Win 8 To Go

by Marin Franković on 4 September, 2012

Windows 8 has many great new features but one that looks very interesting is Win To Go option. In short, this enables you to install Windows 8 Enterprise version on a supported USB stick od external disk drive and to plug it in any computer that supports Windows 8 and have access to you applications and files. After you unplug your USB stick nothing is left on host computer.

As of today, two USB keys are supported for this feature:

If you try to use any other USB stick, Win To Go wizard will not be able to create Windows 8 installation on it. I purchased Kingston DataTraveler Ultimate 3.0 G2 32 GB drive for this purpose. Wizard setup can be circumvented by applying Windows 8 image to a stick via command line utilities such as diskpart, imagex.exe and bcdboot.

NOTE: if you do not want to install WAIK you can use DISM command that is already part of Windows 8 installation. Refer to a link bellow to see how.

I have tried this procedure in several USB speed combinations and here is table that shows times needed to finish:

USB 2.0 stick 3.0 stick

2.0 motherboard

Not supported 1 hour 30 minutes to create stick, 3 –  10 minutes first boot
3.0 motherboard Not supported 22 minutes to create stick, 2 – 5 minutes first boot

If you do not have it already, you will need to install WAIK for Windows 7 or 8(or extract imagex.exe) and copy of install.wim file that can be found on Windows Enterprise 8 Sources folder.

The procedure is as follows:

  1. Start command prompt with Administrator rights (Run As Administrator)
  2. Start Diskpart command
  3. List available disks (your USB 3.0 stick should be plugged in) with List disk command
  4. Select disk # (where # is your USB stick disk number)
  5. Use Clean command to clean USB disk
  6. Create partition with this command Create primary partition
  7. Format it with format fs=ntfs quick
  8. Active (make partition active)
  9. Exit

Now we have to apply Windows 8 Enterprise image to a USB stick and create boot record on it. Two commands will do that for us:

  1. imagex.exe /apply f:\install.wim 1 #:\ (replace # with USB stick drive letter eg. g:)
  2. bcdboot.exe #:\windows /s #: /f ALL (replace # with USB stick drive letter eg. g:)

If you prefer PowerShell and DISM command you can read this post.

All you have to do now is plug in USB stick in compatible computer and boot from it. First boot will take some time (check out my table above) but every next boot on same computer will be faster.

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