Software Windows

How do I install Windows 11 from a USB stick?

Windows 11 desktop
How to install Windows 11 now...

If you’ve seen the glossy adverts for Windows 11, then I’m sure your fingers are twitching to get to grips with its new features.

As Tim Danton revealed in When will you be offered the Windows 11 upgrade? Microsoft announced that the Windows 11 rollout is scheduled to take some time. However, if you’re a daring Big Tech Question reader, you know no fear and Windows 11 is going to happen NOW!

This is our guide to performing a clean installation of Windows 11, but like all good stories, there are three things that you need to know.

  1. This method is designed for clean installs on new PC builds. Make sure you backup your data.
  2. You can attempt this on your current Windows 10 machine, but you may not get to the end. If it doesn’t work, Windows 11 should put you back to 10 but just in case, make sure you backup your data.
  3. Never, ever feed it after midnight. And also make sure you backup your data.

Grab a USB stick and let’s roll the dice…

Stage 1: Creating a Windows 11 USB stick

How to install Windows 11 now
Download Windows 11

Visit Windows 11 installation assistant.

How to install Windows 11 now
Creation Windows 11 Installation Media

Scroll down to Create Windows 11 Installation Media and click Download Now.

How to install Windows 11 now
Starting the process

Microsoft’s download assistant will… well, download, so save the software to your machine and run it. You may need to twiddle your fingers whilst the software sorts itself out.

How to install Windows 11 now
Choose you options

Accept the license agreement and after another short wait, the Select language and edition options will appear. This mimics the settings of the machine doing the work, so if you want to choose alternative language options, untick the box and make your choice. Press Next when ready.

How to install Windows 11 now
Select USB flash drive

For this guide, we’ll select USB flash drive. Insert a USB stick (8GB or larger) and press Next.

How to install Windows 11 now
Go and have a cup of tea whilst Windows 11 downloads.

The software will now download your selection, which could take some time. Windows 11 weighs in at around 4.1GB which is around 1500 floppy disks in old money.

How to install Windows 11 now
Windows 11. Ready to go.

After about a week (depending on your broadband speed), the process will complete. Click Finish.

You now have a bootable USB of Windows 11. Congratulations.

Stage 2: A fresh install of Windows 11

Now, I’m making sweeping presumptions that your machine hits Microsoft’s technical specification for Windows 11.

Insert the USB into the machine and restart. If you’re building a new PC, then the USB will probably be the only bootable device present so the installation procedure will begin automatically.

How to install Windows 11 now
Windows 11 Boot

If this doesn’t happen, you’ll need to get the machine to boot from the USB stick. Depending on your exact specification, there can be a small amount of witchcraft involved but F2, F8, F12 or DEL will normally trigger a response that you can work with.

How to install Windows 11 now
Choose your Windows 11 language settings

Select your options. These should reflect the settings that you selected earlier but if you want a change, now is the time to do it. Select Next.

How to install Windows 11 now
Click Install Now

Select Install Now.

How to install Windows 11 now
Windows Activation

Windows will now work away for a few moments and present you with an activation Window.

If you have a product key (licence code) for Windows 10, then it’ll work in this box. Enter the key and click Next. If you’re not sure or you don’t require activation, select I don’t have a product key.

Select Windows 11 version

Choose the version of Windows that you require, or the one which matches your product key, and click Next.

Select custom

In this tutorial, we’re using Custom: Install Windows Only. Select that, and then click Next.

Choose installation drive.

The installer needs telling where to install Windows 11. Our machine only has one drive, so the selection process is greatly simplified. If your PC has more than one hard-drive, double check that you’ve selected the correct one. If you’re unsure, power down the machine and disconnect the drive which you don’t want to use and then restart the process. Better to be safe then sorry. When you’re happy, click Next.

Grab another cup of tea.

The process will begin and exactly how fast your machine can whizz through this stage will determine how many biscuits you can eat. Three is a good baseline, but if you get to seven, your machine probably needs an upgrade.

Select Language

The end is in sight. If your installation made it this far then you can relax as it’ll probably make it over the finish line. Select your language preferences at this point and press Yes.

Windows 11 will now flash a few more settings at you. Make your preferences known and then wait for the machine to check for updates. You never know… something may have happened since you started!

Name your PC

Give your PC a name. This creates a machine indentifier which is used, amongst other things, for software licensing. Go for something meaningful as this may come in handy in a few years when you’re trying to spot which Office 365 license you can safely deactivate.

Add your account

Windows 11 prefers for you to use an online account, so use your Microsoft credentials here. Windows 11 will throw a few more yes/no preference selections at you, including:

  • Let Microsoft and apps use your location
  • Find my device
  • Send diagnostic data to Microsoft
  • Improve inking & typing
  • Get tailored experiences with diagnostic data
  • Let apps use advertising ID

I’ll leave those choices to you, but remember that like Windows 10, you can modify selections later in Windows 11.

Windows 11 is installed

That’s it. Windows 11 is now running on your system. Don’t forgot to download the latest drivers for your hardware.

Sadly, not everyone will get this far. Microsoft’s phased rollout is partly down to lingering incompatibilities which will break the Windows 10 to 11 upgrade process. However, as you’ve seen, on a clean installation, there is a good chance that you’ll get Windows 11 working right now.

READ NEXT: Where has Cortana gone in Windows 11?

About the author

Lee Grant

I can normally be found attacking things with screwdrivers in my small computer repair business or writing a column for PC Pro magazine.

I am also trying to solve a mystery involving David Bowie.

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