How to Boot Surface Laptop from A USB Drive

In this article, we will show you how to boot your original Surface Laptop, Surface Laptop 2, Surface Laptop 3, Surface Laptop 4, and Surface Laptop Go from a USB Drive in three different methods.

How to Boot Surface Laptop from a USB Drive

Booting a Surface Laptop from a USB Drive can be a little frustrating if you didn’t follow its specific procedure especially when your device can’t boot to Windows. In this article, we have everything you need to know to boot your Surface Laptop from a USB Drive.

To boot a Surface Laptop from a USB drive, insert a bootable USB drive to the Surface Laptop’s USB port. On the keyboard, press and hold the volume down media key (F5 or F3), while holding, press, and release the power key. When the Surface logo appears, release the volume down media key (F3 or F5).

Before you move on, we have also written this tutorial for other Surface lineups as well with individual specific instructions as you can find here.

If you have a Surface Laptop (1st Gen), Surface Laptop 2, Surface Laptop 3, Surface Laptop 4, or a Surface Laptop Go PC, read on for a more in-depth guide on how to boot your Surface Laptop from a USB Drive.

Note Starting from Surface Laptop 3, Microsoft has changed some keyboard layouts including a volume down media key from F5 to F3 key position.

  1. Why Boot Surface Laptop From A USB Drive?
  2. Surface Laptop Boot From A USB: Preparation
  3. Surface Laptop Boot From A USB: When Surface Laptop is Off
  4. Surface Laptop Boot From A USB: When Surface Laptop is On
  5. Surface Laptop Boot From A USB: With No Password

Why Boot Surface Laptop From A USB Drive?

There are several reasons that you need to boot your Surface Laptop from a USB Drive.

  1. Resetting your Surface Laptop with a USB Recovery Drive.
  2. Fresh Windows Installation.
  3. Running Windows To Go.
  4. Installing or running Linux-based OS (Ubuntu, Fedora, Redhat, …).
  5. Loading bootable recovery or disk partition tools.

Surface Laptop Boot From A USB: Preparation

Before proceeding to the next step, here are some preparations you need to do before booting your Surface Laptop from a USB Drive.

  1. Bootable USB Drive
    It’s important that you have a proper bootable USB Drive. In case you want to reset your Surface Laptop with a recovery drive, you will need to download the recovery image for your Surface and create a recovery drive before you can boot it up on your Surface Laptop.
  2. Disable Secure Boot
    Secure Boot blocked all third-party boot loaders from booting off your Surface devices. Disable Secure Boot lets you load third-party OS other than Windows 10 that’s included older versions of Windows and Linux on your Surface Laptop. Here’s how to disable secure boot on Microsoft Surface Laptop.
  3. Backup Your Data
    Save yourself later by backing up your important data to an external hard drive.
  4. Connected to the Charger
    To prevent any unexpected shutdown during installation, make sure you have connected your Surface Laptop to an external power source.

Surface Laptop Boot From A USB: When Surface Laptop is Off

  1. Shut down your Surface Laptop.
  2. Insert your bootable USB or recovery drive into the Surface Laptop’s USB port.
  3. Press and hold the Volume Down button on your Surface Laptop, then press and release the Power button.
  4. When you see the Surface logo screen appear, release the Volume Down button.

Surface Laptop 3 and Laptop 4 have a volume down media key located on the F3 key position.

Steps to Boot Surface Laptop 3-4 from a USB Drive

Surface Laptop 1 and Laptop 2 have a volume down media key located on the F5 key position.

Steps to Boot Surface Laptop from a USB Drive

Surface Laptop Boot From A USB: When Surface Laptop is On

There is an easier way to boot your Surface Laptop from a USB drive when you can sign in to Windows 10 or Windows 11. Here is how to do that:

  1. Insert your bootable USB or recovery drive to one of the Surface Laptop’s available USB ports.
  2. Open Windows Settings
    First, you need to access Windows Settings by going to Start and opening the Settings app with the gear icon (or by using Win + I shortcut key).
  3. Go to Windows Updates > Advanced options
    On the left pane of the settings, select “Windows Updates“. Then select the “Advanced options” from the more options section.
    Windows 11: Settings > Windows Update > Advanced options
  4. Select the “Recovery” option
    Under the “Additional options”, select “Recovery”.
    Windows 11: Settings > Recovery
  5. Restart your Surface Laptop in “Advanced Startup” mode.
    Under recovery options, click the “Restart now” button to restart your Surface Laptop in advanced startup mode which will allow you to change startup settings.
    Windows 11: Settings > Advanced startup
  6. Select “Use a device”
    After your Surface Laptop is restarted, you will see a blue screen with the following options. Select “Use a device”.
    Surface Boot > Advanced Startup
  7. Select “USB Storage”
    It will list all possible ways to boot including all connected storage devices. Select “USB Storage”.
    Surface Boot > Advanced Startup > Use a device

Now your Surface Laptop will reboot with boot files from the inserted USB drive.

  1. Insert your bootable USB or recovery drive to one of the Surface Laptop’s available USB ports.
  2. Open Windows Settings
    First, you need to access Windows Settings by going to Start and clicking the Gear icon (or by using Win + I shortcut key).
  3. Go to Update & Security
    In Windows Settings, select “Update & Security“.
    Windows 10 Settings > Update & Security
  4. Go to Recovery
    On the left side of the settings, select Recovery.
    Windows 10 Settings > Update & Security > Recovery
  5. Restart your Surface in Advanced Startup
    Under the “Advanced startup” section, click Restart now to restart your Surface in an advanced startup mode.
    Windows 10 Settings > Update & Security > Recovery > Advanced Startup
  6. Select Use a device
    After your Surface Laptop is restarted, you will see a blue screen with the following options. Select Use a device.
    Surface Boot > Advanced Startup
  7. Select USB Storage
    It will list all possible ways and connected storage devices. Select USB Storage.
    Surface Boot > Advanced Startup > Use a device

Now your Surface Laptop will reboot with your connected USB drive.

Surface Laptop Boot From A USB: With No Password

There are so many times that users might want to reset their Surface Laptop when they forgot the account password that prevents them from login in. Here is how to do that on the Surface Laptop with touch-only or with a keyboard.

  1. Open On-Screen Keyboard (skip this if you have a working keyboard)
    On the Windows 11 login screen, Go to the Accessibility icon and stay right next to the power icon. Then select the “On-Screen Keyboard”.
    Windows 11: Lock Screen > Accessibility > On-Screen Keyboard
  2. Press and hold Shift Key
    On the Surface Laptop keyboard, press and hold the Shift key (on the On-Screen Keyboard, just click the shift key and it will hold by itself).
  3. Go to Power > Restart
    On the right-bottom of the screen, click the power icon, and select Restart. It will reboot your Surface Laptop in Advanced startup mode.
    Restart in Advanced Startup Without Password on Windows 11
  4. Select Use a device
    After your Surface Laptop is restarted, you will see a blue screen with the following options. Select Use a device.
    Surface Boot > Advanced Startup
  5. Select USB Storage
    It will list all possible ways and connected storage devices. Select USB Storage.
    Surface Boot > Advanced Startup > Use a device
  1. Open On-Screen Keyboard (skip this if you have a working keyboard)
    On the Windows login screen, Go to the Ease of access icon and stay right next to the power icon. Select On-Screen Keyboard.
    Enable On-Screen Keyboard in Login Screen
  2. Press and hold Shift Key
    On the Surface Laptop keyboard, press and hold the Shift key (on the On-Screen Keyboard, just click the shift key and it will hold by itself).
  3. Go to Power > Restart
    On the right-bottom of the screen, click the power icon, and select Restart. It will reboot your Surface Laptop in Advanced startup mode.
    Restart in Advanced Startup Without Password on Windows 10
  4. Select Use a device
    After your Surface Laptop is restarted, you will see a blue screen with the following options. Select Use a device.
    Surface Boot > Advanced Startup
  5. Select USB Storage
    It will list all possible ways and connected storage devices. Select USB Storage.
    Surface Boot > Advanced Startup > Use a device

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