Rufus is a great program for copying .iso files (such as images of a CD or DVD) onto a USB drive, to allow you to install an operating system ,for example, without using an optical disc. See all PC Advior's How To features.

There is a growing desire for laptops to be smaller and light these days. What that means is that manufacturers are ditching components inside laptops that are redundant or rarely used. One of the first to go is the humble optical drive.

Let's be honest, no-one really uses optical drives anymore. So in order for consumers to get a thiner and lighter laptop, they are being forced to compromise and accept the absence of an optical drive.

This isn't a big problem as most things, if not all software, can be downloaded from the internet. However, if you are stuck with an .iso file and don't have an optical drive (or disc) to burn it to, you can use Rufus to put it onto a bootable USB pendrive. See also Group test: what's the best ultraportable laptop?

Rufus will extract an .iso file and dump it directly onto a USB flash drive, as well as making the drive bootable. Then, you can insert the USB stick into a computer with no optical drive and boot directly from it as if it were a bootable CD or DVD. Installations from USB flash drives are quicker than from optical drives, so you could install Windows or Linux in a matter of minutes.

Here's how to use Rufus to copy an optical drive onto a USB stick.

How to use Rufus Step one

You can download Rufus directly from PC Advisor's website. Click here to download Rufus. Once downloaded, you can run it directly - no installation is required.

How to Instal Rufus

How to use Rufus Step Two

Make sure you know where your .iso file located and insert the USB flash drive you plan to use. Copy off any files you want to keep as Rufus will format the drive before copying new files on.

How to use Rufus Step Two

How to use Rufus Step three

Ensure that Rufus is set to the correct drive and is outputting in the right format. The key things to look out for are Device and Cluster Size. All you need to do here is make sure that is going to output the .iso file onto the correct USB stick. The default cluster size will be fine, so leave it set to 32Kb.

How to use Rufus Step four

Ensure that the Create a bootable disk using: option is checked, otherwise your laptop or PC won't be able to boot from the USB drive.

How to use Rufus Step five

Rufus will start working automatically and there should be nothing more you need to do until it has completed. We used a 600MB .iso file and it took less than five minutes to process, so you can see that Rufus is no slouch.

How to use Rufus Step six

Once Rufus has finished, simply eject your USB stick and put it into the computer you wish to install the .iso file on. Reboot or power up the computer and it should boot from the drive. If not, enter the BIOS and ensure that 'USB drive' or similar is set to be the first or primary boot device.