How to Check If a USB Drive Is Bootable or Not in Windows 10

Featured Check Usb Drive Is Bootable Windows10

If you have created a bootable USB drive, you might be wondering whether it will successfully initialize and boot. You don’t always have to restart your PC/laptop to find out. The following techniques can easily determine whether a USB drive is bootable or not in Windows 10. These include methods native to your Windows system as well as external recommended software.

How to Make Any USB Drive Bootable

Here’s a quick primer on how to make a USB drive bootable. For Windows 10 systems, the fastest and most reliable way is to download and install BalenaEtcher. This software readily etches any ISO file on the USB drive. (You can also use Rufus to create a bootable USB drive.)

Check Usb Bootable Balenaetcher

Many ISO files (the following example is for Raspberry Pi Desktop) can be huge in size. You don’t always need to download the ISO separately first. Just copy-paste the ISO download link, and it will etch much faster on your drive. All the data on the drive will be erased while a bootable media is created.

Check Usb Bootable Balenaetcher Flashing

After flashing, Balena will validate the bootable disk, which doesn’t take very long.

Check Usb Bootable Balenaetcher Validating

You’ll see a “Flash Complete” message once the USB drive is converted into a bootable disk.

Check Usb Bootable Balenaetcher Flash Complete

Check USB Drive Bootable Status from Disk Management

Open your Start menu search and type in “disk manager.” Select the “Create and format hard disk partitions” entry.

Check Usb Bootable Create Format Hard Disk Partitions

Select the formatted drive (disk 1 in this example) and right-click to go to “Properties.” Navigate to the “Volumes” tab and check the “Partition style.” You should see it marked with some kind of boot flag, such as Master Boot Record (MBR) or GUID Partition Table. Also, the removable media with bootable ISO will display a status like “no volume” or very little volume (just a few MB).

Check Usb Bootable Disk Management Partition Style

Check USB Drive Bootable Status from Command Prompt

Another way to check the external drive’s bootability is to run a few lines on the command-line prompt. Open cmd from Start menu in Administrator mode.

Check Usb Bootable Commandprompt Admin

Enter the following commands:

The formatted removable media with ISO will display “no volume” or very little volume in MB.

Check Usb Bootable Commandprompt No Media

Check USB Drive Bootable Status from Windows PowerShell

Even Windows PowerShell can give a quick overview of the drive’s bootability. Run it as an administrator from Start menu search.

Check Usb Bootable Powershell Adminmode

Enter get-disk to gather information about your USB drive. Check if the device health status is “healthy” and whether it displays no media operational status and 0 Bytes volume (or very low volume).

Check Usb Bootable Powershell Status

Check Whether USB Is Bootable Using MobaLiveCD

The easiest third-party software to check a drive’s bootable state is MobaLiveCD, a wrapped-for-the-Qemu-system emulation software. It will actually run an ad-hoc virtual machine and attempt to boot from your USB, so it’s a fairly robust way to check the drive’s bootable state.

1. Download the MobaLiveCD .exe file from the developer’s website.

2. After the download is complete, right-click on the downloaded EXE and choose “Run as Administrator.” If you don’t, you’ll get an error reading “Setup cannot copy the file kqemu.sys” and won’t be able to proceed past step five.

3. Click on the button labeled “Run the LiveUSB” in the bottom half of the window.

Check Usb Bootable Mobalivecd Run

4. Chose the USB drive you want to test from the drop-down menu. In this case I’ve selected the F:/ drive. If you’re not sure what the drive letter is, check an Explorer window and locate the drive in the sidebar.

Check Usb Bootable Mobalivecd Select Thumbdrive

5. When asked to create a hard disk for your virtual machine, click “No” next to the red X.

how-to-check-if-usb-is-bootable-or-not-5

6. The Qemu emulator will boot the USB drive. You’ll also see a command prompt appear with a little boot-up text. This means the virtual machine is attempting to boot from the drive you selected in the previous step.

Check Usb Bootable Mobalivecd Booting From Hard Disk

7. If you see a booting screen next, this means your drive is bootable! Depending on what you’re trying to boot, there may be multiple boot options as shown below. Press Enter to boot or TAB to edit a menu entry.

Check Usb Bootable Mobalivecd Boot Options

Using Magic ISO Maker to Test Disk Images

You can also use the (admittedly very old) freeware Magic ISO Maker to see if a disk image is bootable. This actually works best on images themselves, but it’s a good way to ensure an image is bootable before you burn it to a USB.

1. Download Magic ISO Maker. Once the installation is finished, open the software and chose “Open … ” from the “File” menu.

Check Usb Bootable Magicisomaker Open

3. Choose your ISO file from the menu.

Check Usb Bootable Magicisomaker Open Iso

4. Look in the menu bar. If it says “Bootable,” that ISO will be bootable once it’s burned to a CD or USB drive. If it doesn’t say bootable, it obviously won’t work to create bootable media.

Check Usb Bootable Magicisomaker Bootable

Conclusion

The best way to test if a USB drive is bootable is to actually try booting your computer from your drive, but that’s not always feasible. The above methods will allow you to find out whether your USB drive is bootable. If you want to start over, we can show you how to format USB drives on Windows, and also how to format drives in FAT32 specifically, if required.

Sayak Boral Sayak Boral

Sayak Boral is a technology writer with over ten years of experience working in different industries including semiconductors, IoT, enterprise IT, telecommunications OSS/BSS, and network security. He has been writing for MakeTechEasier on a wide range of technical topics including Windows, Android, Internet, Hardware Guides, Browsers, Software Tools, and Product Reviews.

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