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Creating a Bootable Windows USB From Linux

What you need to know about making Windows boot media from Linux. It does not work.

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By. Jacob

Edited: 2022-01-17 09:22

64GB PNY memory stick, can not be made bootable with Windows.

After at least a few days (in total, since the problem is reoccurring) trying to create a bootable Windows 10 USB from Linux, I must acknowledge the simple state of things. The fact is, it does not seem to matter much what tool you use, if somehow your memory stick is not bootable or compatible, it is just not going to work.

As far as I can tell, something is just different with Windows that causes some memory sticks not to work.

You will find many tutorials that may or may not work, but no simple straight forward way to create a bootable USB stick with Windows on it.

Today I spent several hours (Again! Because it is the same problem every time I need to make a Windows USB from Linux). I am afraid it is wearing down my USB sticks. I tried in almost all thinkable ways, and followed all the tutorials I could find. Nothing works. Creating Windows boot media from Linux is severely and utterly broken.

I even tried a tool called WoeUSB I found on GitHub, but not only is this tool slower than a snail at creating the media, when finally it finishes up, still my Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 bios does not see the USB stick — this is different if I make a Linux-usb, which works without any issues! I finally managed to get this to work by trying a 8GB stick instead of my 64GB one.

Get WoeUSB here: https://github.com/WoeUSB

This problem is just so weird.

Things I tried so far on the 64GB PNY stick:

  1. Formatting the stick as exfat, copying the files from the mounted ISO.
  2. Formatting as NTFS, copying the files from the mounted ISO.
  3. Same as 1. But with "bootable" checked, and MS-DOS partition table.
  4. Same as 1. But with "bootable" checked, and GPT partition table.
  5. Same as 2. But with "bootable" checked, and MS-DOS partition table.
  6. Same as 2. But with "bootable" checked, and GPT partition table.
  7. Using dd to write the ISO to the drive.
  8. Using unetbootin (Does not even register the USB stick).
  9. Using the KDE disk tool. Fails, because UDF filesystem is not bootable. Doh!
  10. Using WoeUSB. Specifically: sudo ./woeusb -p Win10_21H2_English_x64.iso /dev/sda1
  11. Using Rufus in Wine; this does not work in Ubuntu 21.10 (Impish Indri), because Wine has unmet dependencies in 21.10.

In fact, the problem has become so bad that I have not even been able to get rufus to work consistently lately from Windows. It looks like the problem may be that some USB sticks simply refuses to boot with Windows on; the strange part is, they work just fine with Linux!

I suppose, in theory, even using dd should work, given you have a USB stick that somehow works with Windows. The exact reason why my 64GB stick does not work is a mystery to me.

Installing on external Hard Disks

I realize you do not have to install your OS on your internal hard disk.

It is usually going to be faster, however. But, recent USB standards are now so fast that it is worth considering such alternative setups if you switch between Linux and Windows a lot.

If you have USB3.0, then you might already benefit from the Full Duplex Superspeed feature, meaning that is will be capable of both sending and receiving data at the same time. In comparison, the older USB2.0 standard is only Half Duplex, and can not both send and receive simultaneously.

Also, if your external hard disk supports USB3.2, it should also enable 20Gbps transfer speeds in dual-lane mode, or 10Gbps in single-lane mode (not to be confused with half/full duplex). If you use a USB-C cable when connecting, dual-lane should be used, while standard USB connectors might fall back to single lane mode.

Links

  1. What is it that makes some USB sticks not-bootable? - superuser.com
  2. How can I identify which of my USB drives can be made bootable? - superuser.com

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