You will also be asked to connect to the internet and sign in to your Microsoft account. All the customization steps are pretty straightforward!

Voila! You’ll be redirected to the Windows 11 desktop screen once the installation and customization setup is complete!

4.4 – Reconnect Your Extra Hard Drives (Optional)

NOTE: This step doesn’t apply to you if you only have one hard drive on the PC. It also doesn’t apply if you installed it on the correct drive without disconnecting them!

But if you opted for the safer option and disconnected the secondary drives, you should start by shutting off your PC. 

TIP: I also recommend unplugging it from the mains! 

You should reconnect all your extra hard drives and ensure all the connections are secure. You can then plug the PC back into the mains and boot it up. 

You can then set up the additional hard drives if necessary. They will often appear under the list of devices and drives on the file explorer. 

But if the drives are brand new and don’t appear there, you can initialize them on disk management, and they will now appear on the file explorer.

Step #5: Activate Windows 11

The final step of the process is to activate Windows 11. Usually, if it needs activation, there will be an “Activate Windows” watermark at the bottom right corner. 

NOTE: If you entered the product key during installation, your Windows should be activated, and you don’t need to do anything else!

If it isn’t activated, you must purchase a copy of the license key of your Windows 11 edition and then complete the activation process.

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