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Summary :

boot from SD card

Do you want to boot from SD card to install/run systems? Then, you should know whether you can do that and how to do that. In this post, MiniTool Partition Wizard will give you a step-by-step guide.

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Why Need to Boot from SD Card?

SD card, whose full name is Secure Digital Memory Card, is a memory card widely used in portable devices, such as digital cameras, personal digital assistants, and multimedia players. Moreover, it is also used in most laptops.

SD card slot on PC

Most laptops may come with SD card slots. But in most cases, you don't need to use SD cards in PC. Only if you are engaged in work related to photos and design, this slot brings a lot of conveniences.

Besides, some people ask how to boot from SD card. In this case, you will use this slot. If this slot is broken, you buy an SD card reader and then connect the SD card to the USB slot.

When you ask how to boot from SD card, I guess you want to:

  • Make a bootable SD card to install Windows on another PC.
  • Make a bootable Windows on the SD card.

As for the detailed steps on how to boot from SD card, you can refer to the following contents.

How to Boot from SD Card?

Stage 1: Make a Bootable SD Card

To boot from SD card, you should make a bootable SD card in advance. According to your needs, ways to make a bootable SD card are different. Please refer to the following 2 methods:

Method 1. Create an SD Card Windows Installation Media

Step 1: Connect the SD card to PC and format it to NTFS file system. There are many methods for you to format the SD card. You can use the Windows built-in tools like Explorer, Disk Management, and Diskpart. You can also use third-party software like MiniTool Partition Wizard.

Step 2: Download Windows 10 Installation Media Creation Tool from Microsoft's official website. Run this tool and you need to do some options:

  • Choose installation media creation method. Please check the option Create installation media (USB flash drive, DVD, or ISO file) for another PC.
  • Choose Language, Windows Edition, and Architecture according to your needs.
  • Choose which media to use. You can try choosing USB flash drive to see whether the SD card is listed under the USB flash drive. If not, please go back and choose the ISO file
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Step 3: Follow the on-screen instructions to make an SD card installation media or create an ISO file. If you have chosen the ISO file option and made an ISO file on PC, you should use burning software like Rufus to burn the ISO file into the SD card. Here is the guide on how to burn the ISO file with Rufus:

  • Install and launch the Rufus program.
  • Under Drive Properties, select the SD card as the Device, select the ISO file as the Boot selection, and choose Standard Windows Installation as the Image option. Then, leave the other options at their default values and click the Start

Through this method, you can make a Windows installation media with the SD card.

Method 2. Install a Complete OS on the SD Card

To install a complete OS on the SD card, you can also use Rufus. You just need to change the Image option to Windows to Go. But if you want to clone your computer OS and apps (installed on C drive) to the SD card, you can try migration tools like MiniTool Partition Wizard.

If your SD card is large enough to hold all data, you can even clone the whole computer onto it. Here is the tutorial:

Free Download

Step 1: Connect the SD card to the PC. Launch MiniTool Partition Wizard and open this software. Go to its main interface and click on Migrate OS to SSD/HDD in the action panel (the OS migration feature is not free).

click on Migrate OS to SSD/HDD

Step 2: Choose the right method to migrate the system disk and click Next. Option A allows you to clone the whole system disk, while option B only allows you to migrate the OS.

choose the right method to migrate the system disk

Step 3: Choose the SD as the destination disk and then click Next. For option A, please make sure the used space in the PC drive is smaller than the SD card. For option B, please make sure the used space in the C drive is smaller than the SD card. Only in these cases, the OS migration can succeed.

choose the destination disk

Step 4: Review changes and click the Next button. In this step, you can keep default settings.

review copy changes

Step 5: Read a note on how to boot from the destination disk and click the Finish button. Then, click the Apply button to execute pending operations.

click Apply button

Stage 2: Make the Computer Boot from SD Card

After making a bootable SD card, you should restart the computer and enter its firmware to make the PC boot from the SD card. To do this, you can refer to the following guide:

  • Restart PC and press the BIOS key during the booting process. You can search online to know the specific BIOS key of your PC model. Sometmies, the BIOS key will appear on the screen. If you don't know the BIOS key, you can try F2.
  • When you enter Firmware, please disable UEFI boot mode. You should go to boot option, disable secure boot/UEFI and enable legacy support/BIOS.
  • Go to boot order to place the SD card at the first boot sequence.
  • Save changes and exit the firmware. The PC will then boot from SD card.

set SD card as the first boot device

Although the detailed operations may vary depending on the different motherboards, the general guideline is the same: enter firmware > disable UEFI and enable BIOS > change boot order to make the SD card the first boot device.

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Why we need to do these operations. The reasons are as follows:

1. Why do you need to change the boot order?

If you insert a bootable SD card into the PC, there are actually 2 bootable devices on the PC. One is the built-in hard drive that has the original Windows system installed and the other one is the SD card. But the PC will boot from hard drive by default. To change this behavior, you should change the boot order in firmware.

If you want to know about the boot process, please read this post: What Is Computer Booting?

2. Why do you need to disable secure boot and enable legacy support?

UEFI has Secure Boot mode enabled. This mode uses keys, and any operating system or hardware driver that wants to be loaded on this motherboard must pass the authentication of these keys. If the software fails, the motherboard will refuse to load it. The purpose is to prevent malicious software from intruding and infecting boot sector.

However, if you want to boot it from other software including some Linux OS, Windows 7 and earlier versions, etc, disabling Secure Boot temporarily is recommended. Please note that you should turn on this feature later, otherwise the original system will not boot.

Problems When Booting from SD Card

1. BIOS Doesn't Recognize SD Card

Some people report that they can't find the SD card option in BIOS. Is there any method to solve this problem?

In general, whether the PC can boot from SD card is determined by BIOS. Most BIOS only has drivers for hard drives, USB drives, and CD-ROM devices and they don't have the driver for SD card. This is reason why BIOS can't recognize SD card.

Note: BIOS is a step before booting into OS. After booting into Windows, your PC can recognize SD cards. But in the BIOS step, if manufacturers don't write SD card driver into BIOS (ROM), you can't choose the SD card as the boot device.

Therefore, to solve the "SD card not recognized by BIOS" problem, you can try the following 2 methods:

  • Try every boot option in BIOS to see whether there is an option for SD card.
  • Update BIOS. If the current BIOS version doesn't offer the SD card boot option, you can search online to see whether the manufacturer of the motherboard has offered a BIOS version that offers the SD card boot option. If this version is for your motherboard model, you can try updating BIOS to this version.

2. What SD Card Should I Use?

If you want to install a complete OS on an SD card, you should choose an SD card that has a good IOPS value, otherwise the boot speed will be very slow. You may know that SD card is divided into several classes, but the class is usually depending on sequential read and write speed. If you want to but an SD card for camera, you can refer to them.

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How to Choose a Right Memory Card for Your Camera [3 Factors]

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But if you want to buy an SD card for operating system, you should refer to its IOPS. In this case, please refer to this post: A1 VS A2 SD Card: Compare Them and Make a Wise Choice. In general, the A1 and A1 SD cards are used in phones. And therefore, they are capable of running operating systems.

Here is a post talking about how to boot from SD card. If you want to boot your PC from an SD card, you can read this post to know whether you can do that and how to do that.Click to tweet

Bottom Line

Is this post helpful to you? Do have questions about this post? Do you have other ideas about how to boot from SD card? Please leave a comment in the following zone. In addition, if you have difficulty in migrating OS, please feel free to contact us via [email protected]. We will get back to you as soon as possible.

Boot from SD Card FAQ

Can we boot from SD card?
This depends on your BIOS. If your PC's BIOS has SD card driver and can recognize SD card, you can boot from SD card. Or, you can use an SD card reader to serve the SD card as a USB drive.
Can I run Windows 10 from an SD card?
If your PC's BIOS can recognize SD card, you can burn a Windows 10 system into an SD card and boot your PC from this SD card.
Can you install Windows from an SD card?
If your BIOS can recognize SD card, you can do that. If your BIOS doesn't recognize SD card, you can use an SD card reader to connect the SD card to a USB port.
How do I make my SD card bootable to normal?
The easiest way is to format the SD card. To know more methods, you can refer to this post: 3 Methods on How to Restore USB Drive to Original State.
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