Using “Windows 8 on a USB”

I want to share my experience of running Windows 8 on a USB drive. This supported feature, dubbed, “Windows To Go” or WTG provides users of enterprise SKUs an option to run Windows 8 off a USB drive on a host computer that has Windows 7 (it could be any OS AFIAK.).

Initial disclaimer: My host PC was on Windows 7 and I don’t know what other OS is supported on the host PC.

The USB drive that I used to setup WTG is a Western Digital Passport drive with 1 TB capacity. It is USB 3.0 ready.

Setting up WTG:

  1. Setting up WTG is straight forward and easy. From a Win8 PC running an enterprise SKU, search for “Windows To Go” on the Start screen.
  2. Change the Search scope to “Settings” and then click on the “Windows To Go” application from the search result list.
  3. When the application launches, plug in your USB drive.
  4. From the Windows To Go application, choose the installation media for Win8. Please note, you can only choose an enterprise version of Windows 8 to setup with WTG.
  5. The setup application prompts to format the USB disk and setup a bitlocker password. Provide a bitlocker password and confirm the same.
  6. Setup then proceeds to install WTG on the USB drive. The entire process should take about 20 minutes to complete.
  7. Towards the end of the process, you are prompted to change boot options to boot into a WTG device v/s the physical disk on the host PC.
  8. Accept the change and reboot the machine.
  9. The system now boots into the WTG drive and proceeds to complete the Win8 installation.
  10. Once the installation is complete (including creating first user etc), you are good to go.
  11. Remember to shut down the WTG instance before unplugging your USB drive.
  12. Enjoy full Win8 portability!!!

I setup WTG at Office and brought the drive home. In order to boot into WTG, you might have to change the boot order in BIOS, which is what I had to do. Reboot and voila the system boots into WTG. I did not notice an perf degradation while booting from a USB HDD.

In addition to plain vanilla OS, my WTG image also has VS 2012 installed and so far I have not run into any issues and am very happy with the way things just work with minimal hassles 🙂

4 thoughts on “Using “Windows 8 on a USB”

  1. Mark Wilson

    Hi Sridar.

    I just installed the Windows 8 Release Preview (x64) on a 32GB flash drive. Then I booted the system and tried to install Ultimate VS2012 RC on the flash drive. Setup shows the path for installation defaulting to the flash drive and a warning below that which says “The path entered cannot be on a removable drive” so installation will not continue.

    How did you get your VS2012 configuration installed on WTG ?

    Mark Wilson

  2. sridharpoduri Post author

    Hi Mark,

    WTG needs an enterprise SKU. In my case, I had to create a WTG image from an enterprise edition of Windows 8 that I installed on my work PC @ Microsoft. Once the drive is formatted for WTG, you can change the boot order on the host machine to boot into WTG. Then when you try to install VS, the setup sees WTG like a normal PC and proceeds.

    AFAIK, VS cannot be installed on a flash drive. What is the configuration of your machine? In the meantime I will check if what you are attempting to do is possible or not.

    1. Mark Wilson

      Thanks. Just to clarify the point then, you successfully installed VS2012 on a USB hard drive that you used for Windows 8 WTG, not a USB flash drive.

      I temporarily changed the boot order on my notebook and after booting C:\ was tagged as removable. I’ll try permanently changing it.

      I’ll post a comment on MSDN about this if I can find the right forum. In your case and my case both system drived could be “unplugged”.

      Mark Wilson


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