How to check if a USB flash drive needs to be booted in Windows 10 or not

If you have created a bootable USB drive, you may be wondering if it will boot and boot successfully. You don’t always have to restart your PC / laptop to find out. The following technologies can easily determine if a USB flash drive is bootable in Windows 10. These include Windows-related methods and recommended external software.

How to make a USB drive bootable

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to boot a USB flash drive. On Windows 10 systems, the fastest and most reliable way is to download and install Balena engraver. This software easily burns any ISO file to a USB drive. (You can also create a USB drive that can be booted using Rufus.)

Many ISO files (the following example applies to the Raspberry Pi Desktop) can be huge in size. You don’t always have to download the ISO separately first. Copy and paste the ISO download link and it will burn to your disc much faster. All disk data will be erased when you create the boot disk.

After flashing, Balena reinforces the starter plate, which doesn’t last very long.

You will see a “Flash Complete” message when the USB drive is converted to a bootable disk.

Check the boot status of the USB drive in Disk Management

Open the search from the Start menu and type “Disk Management”. Select “Create and format hard disk partitions”.

Select the formatted drive (disk 1 in this example) and right-click “Properties”. Go to the “Volumes” tab and select the “Partition Type” box. You should see it marked with some sort of boot flag, such as a Master Boot Record (MBR) or GUID partition table. In addition, removable media with an ISO bootable displays a status such as “no volume” or very little (just a few megabytes).

Check the boot status of the USB drive at a command prompt

Another way to check the bootability of an external drive is to run a few lines at a command prompt. Open cmd From the Start menu in Administrator mode.

Type the following commands:

Removable media formatted with ISO displays “no volume” or very little volume in megabytes.

Check the boot status of the USB drive in Windows PowerShell

Even Windows PowerShell can provide a quick overview of drive bootability. Run it as an administrator from the home menu search.

Come in get-disk to collect data from a USB drive. Check if the health status of the device is “healthy” and does not show the media operating status and 0 bytes (or very low volume).

Check if USB must be booted using MobaLiveCD

The easiest third-party software to check the drive’s boot status is MobaLiveCD, encapsulated emulation software for the Qemu system. It actually uses an ad hoc virtual machine and tries to boot from a USB drive, so it’s a pretty solid way to check the boot status of the drive.

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

2. When the download is complete, right-click the downloaded EXE file and select Run as administrator. If you do not, you will receive the error message “Installer cannot copy the kqemu.sys file” and you cannot skip step 5.

3. Click the “Run LiveUSB” button at the bottom of the window.

4. Select the USB drive you want to test from the drop-down menu. In this case, I selected the F: / position. If you are unsure of the drive letter, look in the search window and look for the drive in the sidebar.

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

6. The Qemu emulator starts the USB stick. You will also see a command prompt with a small startup text. This means that the virtual machine will try to boot from the drive you selected in the previous step.

7. If you see the home screen, your disk is bootable! Depending on what you are trying to get started, there may be several starting options, as shown below. Press Enter or to start LANGUAGE to edit a menu item.

Using Magic ISO Maker to test images on a disc

You can also use the (albeit very old) free Magic ISO Maker software to see if the image on the disc is bootable. It actually works best on the images themselves, but it’s a good way to make sure the image starts up before burning to a USB drive.

1. Download Creator of ISO magic. When the installation is complete, open the software and select “Open …” from the “File” menu.

3. Select an ISO file from the menu.

4. Look at the menu bar. If it says “Bootable”, this ISO will start when it is burned to a CD or USB stick. If it doesn’t say bootable, it apparently won’t work to create boot media.


The best way to test whether a USB drive needs to be booted is to try booting your computer from the drive, but this is not always possible. The above methods tell you if you need to turn on the USB drive. If you want to start over, we can show you how to format USB drives in Windows, and also how to format drives to FAT32 if necessary.

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