What is windows to go?

Microsoft’s Windows To Go feature installs Windows as a live system on a bootable USB drive sầu. It’s officially only for Enterprise editions of Windows, but we’ve found a way khổng lồ bởi vì it with any edition of Windows 8 or 8.1.

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Note: This should work for Windows 10 as well but we haven’t yet tested it out. Once Microsoft releases the final version we’ll kiểm tra & update this article. Of course, you’re also welcome lớn demo it out & let us know.

This process allows you khổng lồ create a live sầu Windows USB drive sầu that functions like a live sầu Linux USB drive. You can boot it on any computer. The operating system’s files và programs stay on the external drive và follow you around.


What You’ll Need

Here’s what you’ll need:

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Locate the File

First, locate the Install.wlặng file, which is stored on the Windows installation truyền thông media. If you have sầu a physical disc, insert it inkhổng lồ your computer. If you have an ISO tệp tin, you can “mount it” on Windows 8 by double-clicking it in File Explorer.

mở cửa the disc drive in Windows Explorer & enter the “sources” directory. Locate the “install.wim” file — that’s at X:sourcesinstall.wyên , where X is the drive letter of the disc.

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Image the Install.wim FIle onto lớn a USB Drive

Next, open the GImageX tool. Extract the downloaded archive sầu and run the correct version of the program for your computer — the x64 one on a 64-bit version of Windows or the x86 one on a 32-bit version of Windows.

Clichồng the Apply tab in GImageX. In the Source box, browse for the install.wyên ổn file you found earlier. In the Destination box, choose the external drive you’ll be installing Windows To Go on. Clichồng the Apply button và GImageX will image the Install.wlặng tệp tin onkhổng lồ the USB drive sầu.

Wait for the imaging process lớn complete before you continue. This is the longest part, although it shouldn’t take too long. The imaging process only took 12 minutes for us, even though we were putting our Windows To Go system onkhổng lồ an external mechanical drive sầu over a slower USB 2.0 connection.

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Make the Partition Active

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You’ll now need lớn make the Windows To Go partition active sầu so your computer will boot off that partition when you choose khổng lồ boot from the external device.

First, open the Disk Management tool — right-clichồng the Start button in the bottom-left corner of your Screen or press Windows Key + X and cliông xã Disk Management.

Locate the external drive sầu in the các mục, right-clichồng the partition you imaged the Windows To Go system onkhổng lồ, and select Mark Partition as Active sầu. This will mark that partition as the “active,” bootable partition on that external drive sầu.

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Create Boot Entries on the USB Drive

Next, you’ll need to lớn create the appropriate boot entries on the Windows To Go drive’s boot loader. First, open a Command Prompt window as Administrator — on Windows 8.1, right-clichồng the Start button in the bottom-left corner of the screen or press Windows key + X & select Comm& Prompt (Admin).

Next, run the following two commands to lớn switch lớn the Windows To Go external drive sầu, using its drive letter in place of X. xuất hiện a File Explorer window lớn see the drive’s letter if you don’t know it:

X:cd Windowssystem32

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Next, run the following command, replacing X with the drive letter of the external drive with Windows To Go on it.

bcdboot.exe cộ X:Windows /s X: /f ALL

(As Microsoft’s bcdboot documentation page explains, this command “creates boot entries on a USB flash drive… including boot files lớn tư vấn either a UEFI-based or a BIOS-based computer.”)

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Boot Windows To Go

You now have sầu a Windows To Go drive! Restart your computer và boot from it — you may need to configure the boot order in the BIOS or use use Windows 8’s boot options thực đơn on UEFI-based systems lớn boot from an external drive sầu.

The first time you boot the Windows installation on the drie, you’ll have lớn go through the same first-time cài đặt process you’d see after installing Windows on a computer normally. This will only happen the first time you boot your Windows To Go drive. Windows To Go operates almost lượt thích a normal system, although Microsoft notes a few differences — for example, a Windows To Go system boots with internal disks offline by default. This is designed to prevent sensitive data from accidentally being saved onlớn an internal disk when using Windows To Go.

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RELATED: How lớn Boot Your Computer From a Disc or USB Drive

AOMEI’s paid Partition Assistant application includes a Windows To Go Creator function, but you don’t need to lớn pay for it if you’re willing lớn use GImageX & bởi vì the little bit of extra work above by h&.

Thanks to ingramator on the Neowin forums for laying out this method in detail for Windows 8. We confirmed that it still works on Windows 8.1 & hope that more people will discover this process now. As it turns out, you don’t actually need the Enterprise version of Windows 8 khổng lồ use Windows To Go!

Image Credit: bflshadow on Flickr


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Chris HoffmanChris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He"s written about technology for over a decade & was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The Thủ đô New York Times, been interviewed as a giải pháp công nghệ expert on TV stations lượt thích Miami"s NBC 6, và had his work covered by news outlets like the Đài truyền hình BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have sầu been read nearly one billion times---and that"s just here at How-To Geek. Read Full Bio »

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