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Windows To Go is one of the most exciting Windows 8 features to me - the ability to pack up your desktop environment and take it with you anywhere is extremely appealing. Unfortunately, it's only included with Windows 8 Enterprise, which you can't buy for individual use.

Is there an equivalent that works for Windows 8 Professional? I would be satisfied by either a third-party program that does the same thing, or some workaround to enable Windows To Go for non-Enterprise versions.

I'm aware of various WinPE-based live environments, and that's not what I'm looking for. I want the ability to run a full Windows 8 environment off of a flash drive that I can take anywhere.

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Just as an FYI, the Windows To Go environments do not run off of flash drives. They're specialized SSD drives. Believe it or not there's a difference, and currently there are only four that are proven to work –  KronoS Oct 20 '12 at 17:10
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@KronoS from that same link, "You need to have a USB 3.0 Solid State Drive (often referred to as a “Flash Drive”". The memory used in SSDs and flash drives are essentially the same, so I think it's a reasonable statement. You make a good point however that only certain drives will work, due to the performance demands. –  nhinkle Oct 20 '12 at 17:15
    
Actually I talked to the guy personally and he stated as such. I was just using the blog post as a somewhat reference. –  KronoS Oct 20 '12 at 17:18
    
If you really want to start playing with enterprise MS software, just buy a technet subscription, i split one with my buddy, its not terribly expensive after the first year. –  MDT Guy Feb 19 '13 at 23:04
    
@MDTGuy as a student I have access to MSDNAA, which has almost all of the software. At this point in my life I don't make enough income to afford a TechNet subscription, but maybe someday! Anyhow, information like this is good to have, since plenty of people might be interested in doing something like this but don't have any interest in a full-blown TechNet or MSDN subscription. –  nhinkle Feb 19 '13 at 23:24

2 Answers 2

up vote 34 down vote accepted
+700

Before you begin:

There are a few things that you need to take into consideration when doing something like this. The first and foremost being what medium and connection are you planning on using to create and run this portable OS. My recommendation is to use AT LEAST USB 3.0 or eSATA. The use of USB 3.0 SSD's (yes there is a difference) is also highly recommended with these specific models:

  • Kingston Technology 32GB Data Traveller Ultimate USB Flash Drive Mfr # KW-U4132-1FA
  • SuperTalent 25GB USB 3.0 Express RC8 Flash Drive Mfr # ST3U25GR8S
  • SuperTalent 50GB USB 3.0 Express RC8 Flash Drive Mfr # ST3U50GR8S
  • SuperTalent 100GB USB 3.0 Express RC8 Flash Drive Mfr # ST3U100R8S

Note: I used a USB 2.0 flash drive drive, and got this to work, but it took forever (11 hours) to setup and forever to bootup. (several minutes)

Also you'll need a Windows 8 Installation .iso file

Getting started

  1. You need to format your drive as a NTFS drive.

    • Go to "Disk Management" and right click on the flash drive.
    • Select "Format..."
    • Make sure to Select NTFS as the File System and a quick format is ok to run: Disk Management
  2. Mount the Windows 8 Installation disk by double clicking on the .iso file.

  3. From an Administrative Windows PowerShell, run the following command (you have to use PowerShell as CMD doesn't work even with Admin rights):

    dism /Apply-Image /ImageFile:<path to install.wim> /ApplyDir:<USB Drive Letter> /Index:<image_index (1 for Pro, 2 for Core)> /CheckIntegrity /Verify

    You'll get a screen like the following:

    PowerShell DISM

    WARNING: If you are using a USB 2.0 port or drive, this can take multiple hours to perform. It took 11 hours for me.

  4. Run the next following command:

    bcdboot.exe <drive letter of flash drive>:\windows /s <drive letter of flash drive>: /f ALL

You're Done!

Again unless you're using USB 3.0 or another equivalent medium in speed, don't expect this to boot up right away. But you should be able to enjoy a fully operable portable Window 8 Experience.

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Awesome! I'll have to try this out. I'm wondering how well the drivers will transfer over... my understanding was that Windows To Go had some special support for provisioning drivers. –  nhinkle Oct 21 '12 at 7:35
    
Also, do you know what the difference is between your method and Moab's method above? –  nhinkle Oct 21 '12 at 7:36
    
@nhinkle my method is a little more trimmed down (no creating partitions) and also his doesn't work (CMD prompt won't work with this). AFA drivers go, I haven't tested significantly, but assume that it's similar to what Win 7 does, and installs all the drivers after a few restarts (which may be a pain). Hence this is definitely a hack. –  KronoS Oct 21 '12 at 7:43
    
Cool. I'll be trying this out... as soon as I can get my hands on a USB 3.0 drive. –  nhinkle Oct 21 '12 at 7:44
2  
It works! I just tested it on a USB 3.0 flash drive, and it's working. –  nhinkle Feb 19 '13 at 22:57

Create Windows To Go on any edition of Windows 8:

Best to use a Windows 8 PC to build the usb to go.

From the article:

"It is possible to use Windows 7 to create your Windows 8 To Go USB device. You will just need some additional software. "

  1. Launch an administrative level command prompt.

  2. Make sure that your USB Drive is plugged in and then type in diskpart and hit Enter.

  3. List the available disks by running list disk and you should see your usb device.

  4. Select your USB drive by typing select disk # and hit Enter. For example, select disk 3.

  5. Clean the partitions on the disk by typing clean and hit Enter.

  6. Now create the boot partition by running the following command:

    create partition primary size=350

  7. Now create the OS partition by running the following command to create a partition taking up all remaining space:

    create partition primary

  8. The boot partition needs to be formatted, configured and assigned a drive letter, run the following commands:

    select partition 1
    format fs=fat32 quick
    active
    assign letter=b

    If the b drive letter is already in use on your PC, substitute a different letter and replace b with your letter throughout the rest of this guide.

  9. The same must be done for the OS partition, run the following different commands:

    select partition 2
    format fs=ntfs quick
    assign letter=o

    If the o drive letter is already in use on your PC, substitute a different letter and replace o with your letter throughout the rest of this guide

  10. Exit Diskpart by typing Exit.

  11. Extract the install.wim file from the *\sources* directory of the Windows 8 install ISO to *c:\wim*. On Windows 8 you can just double click an ISO to mount and then browse it.

  12. Use DISM to deploy the Windows 8 files to the OS partition of the USB device by running:

    dism /apply-image /imagefile:c:\wim\install.wim /index:1 /applydir:o:\

  13. The boot manager needs to be installed on the boot partition with the help of the bcdboot utility. Run the following command:

    o:\windows\system32\bcdboot o:\windows /f ALL /s b:

  14. Reboot your computer and test your new Windows 8 To Go device built on Windows 8. Make sure the PC is configured to boot to USB before your local hard drive.

Source of Information

share|improve this answer
    
have you tested this? Does it work? –  KronoS Oct 20 '12 at 22:30
    
No, at the time I found this article W8 was not RTM, was going to try it when RTM became available, then forgot about it until I read this question, will try when I get time. –  Moab Oct 20 '12 at 23:09
    
My flash drive (and I guess most other flash drives) don't allow creating multiple partitions. diskpart will fail. –  Ark-kun Mar 31 '13 at 23:16
    
You can partition your flash drive by using tools such as Bootice. More details at agnipulse.com/2011/11/partition-usb-flash-drive –  bbalegere Dec 22 '13 at 17:25

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