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 to lớn 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 thử nghiệm và update this article. Of course, you’re also welcome to demo it out and let us know.

This process allows you lớn create a live sầu Windows USB drive that functions like a live Linux USB drive. You can boot it on any computer. The operating system’s files and programs stay on the external drive sầu and 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 tệp tin, which is stored on the Windows installation media. If you have a physical disc, insert it inkhổng lồ your computer. If you have an ISO file, you can “mount it” on Windows 8 by double-clicking it in File Explorer.

mở cửa the disc drive in Windows Explorer and enter the “sources” directory. Locate the “install.wim” tệp tin — that’s at X:sourcesinstall.wlặng , where X is the drive sầu 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 & 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.

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

Wait for the imaging process to 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 onto 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 to lớn make the Windows To Go partition active so your computer will boot off that partition when you choose lớn boot from the external device.

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

Locate the external drive sầu in the menu, right-click the partition you imaged the Windows To Go system onto lớn, and select Mark Partition as Active sầu. This will mark that partition as the “active sầu,” bootable partition on that external drive.

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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 Commvà Prompt window as Administrator — on Windows 8.1, right-cliông xã the Start button in the bottom-left corner of the screen or press Windows key + X and select Command Prompt (Admin).

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

X:cd Windowssystem32

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

bcdboot.exe pháo X:Windows /s X: /f ALL

(As Microsoft’s bcdboot documentation page explains, this commvà “creates boot entries on a USB flash drive… including boot files to 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 and boot from it — you may need lớn configure the boot order in the BIOS or use use Windows 8’s boot options menu on UEFI-based systems khổng lồ boot from an external drive sầu.

The first time you boot the Windows installation on the drie, you’ll have sầu khổng lồ go through the same first-time thiết 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 like a normal system, although Microsoft notes a few differences — for example, a Windows To Go system boots with internal disks offline by mặc định. This is designed lớn prevent sensitive sầu data from accidentally being saved onlớn an internal disk when using Windows To Go.

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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 khổng lồ use GImageX và vị the little bit of extra work above by h&.

Thanks khổng lồ 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 và hope that more people will discover this process now. As it turns out, you don’t actually need the Enterprise version of Windows 8 lớn 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 New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami"s NBC 6, và had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read nearly one billion times---& that"s just here at How-To Geek. Read Full Bio »