How to Boot Your Surface Pro From a USB Drive

A handy process for OS installs, settings adjustments, and more

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.

How to Boot Your Surface Pro From a USB Drive

The steps below will boot your Surface Pro (or other Surface device) from a bootable USB drive.

  1. Shut down your Surface Pro if it's currently on, in sleep, or hibernating.

  2. Plug the bootable USB drive into a USB port on the Surface Pro.

  3. Press and hold the volume down button, and then press and release the power button.

    The Power and Volume Down buttons on a Surface Pro
  4. 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.

  1. Insert the bootable USB drive into a USB port on your Surface Pro.

  2. Open the Start Menu.

    The Start menu in Windows
  3. Tap Settings.

    Settings in the Windows Start menu
  4. Select Updates & Security if using Windows 10. Select System and then Recovery if using Windows 11.

    The "Update & Security" heading in Windows settings
  5. Find Advanced Startup and select Restart Now.

    The "Restart Now" button under "Advanced Startup"
  6. Your Surface Pro will open a blue screen. Tap Use a Device.

    The "Use a Device" option
  7. Choose USB Storage.

    The Surface Pro will immediately restart once you select USB Storage and boot from the drive.

    The "USB Storage" option in "Use a Device"

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.

  1. With the Surface Pro turned off, press and hold the volume up button, and then press and release the power button.

    The Power and Volume Up buttons on a Surface Pro
  2. Continue to hold the volume up button as the Surface boots.

  3. The Surface UEFI screen will appear. Select Boot configuration.

    The "Boot configuration" option
  4. Drag USB Storage to the top of the boot list.

    The boot list in the Surface UEFI 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.

  5. 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.

FAQ
  • How do I screenshot on a Surface Pro?

    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.

  • How do I reset a Surface Pro?

    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.

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