How To: Boot Surface From a USB Drive


How To Boot Surface From a USB Drive

There are times when you might need to be able to boot your Surface from a USB drive. The most obvious reason is because your Surface won’t boot correctly and you want to use advanced tools from a recovery drive to fix the problem.

So, you put the drive in the USB port, restart your Surface and…. nothing happens. It doesn’t boot to the USB drive and it won’t tell you why.

So, why isn’t it working?

Well, it’s because, by default, the Surface won’t automatically try to boot from a plugged in USB drive. You have to tell it that you want to boot from one; this article will teach you how to do just that.

Boot Surface From a USB Drive: How To Do It

This method will work even if your Surface is having a problem and will not successfully boot into Windows. Just be aware that I’m assuming you’re starting the process with the Surface turned completely off (not just in sleep mode).

  • Attach your bootable USB device to the USB port
  • Press and hold the volume-down button
  • Press and release the power button
  • When the Surface logo appears on the screen release the volume-down button, not before

At this point, the Surface will boot from the USB device.

How To: Boot Surface From a USB Drive - Infographic

If your Surface can successfully boot into Windows but you want to boot from a USB drive anyway, you could get into your PC Settings and change the advanced startup options but, frankly, it’s just easier to use the method above.

However, if you really want to know how to do it the long way, check out Microsoft’s instructions for doing so HERE.


is a professional geek with over 23 years of experience working in Information Technology and dealing with everything from large-scale storage to remote systems management and automation for organizations such as Texas Instruments, Mobil Oil, and the University of Michigan (where he was an Academic IT Director). He co-founded JTRTech along with Joanna to realize his long-time dream of working for himself.


  1. I have been successful at creating a bootable external USB physical hard drive and booting my SP3 with it but have never gotten a jump drive / USB key drive / memory stick (whatever you call the little solid state ones) to work. Is it me or is that a limitation to the Surface or Surface Pro 3?

    • Frank,

      A thumb drive should work. It just needs to be (at least) 8GB to work. Just make sure it’s USB 2.0, I know it’s supposed to be backwards compatible but, sometimes things happen.


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