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.

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 (see also hard drive installation post) 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.  Choose the location you want to save the ISO 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 the 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 through the USB port 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 sticks.
  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 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 hard 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 hard 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. This will install Windows 10. 
  12. Give your PC time to finish installing Windows 10. When it is done, you’ll be prompted to confirm the completion of the Windows 10 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 hard drive. 
  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  Windows 10 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 Windows 10, plug in  your hard drive to the computer.
  15. Give the new Windows PC enough time to finish configuring the Windows 10 settings in your external hard drive. 
  16. You’ll need to input your username and password for the cloned Windows 10 to open it. 

You can now use Windows 10 on your Windows PC. 

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 Windows 10 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 Windows 10 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 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. 


Now, you have all the ways you can configure Windows 10 on your external hard drive. 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. 

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 to read more about myself and the rest of the team.

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