How to: Create a bootable ISO file from your Windows 10 Download for reinstallation

Technical Level : Basic

The primary method of delivery for Windows 10 will be through Windows Update. Microsoft also provides ISO media, but if you are are already downloading Windows 10 through Windows Update, why not create your own? This is convenient for reinstall purposes especially if you need to perform a repair upgrade. Windows 10 already provides a recovery drive and reset pc functions, but these are limited by clean installs. Creating a ISO from the same PC you upgraded is also convenient if you have a second computer running a qualifying previous version of Windows you would like to upgrade, so it significantly saves on banwidth.

Please note, if you plan to use this same ISO image to install or upgrade another computer, it must be running the same edition or at least have a product key that can activate it.

After downloading Windows 10 through Windows Update, a copy of the installation file called a Install.esd (Electronic Software Delivery) is created in the folder C:\$Windows.~BT\Sources\

Press Windows key + R

Type: C:\$Windows.~BT\Sources

Copy the Install.esd file from the folder to your Downloads or Documents folder.

If you don't see it, enable Show hidden files and folders.

Download the latest version of ESD Decrypter

Download ESD Decrypter for Windows 10 build 14393 and below

(use 7zip to extract the compressed file)

Extract esd-decrypter-wimlib-4.7z to a folder.

You will need a free software called 7zip to do this:

7-Zip Download

After you have extracted the files, put the appropriate .ESD file you downloaded into that same folder.

Right click decrypt file in the same folder and click Run as administrator

Select option 2

Hit Enter


When complete, burn to a blank DVD or create a bootable copy on a USB thumbdrive.

Preparing the .ISO file for installation.

See instructions for burning .ISO files in Windows 7 or later:

You can also use the Microsoft USB/DVD Tool, which is recommended for Windows XP users.

After obtaining the .iso file you use the Microsoft .iso to USB/DVD tool to create a bootable DVD or USB (requires a blank DVD or USB flash stick of at least 4 GB).

For UEFI based systems

If your computer is UEFI based, these are normally systems that come pre-loaded with Windows 8 or later, you will need to prepare the ISO file for such a configuration or you will receive an error message during setup. The thumbdrive needs to be formatted as FAT32 and use the GPT partitioning scheme. To do this, you need to use Rufus, a small tool you can download for free.


Rufus - credit: Pete Batard/Akeo

After you have installed Rufus:

  • Launch it
  • Select ISO Image
  • Point to the Windows 10 ISO file
  • Check off Create a bootable disk using
  • Select GPT partitioning for EUFI firmware as the Partition scheme
  • Choose FAT32 NOT NTFS as the File system
  • Make sure your USB thumbdrive in the Device list box
  • Click Start
  • Close when complete

Otherwise, you download the official ISOs from Microsoft or use the one that will be provided as part of your upgrade.


How to Activate and resolve common Product key issues in Windows 10

How to: perform a repair upgrade using the Windows 10 ISO file

How to: upgrade from previous versions of Windows using Windows 10 ISO file

How to install the latest Windows 10 build from within Windows 8.1 or Windows 7

How to: Perform a clean install using Reset this PC in Windows 10

How to: Create a Recovery Drive for reinstalling Windows 10 


Forum Article Info

Last updated July 20, 2019 Views 639,567 Applies to:

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Excellent Article Andre, really helpful for mass installation on PCs.
Windows Insider MVP 2018-2020 and Volunteer Moderator
Why to press "1" as it says press "2" for .esd file?
thanks Andre, good stuff!

Thank you Andre for another brilliant tutorial.   

On a windows 8.1 machine where i am logged in using my insider account i reserved the upgrade to win 10 just a couple of weeks agao after the keys and iso for tech preview were no longer available from MS.  I can see the Install.esd in the location you describe (it auto downloaded on 28th July) but it is not clear if i should wait for the notification to upgrade and then upgrade before creating the iso as you describe for win 10 or if it is ok just to go ahead and create the iso before the upgrade has been applied?.   

EDIT: ahh i just found the reddit option ...

Because its the file it will create inside the iso not the file used to make it :)
hey im a bit confused... for uefi computers, do we format with rufus and burn to usb using rufus, or do we format with rufus and burn to usb using windows 7 usb tool? thanks.
If u r wondering how to formate to gpt u don't need rufus ..  
best way to convert and install putting gpt OS files to a thumb drive should auto correct the drive itself as long as its fat32  ..meaning ur drive will accept it ..u don't any tools to do this win 10 HDD had to be converted to gpt . Did that with comand like in the video ....if the thumb drive needs to be changed manually to a bootable drive . U can do so in the partition department ..

Andre, thank you so much a very nice article. Can I use this ISO to do the upgrade? Will it recognize my machine as valid if I use the ISO to upgrade? And last, after I do an upgrade then can I do a clean install?

As I understand it first you must upgrade to register your machine with MS then you can do a clean install from then on out, correct?

There seems to be a lot of folks facing activation issues on their new upgrade and others are having issues on their old windows version install with things like windows updates errors and corrupt downloads as well as GWX app issues.

The upgrade is seamless if you just go to and click the "Download Tool Now" button for the architecture of the machine you are using to either upgrade or create installation media. :-) It is worth the time and effort for sure. ;-) The whole process will cost you one hour or less depending on the machine you're using.  

I have not created installation as yet but can confirm the actual upgrade process is very slick. 

This was after my reserved copy and Get Windows 10 app (windows updates) method of upgrade failed.  The files downloaded but i never got the notification to upgrade.  Reviewing windows updates history revealed there had been many failed attempts at installing the win 10 upgrade.   I used the deleting whole directory and refreshing registry to get windows updates to try redownloading upgrade files but failed again with same and similar error codes.

There is no need to use the deleting $Windows.~BT directory method (which has appeared to get the upgrade in ok for some) as the Download Tool creates a $Windows.~WS directory to work from.

I am getting an error file is damaged or not found

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