How to Boot Your Surface Pro From a USB Drive. Starting your Surface from a USB drive can be useful if you want to change firmware settings or Windows startup settings. Booting from a USB device doesn’t refresh or reset your Surface. Instead, it lets you start your Surface using Windows or another operating system that’s on your USB device. For info about recommended recovery methods, see Restore or reset Surface.
What to Know
- Shut down the Surface, and then press Power while holding Volume Down.
- In Windows: Start > Settings > Updates & Security > Advanced Startup > Restart Now > Use a Device > USB Storage.
- Always boot from USB: Shut down > press Power and Volume Up > select Boot Configuration > move USB Storage to top.
In this article, you’ll learn three ways to bypass the Windows boot sequence by starting up your Surface Pro from a USB drive. Booting a Surface Pro from a USB drive can be used to upgrade to a new version of Windows if the default Windows installer fails; it’s also necessary to downgrade from a more recent version of Windows or install an alternate operating system.
Important: This article contains advanced troubleshooting steps. You’ll need to be comfortable with using a command prompt and configuring the UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, also known as the BIOS) on your Surface. For more info, see How to use Surface UEFI.
How to Boot Your Surface Pro From a USB Drive
Note: If you don’t want to start your Surface from your USB drive, make sure the drive isn’t inserted in the USB port on your Surface when you start it.
The steps below will boot your Surface Pro (or other Surface device) from a bootable USB drive.
Shut down your Surface Pro if it’s currently on, in sleep, or hibernating.
Plug the bootable USB drive into a USB port on the Surface Pro.
- Press and hold the volume down button, and then press and release the power button.
- Continue to hold the volume down button as the Surface Pro turns on and begins to boot.
You can release once the spinning dots animation appears below the Surface logo on the Surface Pro’s screen. The Surface device will now load the bootable USB drive. It will remain in use until you turn off the Surface. Be careful not to unplug the USB drive while it’s in use, as this will likely cause the Surface to freeze or crash.
How to Boot Your Surface Pro From a USB Drive with Windows
This method will let you boot directly from a bootable USB drive from Windows 10 or Windows 11. It’s slightly quicker than the first method if your Surface Pro is already on.
The Surface Pro will immediately restart once you select USB Storage and boot from the drive.
How to Permanently Boot Your Surface Pro From a USB Drive
The methods above pertain to temporarily using a bootable USB drive. The instructions below will permanently configure your Surface Pro to boot from a USB drive if one is connected.
- With the Surface Pro turned off, press and hold the volume up button, and then press and release the power button.
Continue to hold the volume up button as the Surface boots.
The Surface UEFI screen will appear. Select Boot configuration.
- Drag USB Storage to the top of the boot list.
Moving USB Storage to the top of the list can be finicky with a touchpad. Try using the Surface Pro’s touchscreen or a mouse instead.
Tap Exit and then Restart Now.
The boot order will now be changed. You can reverse this by opening the Surface UEFI and moving Windows back to the top of the boot list. Remember, the Surface Pro will only boot from a bootable USB drive. Booting the Surface Pro with a USB drive that is not bootable connected will cause an error.
Change the boot order
You’ll need to change the boot order so that your Surface boots from a USB.
For most Surface models
These instructions apply to these Surface models:
- Surface Pro 6, Surface Pro 7, Surface Pro 7+, Surface Pro 8, Surface Pro X
- Surface Book 2, Surface Book 3
- Surface Laptop 2, Surface Laptop 3, Surface Laptop 4, Surface Laptop Go, Surface Laptop Studio, Surface Laptop SE
- Surface Go 2, Surface Go 3
- Surface Studio 2
- Surface Hub 2S
To change the Surface boot configuration:
- Select Boot configuration.
- Select USB Storage and drag it to the top of the list. Alternatively, you can swipe left on USB Storage to boot to the device immediately. This will not affect the boot order.
- Select Exit and then select Restart Now.
Microsoft built in several ways to take Surface Pro screenshots. The quickest is to hold the Windows button on the Surface (not the keyboard) and then press Volume Down. Alternatively, search for the Snipping Tool app. If your keyboard has a PrtScn key, press that while holding the Windows key. Double-clicking the top button will also take a screenshot if you have a Surface Pen.
Whether you’re selling or giving away your Surface Pro or need a fresh install of the operating system, you can reset your Surface Pro. In Windows 11, go to Start > Settings > System > Recovery, and then select Reset PC. In Windows 10, go to Start > Settings > Update & Security > Recovery, and then click Get Started. In either case, you can choose to keep your files or remove everything.
The USB drive doesn’t work
Make sure that the USB drive is formatted as FAT32. Here’s how to ensure the USB device is properly formatted as a bootable drive:
Warning: Setting up the USB drive will erase everything that’s stored on it. Make sure to transfer any important data on your USB drive to another storage device before continuing.
- Insert a USB drive into your Surface. (The USB drive should be at least 16 GB.)
- Open a Command Prompt window as an administrator. (To do this, right-click Command Prompt and select Run as administrator.)
- In the Command Prompt window, enter diskpart, and then press Enter.
- To determine the drive number or letter of the USB drive, at the command prompt, enter list disk, and press Enter.The list disk command displays all the disks on the computer. Note the drive number or drive letter of the USB drive.
- At the command prompt, enter select disk X (where X is the drive number or drive letter of the USB drive that you noted in the last step), and press Enter.
- Enter clean, and press Enter. This will delete all data from the USB drive.
- To create a new primary partition on the USB drive, enter create part pri, and press Enter.
- To select the partition that you just created, enter select part 1, and press Enter.
- To format the partition, enter format fs=fat32 quick, and press Enter.
- Enter active, and press Enter.
- Enter exit, and press Enter.
- When you have the operating system image that you want to boot to, save it to the root of the USB drive.
If that’s not the problem, check the following from Microsoft:
- Make sure that Enable Boot from USB devices is On under Advanced options of the UEFI Boot configuration screen. To find out how to boot to the UEFI configuration, see How do I use the BIOS/UEFI? and How to use Surface UEFI.
- If you have configured a boot order, check the Advanced options in the UEFI Boot configuration screen to ensure that Enable alternate boot sequence is On. To find out how to boot to the UEFI configuration, see How do I use the BIOS/UEFI? and How to use Surface UEFI.
- Use another USB drive, if possible.
- If you currently have a Windows Insider build installed, you may need to first turn off and then turn on Secure Boot for the USB boot drive to be recognized. For more info on how to change Secure Boot, see How do I use the BIOS/UEFI? and How to use Surface UEFI.
Was this article helpful?