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How to Install Windows 10 on External Hard Drive | Proven Installation Methods

You can install Windows 10 on an external hard drive by following the steps in any of the methods listed below.

Key Takeaways

  • All the ways you can configure Windows 10 on your external hard drive
  • You can also configure Windows 10 from an external hard drive
  • Remember to always back up your data before beginning the process

Method 1


  1. Plug in your external hard drive to the computer.
  2. Back up your data found in the drive. 
  3. Have your external hard drive formatted to NTFS.
  4. Go to Start, and on the search bar, key in This PC. This will open the PC.
  5. Right-click the PC icon, then choose Manage.
  6. On the left pane of the new Window that appears, select the storage tab and press the Disk Management tab.
  7. Wait for the PC to read the hard disk you attached to it. 
  8. A list of all the hard drives connected to the PC will appear on the screen. Click on the hard drive name you attached and press the format tab. 
  9. Choose NTFS as the file type and tick on the format box. Proceed to press the OK tab. 
  10. Click OK when the prompt message pops up on the screen, warning you that all your data will be lost. 

Your external hard drive will be formatted into NTFS after a short while.

Downloading Windows 10 Creation Essential

  1. Download Windows 10 Creation essential and run it.
  2. Wait for a prompt message to appear on the screen.  
  3. From the prompt message that shows up, choose the Create Installation media option from the options provided. 
  4. A new prompt window will display asking you to select Architecture and the Windows Edition; you’re supposed to choose the Use Recommended Settings tab. However, you can choose to edit to fit your taste. After finishing, click Next. 
  5. Choose the ISO media tab and press Next. 
  6.  Add the search location you want to save the Windows ISO file you’re about to download, then press the Save tab to download the Windows 10 ISO. 
  7. Download Wintousb, run it and install.
  8. Open the program and confirm the prompt, seeking to check for an update. 

Installing the Windows 10 ISO to the External Hard Drive

  1. Choose the Browse For Folder tab, select and add search location where you saved the Windows 10 ISO you downloaded.
  2. Select the Windows 10 version to install to the hard drive and click the Next tab.  
  3. From the dropdown menu, choose your External Hard Drive.
  4. On the Boot and System partitions, identify your hard drive. Also, select the Legacy mode before clicking on the Next tab. 
  5. Give the PC time to set up Windows 10 on your hard drive (you may consider installing a hard drive monitoring software, as well).
  6. Restart your PC.
  7. Click the F2 key to open the bios. 
  8. On the boot option, for the Legacy First, select Boot Priority and Boot Mode for the Legacy Support.  
  9. Save the changes you made and restart your PC. 

At this moment, Windows 10 will be successfully set up on the external hard drive. 

Method 2

  1. Connect the hard drive or USB stick through the USB ports of your PC.
  2. Back up your data found in the hard drive. 
  3. Download WinToUSB. This is intended for use in external hard drives and USB stick.
  4. Download Windows 10 installer ISO image to prepare your Windows installation image. 
  5. Skip this step if you already have a Windows installation file. 
  6. Open WinToUSB, and from the left pane, select the USB drive or create installation media from where you’ll install Windows.
  7. Choose from the list of options provided, the one that corresponds to your license, then click on the Next tab.   
  8. Choose your external drive you want to set up Windows 10. You’ll find this option at the top side of the new Window that opens.
  9. You’ll be prompted to pick the boot partition and the system partition. Choose the recommended partitions if your external drive is not split into several partitions. 
  10. Select the Legacy mode under the installation mode. However, if you’ll be unable to install Windows using the Legacy mode, then do so using VHD mode. 
  11. Choose the Windows installation package size. Choose the highest option available and click on the Next tab.  
  12. Give your PC time to finish installing Windows 10. When it is done, you’ll be prompted to confirm the completion of the installation. 
  13. Restart your PC and use the external drive to boot. To do this, press F12, which will allow you to navigate through BIOS. Make sure you stick to the instructions that will show on the screen of your PC. 
  14. Select your external hard drive from the listed options provided. Use the installation wizard to configure Windows 10 to your external device. 
  15. Download and install all essential drivers you may need to support Windows 10 in your external hard drive. 

Method 3

EaseUS Todo Backup 

  1. Delete existing partitions from your external hard drive.
  2. Check to ascertain that your external hard drive has enough storage, larger than your system partition.  
  3. Remove the partitions from the external hard drive using Disk Management or a partition manager. To delete the external hard disk partitions, follow the guideline given below.
     - Press on This PC and proceed to manage.
     - Choose the Disk Management tab.
     - Select your external hard drive and right-click on it.
     - Choose the Delete Volume option.
     - Press on the Yes tab to allow Windows 10 to remove the partition you’ve selected.
  4. Download EaseUS system cloning software.
  5. After you’ve installed EaseUS, run it to back up on your PC. Installing Windows 10 this way, using EaseUS provides an effortless way of installation to an external hard drive compared to other programs like Windows To Go.
  6. Start EaseUS Todo Backup. 
  7. Go to the menu and select the System Clone option.
  8. Select the external hard drive as your destination disk. The software will select the boot and system partitions. 
  9. Go to the Advanced options and click on the Create Portable Windows USB drive. 
  10. Press the OK button.
  11. Press the Proceed button. This will enable the software to clone your PC’s default partitions to your external hard drive.
  12. Wait for the cloning process to finish.
  13.  Unplug the external hard drive upon completion of the cloning process.
  14. If you’re on another Windows PC and want to boot your cloned Win 10, plug in  your hard drive to the computer.
  15. Give the new Windows PC enough time to finish configuring the Win 10 settings in your external hard drive. 
  16. You’ll need to input your username and password for the cloned Win 10 to open it. 

How to Launch Windows 10 from your External Hard Drive

You can launch Windows 10 from your external hard drive by using the guideline given below. 

  1. Plug in your external hard drive to the computer.
  2. Hold down the Shift button as you restart your PC, or use any other key combination to open the Boot menu. 
  3. Activate Windows 10 if it’s your first time running this OS on an external hard drive. Do other setup procedures as well before you can use Windows 10.  
  4. After activating and performing setup manuals on your Windows 10, you can install apps and other programs onto your external hard drive. You can access these online resources from any Windows device at any time.

Can I Configure Windows 10 from an External Hard Drive?

Yes, you can configure it from an external hard drive. 

The instructions below contain the steps to follow when configuring Windows 10 from an external drive. 

How to Configure Windows 10 from your External Hard Drive 

  1. Plug in your hard drive to the computer.
  2.  Navigate the file explorer and right-click on the external hard drive. 
  3. Click on the Format option.
  4. Choose NTFS as the file system.  
  5. A formatting dialog box will appear; select Quick Format.
  6. Select the Windows 10 ISO image file and right-click on it. 
  7. Choose the 7-Zip option and click on the Open Archive tab.
  8. Select files contained in the ISO file and transfer them to your external hard drive.
  9. Open the elevated command prompt and input the command given below.                                                                                                             - f:
     - cd boot
     - bootsect /nt60 f: /force
  10. Make partitions on the external hard drive using the diskpart tool. Input the following command on the elevated command prompt.         - diskpart                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   - list disk                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     - choose disk 1                                                                                                                                                                                                                         - list partition                                                                                                                                                                                                                            - choose partition 1                                                                                                                                                                                                                 - active                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       - Exit                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           - The list disk should show your external hard drive as the first, and                                                                                                                             - The list partition should show partition no. 1 on your external hard drive.
  11. Click on the F 12 key while rebooting your PC to choose a boot media. 
  12. A list will show on the screen; choose the Mass Storage Media to install Windows 10.
  13. Turn off the PC and the external hard drive simultaneously if you cannot boot your PC using the external hard drive.
  14. Turn on your computer and the hard drive at the same time. This should solve the problem. 

Is Windows 10 Worth Getting?

If you're in the market for a new device and can afford it, yes. All compatible hardware is be eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 11, and everyone can install Windows on their device now.

You may still be running your computer on Windows 7 or 8, and if so now's the time to upgrade. This isn't just a performance update, Windows 10 brings new features and security settings to your machine that are crucial to getting your work done in today's operating systems.

Is my PC Too Old for Windows 10?

The System Requirements for running Windows 10 as confirmed by Microsoft's specification page are: Processor: 1GHz or faster processor or SoC. RAM: 1GB for 32-bit or 2GB for 64-bit. Hard disk space: 16GB for 32-bit OS 20GB for 64-bit OS.

Final Word on How to Install Windows 10 on External Hard Drive

Now, you have all the ways you can configure Windows 10 on your external hdd. Choose from the list any method that feels suitable for you. No matter the method you choose, remember to always back up your data before beginning the process. 


1. Can you install Windows on a Mac external hard drive?

Boot Camp and Boot Camp Assistant allow you to install Windows on your Mac. It's a nice capability that lets you select – at boot time – which operating system you wish to use: macOS or Windows.

2. How do I run as admin install?

If a program requires Administrator privileges to perform certain functions, you need to run the program as Administrator. To run a program as Administrator in Windows 10, right-click the icon in your Start menu and select Run as administrator.

3. Can I install Windows from external hard drive without formatting?

You can do this. It is simple. Split the drive into two partitions using media creation tool that can be found on the internet and move your data to the second partition.

4. Will an external SSD run as fast as an internal SSD?

The answer really is: it depends. It depends on your system, and its form factor and interface. While the latest external SSDs have incredible write speeds, they cannot reach those speeds using older connections such as USB-A. Likewise, drive speeds are directly affected by the interface.

5. What does media creation tool do?

The media creation tool can be used to upgrade your computer to Windows 10 or to create a USB or DVD and install Windows 10 on a different computer. Microsoft has a step-by-step process to allow you to upgrade, using the media creation tool.

6. Is Windows To Go still available?

Windows To Go is removed in Win 10, version 2004 and later operating systems. The Windows To Go feature does not support feature updates and therefore does not enable you to stay current. It also requires a specific type of USB that is no longer supported by many OEMs.

7. Is Windows To Go portable?

Windows To Go is a handy feature that allows us to install fully-functional Win 10/8.1/8 enterprise operating system onto an external drive or USB sticks as a portable Windows, after that we can carry the portable Windows USB drive to anywhere and use it on any computer.

About Dusan Stanar

I'm the founder of VSS Monitoring. I have been both writing and working in technology in a number of roles for dozens of years and wanted to bring my experience online to make it publicly available. Visit https://www.vssmonitoring.com/about-us/ to read more about myself and the rest of the team.

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