Windows-8-to-goWindows to go is included with Windows 8 Enterprise. It provides the ability to boot off of a USB stick and have a full blown Windows 8 OS running. This feature has a lot of possibilities and great uses. I use this technology to boot a Mac Air to Windows because the Mac Air has such a small hard drive that I didn’t want to waste the space doing dual boot with bootcamp. There are several other use cases where I see the benefits of using this technology.

  • As a special boot disk to do work like antivirus, computer forensics, etc.
  • Running your corporate image on a home PC enabling work from home
  • Supporting BYOD where you boot a corp image but leaves the laptop alone
  • Running Windows 8 on your Mac without using your disk space
  • Run an alternate OS on your work machine – like a development environment or to play games on your work PC – for your kids of course Winking smile

Windows-To-Go

Windows to go: boots off the USB drive and by default doesn’t even mount the local hard disks. To protect from both data leakage and from possibly infected hard disks. This can be configured to what your needs require. It is a regular install of Windows with a few special features.

  • Internal disks are offline.
  • Drive encryption is bitlocker to go
  • Trusted Platform Module (TPM) is not used.
  • Hibernate is disabled by default.
  • Windows Recovery Environment isn’t available.
  • Refreshing or resetting a Windows To Go workspace is not supported.
  • Store is disabled by default.

There are two ways to set up Windows To Go.

  • You can run the Wizard from a Windows 8 enterprise install and it will create the image for you on an approved USB device. Just type “Windows to go” from the search pane. It will appear under the settings search tab. This is by far the easy way to run Windows To Go. For more on where to find approved devices see the section below on “Windows to go Certified drives”. 
  • You can install manually which will work with approved or non-approved USB devices. I suggest you use a USB drive that has decent read / write rates say at least 20MB/s. But faster is better and you will notice the difference. You can test your USB drive speed with a tool available from Nirsoft http://usbspeed.nirsoft.net/.

    Instead of recreating the directions of how to do this manually – You can find them here: http://pureinfotech.com/2011/09/28/how-to-create-a-windows-to-go-usb-drive-in-windows-8-step-by-step/. One improvement though – you don’t need to get imagex.exe to do this. In Windows 8 the imaging functionality has been added to dism.exe which is installed by default in Windows 8. So just use the dism command instead of imagex.

Notice: Approved USB devices report themselves as fixed disk and often have much higher data transfer rates. For example an inexpensive traditional USB stick transfers data at 4 to 15 MB/s for writes and about 10 to 30 MB/s for reads. My Super Talent RC-8 drive has 220MB/s Write speed and 270MB/s read speed. It is like an SSD drive on a usb stick. On my Lenovo W520 Windows 8 runs faster off the USB stick than off the hard drive.

Windows To Go Certified Drives
Windows To Go certified drives pass a battery of certification tests, including self-hosting and boot compatibility across a variety of PCs. The certification process ensures that drives are built for the high random read / write speeds required for running Windows smoothly. Here is the current list of certified Windows To Go drives. Where to find Windows To Go drives:

Imation IronKey™ Workspace W300

Imation IronKey™ Workspace W300
32, 64, 128 GB capacities
Details

Kingston DataTraveler Workspace

Kingston DataTraveler Workspace
32, 64, 128 GB capacities
Details

SPYRUS Portable Workplace

SPYRUS Portable Workplace
32, 64, 128 GB capacities
Details

SPYRUS Secure Portable Workplace

SPYRUS Secure Portable Workplace
32, 64, 128 GB capacities
Details

Super Talent RC4

Super Talent RC4
32, 64, 128 and 256 GB capacities
Details

Super Talent RC8

Super Talent RC8
64 and 128 GB capacities
Details

WD My Passport Enterprise

WD My Passport Enterprise
500 GB capacity
Details

 

For more information on Windows to go as well as the latest information on certified Windows To Go drives check the two sites below:

-Brian