Home > Computers and Internet, Windows 8 > My Windows 8 ‘Feature of the Week’–Windows To Go

My Windows 8 ‘Feature of the Week’–Windows To Go

In what is likely to be an irregular feature on my blog, I just have to talk about a new and cool feature of Windows 8 I’ve been testing the last few days.

Windows 8 Enterprise edition contains many cool features, some known (and improved) from Windows 7 such as BitLocker, Applocker, Branchcache and DirectAccess to name the main ones.

Windows

But the one feature worthy of call out in this post is Windows To Go (herein abbreviated to WTG).

The idea behind Windows To Go is that you have a copy of your operating system on a stick. You prepare that memory stick on a Windows 8 Enterprise computer, then simply plug it into another PC.  Almost like a cuckoo with the PC hardware for your own use.

Forget roaming profiles – I now have a full roaming PC with me, in USB format. First time I plug it in to a different PC (assuming I have set the boot order to USB first), it will detect hardware and load drivers as needed. From there, after a minute or two, I can use the desktop with all my apps loaded. Simply shutdown, unplug and take it to the next PC to use it there.

For those whose shoulders and back suffer from carrying round laptops all the time, it’s well worth a look. I just need to carry a USB drive, and use a ‘donor’ machine to plug into to use it.

Sounds too good to be true? Give it a go.

Remember though, that you must shutdown the PC before ejecting the memory stick. If you unplug it while the operating system is running, then it will freeze the PC until it is plugged back in. You have 60 seconds to do this, and it will resume from where it left off.

USB 3.0 external drives have to be from the supported hardware list (see links at the bottom for supported models). Currently as I type there are only 3 available.  32GB is the minimum size required for this. Do not try to shoehorn a standard USB memory stick for this – it just won’t work.  I have the Kingston, and it works like a dream, if a little warm when in use. It uses an SSD drive, not regular flash memory – which is part of the specification.

 

Here’s my summary:

Pro’s:

  • Fully portable operating system
  • use any PC hardware that has USB 2.0/3.0 to boot from (that will ordinarily run Windows 7 or 8)
  • apps and settings are included, as it is a full O/S on the drive
  • Bitlocker is available to use for added peace of mind

Con’s:

  • WinRE is not available for recovery. How could it be? We are booting straight into an alternate O/S, not touching the C: drive at all on the local machine we plug into.
  • Store (for Windows 8 apps) is disabled (but you can enable it if you wish). This means app downloads from the store won’t work out of the box. ‘Regular’ apps can still be installed though in the old fashioned way though.

Also know:

  • Hibernation is disabled. It will only work in a startup and shutdown fashion.
  • Push button reset won’t work. See above.
  • Internal Disks are inaccessible when booted from WTG. They do not appear whatsoever. You only see the USB device’s drive (and mapped drives, Skydrive etc).
  • Mix & match CPU architecture will only work in a backward compatible way. i.e. if I have a 32-bit WTG installation, I can use that on a 32-bit or a 64-bit PC (as long as it’s using a legacy BIOS- not so with UEFI), but if I have a 64-bit WTG installation, then it can only be used on 64-bit PCs. No drama really, it’s what you’d expect.
  • You can prepare your own corporate images with the usual tools of ImageX, DISM

Hardware manufacturers links:
http://www.wd.com/wtg
http://www.supertalent.com/wtg/
http://www.kingston.com/wtg/

Step-by-Step Instructions for enabling Windows To Go:
http://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/contents/articles/6991.windows-to-go-step-by-step-en-us.aspx

Find out more about Windows To Go here on TechNet:
http://technet.microsoft.com/library/hh831833.aspx

And download the 90 day trial of Windows 8 Enterprise here:
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-US/evalcenter/hh699156.aspx?ocid=wc-tn-sb

 

EDIT: new devices now added to the list include IronKey and Spryrus devices. Good to see the list growing.
http://technet.microsoft.com/library/hh831833.aspx check the list here.

Also I’ve been asked this question a lot recently, Microsoft DO NOT support Macs at this time for WTG, (even though they would meet the min spec for host computer)  -yes – it’s an Apple thing 🙂

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  1. Luc Dorpmans
    October 24, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Hi Chris,
    Nice post about a great feature. Just want to mention that I got it working nicely on a “Verbatim Classic Store ‘n Go 32GB, USB3.0” but Verbatim Europe simply calls it the “USB 3.0 Drive 32GB: http://www.verbatim-europe.co.uk/en_1/product_usb-3-0-drive-32gb_6139_0_30853.html
    It was a lot cheaper in the Netherlands (€ 46,-) than on the official sire in the UK (£75) but maybe the street price is better.
    Regards,
    Luc

    • October 24, 2012 at 1:45 pm

      Well for support reasons, the ‘supported hardware’ list is what I am going by, but great to know you have tried it.

  2. David
    October 24, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Hey, I didn’t know you could enable the WIndows Store… tks for the tip!

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