Review: Create bootable USB drives with Rufus Portable

Boot from any USB drive with help from this portable freeware.

Rufus Portable creates a bootable USB drive that can help you recover your system when very bad things happen to it. When your PC won't start, the bootable disk you created in a rare moment of foresight will often let you boot into Safe Mode or System Recovery, where you can fix the problem and reboot normally. If the patient's condition is more serious, you might even need a bootable disk to recover your OS, disk, or entire system from the full backup you also made (you did, right?). Years ago, bootable disks were floppies; then came CDs. Now optical drives are disappearing, too. But USB-attached storage devices holding gigabytes of data are everywhere. That's where Rufus Portable comes in. It greatly eases the process of making a bootable disk, using a USB-attached storage device, including thumb drives and external HDDs. The portable version of Rufus comes from PortableApps, which takes exceptional open-source freeware and creates reliable portable versions.

Rufus Portable's user interface is small and efficient in layout. It identified five system devices, including the USB thumb drive we chose for our bootable disk. Most Windows users will want the default partition scheme, MBR for BIOS or UEFI computers, but Rufus also supports MBR and GPT schemes for UEFI machines. The File System menu is your USB drive's format, such as FAT (default) or FAT32 (our drive) though Rufus supports NTFS, UDF, and exFAT, too. Rufus offers custom Cluster Size and Format options, including the option to encode your disk in MS-DOS or FreeDOS or create an ISO image you can burn to disk. We created our disk and then successfully booted our system with it.

Be aware that Rufus reformats your USB drive, so be sure to back up and save any existing data before you hit "Start." Rufus uses very little space, so you can use the rest of the drive normally. Just keep it handy when disaster strikes!

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