Rufus USB media creator - Great tool, plus a Windows purifier

Updated: November 20, 2023

I like simple tools. Something that does one job, but does it well. Rufus, a for-Windows live/USB media creation utility seems to fall into this category. When you read the official grumpy-flavored FAQ, you get to appreciate its mission even more. The developer actively chooses to keep his program simple, so it can continue doing what it does best - writing ISO images to USB thumb drives, so you can boot and install your operating systems. Noice.

The program comes in installable and portable versions, it's even available for the ARM builds of Windows, and there's a bunch of supported languages, too. Well, I decided to give it a try, see how it works, and there's a little bonus, too, but we will talk about it a bit later. OK, let us commence this review.

Overview, usage

Rufus is small but extremely clever. I mentioned this program in my tutorial on how to create a Windows 10 USB install media using Linux. There, I had to contend with the challenges of various FAT32 and NTFS limitations, and Rufus offered a way to boot NTFS-formatted thumb drives on UEFI systems. Anyway, fast forward to right now, Rufus is a Windows-only utility. It's free, open-source, but it is not designed to work with Linux, and you can't really get it to work reliably through WINE. Not a big problem, as the portable version takes only a few tiny MBs, and gives you everything you need.

First, you need to select a thumb drive (it won't let you select internal disks and partitions). Then, you can choose what media you want to write to it. You can either select an existing, offline ISO image, or you can let Rufus download the latest version for you. Either one works fine.

Selected options

Download image

Once the selection/download step is complete, you can then tweak advanced options. But more importantly, after you hit the Start button, Rufus lets you configure the "Windows User Experience". Basically, the program simply modifies the Windows installation recipe, it does not alter any files, and this way, you earn the wee bonus I mentioned in the beginning of this article. There's a handful of goodies available!

You can remove the arbitrary requirement for Secure Boot and TPM usage. You can remove the requirement for a pointless online account. You can even create a local user right away, skip data collection questions, disable device encryption, and finally, use the same regional options as your current user. All of these steps make the Windows usage a bit more palatable to intelligent people.

Start options

Then, sit back and relax and watch the GBs of data being copied onto an external drive. The process ends without any great notifications, so you might actually wonder whether the whole USB writing thing has actually been completed.

Working

Working, more

Testing, results, excellent!

I decided to check "my" creation. As a convenience trick, you can boot from raw devices in VirtualBox (which is going to make for another neat little guide in the coming weeks), so you have a quick, fairly safe way to test whether the external media does what it's supposed to, before you commit the data onto actual physical hardware. I plugged the USB key with the Rufus-tweaked Windows 11 setup into my superb, Kubuntu-only Slimbook Executive laptop, configured a VirtualBox machine to start off the thumb drive, and launched it.

Instead of the usual Windows boot splash, there was the Rufus bootloader message, and after a few seconds, Windows 11 installation started in earnest. I could see both the USB drive and the virtual hard disk in there, I selected the latter (very important), and let the system run.

Booting Windows

Disk selection

At the user config stage, Rufus delivered what it promised - no requirement for the online account, a more streamlined, less stupid experience than the default. You still shouldn't use Windows 11, because it's pointless, and in a paradoxical way, amazing programs like this or the Winaero Tweaker actually "promote" the use of bad operating systems because they strip away the nonsense. But then, if you must use them, you might as well suffer less. And Rufus makes you suffer less. Done.

Online account requirement removed

Conclusion

Rufus is an "old-school" program. Super powerful, super simple, designed with passion and just the right amount of anger, because that's what you need to cope with the modern Internet. It's fast, robust, free, open-source, elegant. It can make your Windows experience less low-IQ. What else could you ask for?

As you know, I've declared my intention to not use Windows 11, and will transition fully to Linux in the coming years. Windows 10 will remain around for as long as feasible. Linux is already reasonably mature for most tasks, including serious gaming. Thus, you should think of Rufus as your doomsday weapon. If, for whatever reason, you must use Windows, and Windows 11 at that, use this sweet tool to make the whole thing a bit less annoying and pointless. Cynicism aside, if you need a great program to write USB media, here you go.

Cheers.