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Create bootable USB keys from ISO images with Rufus

20 June 2012, Mike Williams

When you need to download some bootable tool – an antivirus repair disc, say – you’ll often find it comes in the form of an ISO image, which it’s assumed you’ll then burn to CD or DVD. Of course if your target system doesn’t have an optical drive then that won’t help you very much, so it can often be useful to extract the image to a USB key, instead – and Rufus makes that very convenient.

The program doesn’t require installation, for instance, or come with any unwanted extras (no browser toolbars here). Just download the single executable, run it, and a straightforward interface makes it very clear what you need to do.

And at the minimum, this may not be very much. Rufus automatically selects the first USB drive it finds, for instance, so you might only have to point the program to your ISO file before clicking “Start”.

Every Rufus option and setting is available from this one dialog box

If you need more control, though, you’re also able to choose the target drive’s preferred format (file system, capacity, cluster size.)

When you know you’re dealing with an old PC which has problems with USB booting, then Rufus has some more advanced tools which might help (expand “Format Options” to see them).

And if for some reason the program doesn’t behave as you expect then a handy Log option displays everything it’s done, in detail, very useful when troubleshooting.

If you regularly need to create bootable USB drives, though, perhaps the most interesting aspect of Rufus is its excellent performance. We pitted it against UNetbootin in a test to create a bootable USB version of the Windows 8 Release Preview image, and Rufus came out an easy winner, proving to be around 30% faster than the competition.

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