Boot Surface from a USB device

Starting your Surface Pro model or Surface 3 from a USB drive can be useful if you want to change firmware settings or Windows startup settings.

Applies to

Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, Surface Pro 3, Surface 3, Surface Pro 2, Surface Pro.

Applies to

Surface Pro 3, Surface 3, Surface Pro 2, Surface Pro.

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.

Before you begin

Before you can use a USB drive to start your Surface, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Set up your USB drive as a bootable drive.
  • Configure Surface to start from a USB device instead of the solid-state drive (SSD).
Note
Booting from a USB device doesn’t refresh or reset your Surface. Instead, it allows you to 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 your Surface Pro or Surface 3.

Set up a USB device as a bootable drive

Step 1:  Insert a USB drive into a running computer.
Step 2:  Open a command prompt window as an administrator. (To do this, right-click Command Prompt and select Run as administrator.)
Step 3:  In the command prompt window, enter diskpart, and press Enter.
Step 4:  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.
Step 5:  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.
Step 6:  Enter clean, and press Enter.
This will delete all data from the USB drive.
Step 7:  To create a new primary partition on the USB drive, enter create part pri, and press Enter.
Step 8:  To select the partition that you just created, enter select part 1, and press Enter.
Step 9:  To format the partition, enter format fs=fat32 quick, and press Enter.
Step 10:  Enter active, and press Enter.
Step 11:  Enter exit, and press Enter.
Step 12:  When you have the operating system image that you want to boot to, save it to the root of the USB drive.

Configure your Surface to start from a USB device

Once your USB drive is set up as a bootable drive with an appropriate operating system on it, you’ll need to set up your Surface to boot from this drive. This requires you to make changes in the UEFI. Here’s how to configure the boot order on Surface so the USB drive is the first option.

For info on using the UEFI on your Surface, see How do I use the BIOS/UEFI?

To make changes in the UEFI:

Step 1:  Shut down your Surface.
Step 2:  Once Surface has turned off, press and hold the volume-up button.
Step 3:  With the volume-up button held down, press and release the power button.
Step 4:  Continue holding the volume-up button until the Surface logo no longer appears on the screen.

You should now see the Surface UEFI. Do one of the following:

  • Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3: Go to Step 5 below.
  • Surface Pro 1 and Surface Pro 2: Skip to Step 9 below.

Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3:

Step 5:  Select Configure Alternate System Boot Order.
Step 6:  Do one of the following:
  • Surface Pro 3: Select USB > SSD
  • Surface 3: Select Network > USB > SSD.
Step 7:  Select Exit Setup.
Step 8:  Select Yes to save the configuration and restart Surface.

Surface Pro 1 and Surface Pro 2 (optional for Surface Pro 3)

Step 9:  Select Secure Boot Control.
Step 10:  Select Disable. This will allow Surface to search for an alternate device to boot from aside from your SSD.

Note
This may affect the look of your Surface splash screen.

Step 11:  Select Exit Setup.
Step 12:  Select Yes to save the configuration and restart Surface.

Start Surface from a USB drive

Once you’ve followed the steps above to set up a USB drive as a bootable drive and configure the UEFI appropriately, you’re ready to start your Surface from your USB drive.

Notes
  • Before starting your Surface from a USB drive, make sure you don’t have any other USB devices connected to your Surface, including USB mice, keyboards or other storage drives. Surface will try to boot from other USB devices after you change the UEFI configuration.
  • If you don’t want to start your Surface from your USB drive, make sure the drive is not inserted in the USB port on your Surface when you start it.

Surface 3 (and Surface Pro 3 with a configured boot order in UEFI)

Step 1:  Shut down your Surface.
Step 2:  Insert the bootable USB drive into the USB port on your Surface.
Step 3:  Press the power button to turn it on.
Step 4:  Follow the on-screen instructions to boot from your USB drive.

Surface Pro 3 without a configured boot order in UEFI

Step 1:  Shut down your Surface.
Step 2:  Insert the bootable USB drive into the USB port on your Surface.
Step 3:  Press and hold the volume-down button on Surface.
Step 4:  While holding down the volume-down button, press and release the power button.
Step 5:  Follow the on-screen instructions to boot from your USB drive.

Surface Pro 1 and Surface Pro 2

Step 1:  Shut down your Surface.
Step 2:  Insert the bootable USB drive into the USB port on your Surface.
Step 3:  Press and hold the volume-down button on Surface.
Step 4:  While holding down the volume-down button, press and release the power button.
Step 5:  When the Surface logo appears, release the volume-down button.
Step 6:  Follow the on-screen instructions for the operating system on your USB drive.

If the USB drive doesn’t work on your Surface

Make sure that the USB drive is formatted to FAT32 and that the operating system image is the correct one for your model of Surface. For more info, see Create a USB recovery drive.


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.

Before you begin

Before you can use a USB drive to start your Surface, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Set up your USB drive as a bootable drive.
  • Configure Surface to start from a USB device instead of the solid-state drive (SSD).
Note
Booting from a USB device doesn’t refresh or reset your Surface. Instead, it allows you to 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 your Surface Pro or Surface 3.

Set up a USB device as a bootable drive

Step 1:  Insert a USB drive into a running computer.
Step 2:  Open a command prompt window as an administrator. (To do this, right-click Command Prompt and select Run as administrator.)
Step 3:  In the command prompt window, enter diskpart, and press Enter.
Step 4:  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.
Step 5:  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.
Step 6:  Enter clean, and press Enter.
This will delete all data from the USB drive.
Step 7:  To create a new primary partition on the USB drive, enter create part pri, and press Enter.
Step 8:  To select the partition that you just created, enter select part 1, and press Enter.
Step 9:  To format the partition, enter format fs=fat32 quick, and press Enter.
Step 10:  Enter active, and press Enter.
Step 11:  Enter exit, and press Enter.
Step 12:  When you have the operating system image that you want to boot to, save it to the root of the USB drive.

Configure your Surface to start from a USB device

Once your USB drive is set up as a bootable drive with an appropriate operating system on it, you’ll need to set up your Surface to boot from this drive. This requires you to make changes in the UEFI. Here’s how to configure the boot order on Surface so the USB drive is the first option.

For info on using the UEFI on your Surface, see How do I use the BIOS/UEFI?

To make changes in the UEFI:

Step 1:  Shut down your Surface.
Step 2:  Once Surface has turned off, press and hold the volume-up button.
Step 3:  With the volume-up button held down, press and release the power button.
Step 4:  Continue holding the volume-up button until the Surface logo no longer appears on the screen.

You should now see the Surface UEFI. Do one of the following:

  • Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3: Go to Step 5 below.
  • Surface Pro 1 and Surface Pro 2: Skip to Step 9 below.

Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3:

Step 5:  Select Configure Alternate System Boot Order.
Step 6:  Do one of the following:
  • Surface Pro 3: Select USB > SSD
  • Surface 3: Select Network > USB > SSD.
Step 7:  Select Exit Setup.
Step 8:  Select Yes to save the configuration and restart Surface.

Surface Pro 1 and Surface Pro 2 (optional for Surface Pro 3)

Step 9:  Select Secure Boot Control.
Step 10:  Select Disable. This will allow Surface to search for an alternate device to boot from aside from your SSD.

Note
This may affect the look of your Surface splash screen.

Step 11:  Select Exit Setup.
Step 12:  Select Yes to save the configuration and restart Surface.

Start Surface from a USB drive

Once you’ve followed the steps above to set up a USB drive as a bootable drive and configure the UEFI appropriately, you’re ready to start your Surface from your USB drive.

Notes
  • Before starting your Surface from a USB drive, make sure you don’t have any other USB devices connected to your Surface, including USB mice, keyboards or other storage drives. Surface will try to boot from other USB devices after you change the UEFI configuration.
  • If you don’t want to start your Surface from your USB drive, make sure the drive is not inserted in the USB port on your Surface when you start it.

Surface 3 (and Surface Pro 3 with a configured boot order in UEFI)

Step 1:  Shut down your Surface.
Step 2:  Insert the bootable USB drive into the USB port on your Surface.
Step 3:  Press the power button to turn it on.
Step 4:  Follow the on-screen instructions to boot from your USB drive.

Surface Pro 3 without a configured boot order in UEFI

Step 1:  Shut down your Surface.
Step 2:  Insert the bootable USB drive into the USB port on your Surface.
Step 3:  Press and hold the volume-down button on Surface.
Step 4:  While holding down the volume-down button, press and release the power button.
Step 5:  Follow the on-screen instructions to boot from your USB drive.

Surface Pro 1 and Surface Pro 2

Step 1:  Shut down your Surface.
Step 2:  Insert the bootable USB drive into the USB port on your Surface.
Step 3:  Press and hold the volume-down button on Surface.
Step 4:  While holding down the volume-down button, press and release the power button.
Step 5:  When the Surface logo appears, release the volume-down button.
Step 6:  Follow the on-screen instructions for the operating system on your USB drive.

If the USB drive doesn’t work on your Surface

Make sure that the USB drive is formatted to FAT32 and that the operating system image is the correct one for your model of Surface. For more info, see Create a USB recovery drive.


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