How to create a Windows 10 ISO file from your installation

windows-10-ISO-gradient-01

Microsoft desperately seems to want you to upgrade to Windows 10, and they REALLY want you to use Windows Update to do it.  Honestly, if you have a PC that qualifies for the upgrade, you should do go for it.  However, a lot of people would rather do it the old fashioned way.  Or maybe you’d rather run your Win10 instance in a virtual machine…or even dual boot, for that matter.

Having that installer image available gives you access to some installation and repair options that you don’t have otherwise, such as the option to create bootable media.

Microsoft made it so that after your upgrade is complete, you can create an ISO file from the cached upgrade files. That ISO file can be used to install Windows on any PC, assuming you have the right product key (more on that below).

You’ll find the large installer file stashed in a hidden folder called C:\$Windows.~BT, in a subfolder called Sources.  Here’s how to find it in File Explorer, after enabling the option to view hidden files.)

01-esd-file

 

The install.esd file is compressed using a new format introduced in Windows 8.1 and was designed for software distribution.  If you’re an IT pro responsible for deploying Windows in your organization, you can use the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK) to decompress and decrypt that image, turning it into an ISO file using Microsoft-approved tools.

A blog post by Microsoft MVP Johan Arwidmark contains detailed instructions on this technique.

If you don’t want to install the full deployment toolkit, here’s a faster way to build that ISO using the same tools, packaged by community members for this specific purpose.

Step 1: Download the ESD-Decrypter files. There’s a download link in this post on the Microsoft Answers forum, although you can also find the files elsewhere. Note that this file is saved in 7z format, so you will need a third-party decompression utility such as 7-Zip to extract it.

Step 2: Extract the ESD-Decrypter files to their own folder and then copy the Install.esd file to the same folder.

Step 3: Right-click the Decrypt command file and choose Run As Administrator. (It’s a batch file, so you can see exactly what it’s going to do.)

02-decrypter-as-admin

 

Step 4: Choose the first option in this menu and press Enter.

03-menu-options

The command file displays the status of current operations as it works. After a few minutes (the exact time depends on your hardware), you end with an ISO file in the same folder as the ESD.

05-successfully-reated-iso-from-esd

 

You can now create bootable media from that ISO file. You can also attach it to a virtual machine to install Windows 10 in a VM. You can double-click to mount it in File Explorer in Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 and run Setup directly from within Windows.

To install Windows 10 Insider Preview build 10158, you need to enter a product key at the start of installation. You don’t need a unique product key. Instead, use the correct global key for your edition.

For this build, there’s a separate global key for each of the three editions:

Windows 10 Home Insider Preview build 10158 product key:
KTNPV-KTRK4-3RRR8-39X6W-W44T3

Windows 10 Pro Insider Preview build 10158 product key:
8N67H-M3CY9-QT7C4-2TR7M-TXYCV

Windows 10 Enterprise Insider Preview build 10158 product key: 
CKFK9-QNGF2-D34FM-99QX2-8XC4K

Note that these keys should work for build 10159 as well.

 

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