Windows 10 ISO to USB drive on Linux

I’m building a streaming/gaming PC and got Windows 10 Home because some games are just not fans of Wine yet. :( Making a USB flash drive to install Windows 10 from, however, was tricky, and it was all due to the size of the installer file Windows 10 uses, install.wim. In recent Windows 10 ISOs it’s larger than 4GB, so it won’t fit onto a FAT32 filesystem. FAT32 filesystems are easily booted and read by most motherboards, and in order to use these larger ISOs, there’s an NTFS shim you can install.

With my combo of an older MSI motherboard, using WoeUSB with that shim from the Rufus project, and the ISO for Windows 10 1909, and a perfectly acceptable 16 GB USB flash drive that I’ve used for countless Linux installs, I could make the installer boot, but it would fail on install.wim with no details as to what’s going on except for error code 0x8007000D. This was with both Legacy Boot and Secure Boot enabled, and the file size on the USB drive matched the file size in the mounted ISO.

I forgot how much fun it is to work with Windows.

After trying to use either WoeUSB’s GUI or command line with the 1909 ISO, I decided to hunt down an older ISO where install.wim is smaller than 4GB. I ended up getting the 1709 ISO from this site so I could build the USB drive using a FAT32 filesystem. It installed from there, and after logging in Windows Update seems happy and it activated and everything, so I guess it’s safe and OK? Microsoft only offers the absolute latest ISO on their site, or I could’ve ordered Windows on a USB drive, but I’ve been burning Linux images for years now with no problems, so how hard could this have been?

I’m also wondering why Microsoft can’t, like, make install.wim smaller. Does it all need to be in one big file? (no). Is this a way to get folks to upgrade to newer computers that can better handle the NTFS boot process? (probably). Would the Microsoft media manager tool have magically worked right, despite this being, like, a solved problem technically? (also probably) Do they just have a ton of old USB drives from conferences they’re trying to unload on us who want to build after-market PCs to legally install Windows on? (this is the likeliest scenario)