Microsoft’s newest OS seems to be pretty impressive with it’s new features especially Windows To Go. If for any reason your PC/Laptop breaks down, using a Windows To Go disk you can take your Windows 8 on a USB drive and boot from it on any other PC/Laptop, login with your Windows Live ID and continue your work as normal till your faulty PC/Laptop is fixed. I think it’s an awesome and a thoughtful feature considering in today’s world one cannot carry on work as normal without a PC/Laptop. Note there are a few drawbacks to it but it’s not the end of the world. The drawbacks are as follows:
- Hibernate and sleep are disabled by default. To help prevent Windows To Go from accidental data corruption during roaming hibernate and sleep are disabled. They can be re-enabled by using Group Policy settings.
- Internal disks are offline. To ensure data isn’t accidentally disclosed, internal hard disks on the host computer are offline by default when booted into a Windows To Go. Similarly if a Windows To Go drive is inserted into a running system the Windows To Go drive will not be listed in Windows Explorer.
- Trusted Platform Module (TPM) isn’t used. When using BitLocker Drive Encryption a pre-operating system boot password will be used for security rather than the TPM since the TPM is tied to a specific computer and Windows To Go drives will move between computers.
- Windows Recovery Environment isn’t available. In the rare case that you need to recover your Windows To Go drive, you should re-image it with a fresh image of Windows.
- Push Button Reset isn’t available. Resetting to the manufacturer’s standard for the computer doesn’t really apply when running Windows To Go, so the feature was disabled.
Looking at the above it seems like it make a lot of sense not having those features and each of them have a very strong reason to it.
Anyways getting back to how you can build a Windows To Go USB drive, below are the instructions.
- 32 GB or larger USB Drive (It can be a USB Hard Drive)
- A Windows 8 PC to build the USB drive on (All steps can be performed from a Windows 7/XP machine but the for the last step you will need a Windows 8 machine. For this you can create a VM with Windows 8 using the normal install procedure which can be found by searching online.
- Windows 8 DVD ISO (DO NOT click the box that says ‘Download Windows 8 Release Preview’, instead click on ‘ISO format’ in the second line below the box)
- A copy of Imagex.exe from the Windows 7 Automated Installation Kit installed on Windows 7 or XP. ImageX can be found in C:\Program Files\Windows AIK\Tools\amd64 or C:\Program Files\Windows AIK\Tools\x86.
- Windows To Go requires a specific partition setup in order to function. For that reason we will use diskpart to create the new partition setup. Launch Command Prompt at the Administrative Level to begin with.
- Make sure the USB Drive is plugged in and type in diskpart and hit Enter.
- Then list the available disks by typing “list disk” and you should see your USB device.
- Select your USB drive by typing “select disk #” and hit Enter.
- Clean the partitions on the disk by typing “clean” and hit Enter.
- Now create the partition by typing “create partition primary” and hit Enter
- Format the new boot partition by typing ”format fs=ntfs quick” and hit Enter
- Set the partition active by typing “active” and hit Enter.
- Exit diskpart by typing “Exit”.
- Now double click the Windows 8 ISO you downloaded to mount it in Windows 8
- Browse to the ISO files in Windows Explorer and copy \sources\install.wim to the same folder as you copied Imagex.exe.
- Identify the drive letter assigned to your USB drive by Windows Explorer and run the following command from the folder that contains Imagex.exe and install.wim: imagex.exe /apply install.wim 1 u:\ (Replace u with the drive letter of your USB drive)
- Once the image has been applied you will need to setup the boot record on the USB Drive. At the administrative level command prompt run: bcdboot.exe u:\windows /s u: /f ALL (Replace u with the drive letter of your USB drive). P.S: This is the only step for which you will need a Windows 8 machine as mentioned above.
After the command has completed running you are ready to use your new Windows To Go USB device. Restart your PC/Laptop and boot off the USB to experience Windows To Go.
Please feel free to share your experience and let us know how your build works.