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How to Create a Portable Version of Windows 8 Without Extra Software

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For a long time Linux users have been able to install their OS onto a portable USB drive, but Windows just caught up. Read on to find out how you can install Windows 8 onto a USB drive so you can take it wherever you go.

Note: This was written on the RTM version of Windows 8 Enterprise and you will need to have an RTM build of the Enterprise edition to complete the steps in this article.

Using Windows To Go to Create a Portable Workspace

Press the Win + X keyboard combination and select Control Panel from the context menu.

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You will need to change your Control Panel view to the Small Icons view.

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You should now see Windows To Go near the bottom of the Control Panel, click on it.

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You will now need to select the USB drive you would like to turn into a portable workspace, then click next.

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The wizard will automatically scan your CD\DVD and Removable drives for valid Windows installation files, once you have selected a version of Windows click next.

Note: If you store your installation files elsewhere you will need to add it as a search location.

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You can optionally set a BitLocker password, but we’ll pass on this option for now.

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Once you have reached the end of the wizard, you will be warned that your USB drive will be formatted. You can then click on create to kick of the creation process.

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That’s all there is to it, you now have a bootable USB with Windows on it.

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Note: Your portable USB will not show up in Explorer, this leaves us with a problem later on when you don’t need to use it as a Portable Workspace anymore.

How To Reformat Your Windows To Go USB Drive

If you’re done using Windows on a drive, you can reformat the drive, but you’ll need to open a command prompt and type diskpart, then press enter.

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Once you enter Diskpart you will need to find out which drive is the one you need to format, the list disk command will show you all the drive currently connected to your system. Take note of your drive number because we will need it in the next step.

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We now need to select the disk, you can simply use the select disk command along with your drive number from the previous step.

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Now that the disk is selected we can go ahead and wipe it.

Note: Clean is a ruthless command that will wipe all the file systems off your drive without any warnings, if you have selected the wrong drive previously this will result is a loss of data so make sure you have the right drive selected.

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We can now use the Win + R keyboard combination to bring up the run box  and open Disk Management.

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As soon as the Management console opens you will need to initialize the disk.

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Then you can go ahead and create your drives partition.

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That’s all there is to it.

Taylor Gibb is a Microsoft MVP and all round geek, he loves everything from Windows 8 to Windows Server 2012 and even C# and PowerShell. You can also follow him on Google+

  • Published 08/13/12

Comments (30)

  1. jimmy

    Will this work on, say, a Raspberry Pi?

  2. Taylor Gibb

    if(@jimmy -eq $Troll){Write “Yes it will work”} else {“Of course it wont work”}

  3. x3geek

    haha only if i could thumbs up the comments.

    back to topic.
    - is it persistent? (does it remember settings after a reboot?)
    - did you try using USB flash drive? just curious what was avg startup/shutdown time you got with your drive. USB 2.0 or 3.0?

  4. Taylor Gibb

    @x3geek Data is persistent. (But only on the USB) (If you were wondering, the client on which you boot from’s HDDs are hidden from explorer)
    Also i did try use the USB the first startup took a short while because it runs you through the OOBE, every time you start your USB up in a different config machine you have to run through the wizard which is a bit irritating. But after that first boot my boot times were no longer than a minute i was using USB 2.0 simply cause i don’t have a USB 3.0 port on the rig i was writing the article on.

  5. Atrusty

    What’s the minimum size of the USB drive ?
    Seems the portable Win8 can be created only on a PC already running Win8. Which leaves me out (I’ve only WinXP at work, Win7 at home).

  6. Nathaniel

    Unless Microsoft changed their feature set without me noticing, it should be noted in the article that this can only be done with Windows 8 Enterprise. All other editions lack the ability to create a Windows To-Go environment.

  7. Mohit Gurnani

    Do we have to wait for the release or is it possible in the release preview ?
    I am running the Release Preview but the option isn’t available.

  8. r

    I’d rather create a portable version of the software without Windows 8

  9. Blacksuri

    Nathaniel wrote, “… it should be noted in the article that this can only be done with Windows 8 Enterprise. All other editions lack the ability to create a Windows To-Go environment.”

    In your 12/26/11 article, “How to Run Windows 8 Developer Preview From a USB”, you wrote “This is actually a new feature in Windows 8 called Windows To Go, but if you have been using the Windows 8 Developer Preview you will know that the binaries were removed for this release.”

    You then went on to explain in detail how to install Windows 8 to run on a USB. Since the title of this present article is “… Without Extra Software”, and your previous article required WAIK (Windows Automated Installation Kit), does that mean that the same process you described last December will work with any version of Windows 8?

  10. Taylor Gibb

    @Blacksuri thats correct. There is some confusion surrounding these topics let me try clear it up for once and for all :)

    Windows 8 ships with Windows To Go, Windows To Go uses underlying technology which is currently present in the WAIK, to be more specific it uses Windows Imaging. So yes there you will be able to use this GUI based creation wizard, however i dont actually know what versions it will ship in at the moment it looks like Enterprise only. I have spoken to a few Softies and they have told me that the method i wrote about last time will still work on the other versions, ie Windows 8 Professional and the like.

  11. Blacksuri

    You wrote “Note: Your portable USB will not show up in Explorer, …”

    I installed Windows 8 Developer Preview on a USB using the WAIK (Windows Automated Installation Kit), as per your previous article, and it shows up in Windows Explorer just fine. Which means it remains fully functional as a USB drive.

    I have to assume that “Windows To Go” deliberately disables this. Are you aware of any methods to restore the usefulness of the drive, and still be able to run Windows 8 from it?

  12. jasray

    Shows in the screenshots that a 931GB Samsung drive was being used.

    In any event, using Gparted would be much faster for the re-formatting and new partition creation. Most likely a bit safer for those who have used it.

    Interesting article. No, in earlier articles it was mentioned that persistence wasn’t a feature. Maybe it is. Windows on a stick? Odd choice for an OS to place on a stick, but . . . to each his/her own.

  13. AC

    I’m a big fan of Windows, OS X, and Linux of all flavors. They each have their purpose. But this department is really where Macs really take the crown. They’ve had this functionality for quite a while. Have an OS X Intel-based install on a portable hard drive? You can boot it on any Mac. Diagnosing a client’s iMac and you want to rule out the OS as a problem? I can pop my Macbook into target disc mode and boot my OS on said client’s iMac. Busted your old Macbook beyond repair and absolutely cannot reinstall the OS or software? Clone the HDD to another Mac and you’re done. Nothing changed.

  14. Okeydokey

    What gives? You mention that this is for the RTM version(s) but Windows 8 RTM hasn’t even been released yet! The earliest anyone here might get their hands on it will be August 15 assuming they get it via a MSDN or a Technet subscription. It’s now August 13. So isn’t this (article) just a little premature?

    Personally, I stopped fiddling with Windows 8 after I got the RP version. I was so damned mad at Microsoft for eliminating the Windows Media Center app – and after promising that they wouldn’t and especially after they provided it in a previous (CP) release – that I haven’t kept up. I doubt I’ll even purchase a copy even at the anticipated price of only $39.99 (scheduled for October 26).

    But just out of curiosity, what about anyone who wants to try Windows 8 RTM between now and the release date? Is there any way anyone can get a copy of the RTM version just in case this ability to use Windows from a USB key (or any other ability) might be a reason to upgrade when it comes time or reconsider taking the Linux route (like I’m now doing)?

  15. DC

    @AC

    OS X works on how many different types of Macs?

    Windows works on how many different types of Macs AND PCs?

  16. gary

    @Taylor Gibb
    LOL Taylor I like your troll script.. :D

  17. Taylor Gibb

    @gary Why thank you :D

    @Okeydokey This was written on a perfectly legit copy obtained through someone at Microsoft however, because im a Windows Fanboy and i dont like Linux too much, i can tell you to give Google a search.

  18. Naman

    You got Windows from someone at MS? Wow, that’s cool.
    PS: What language is that troll script? I’m trying to learn to program and this looks easy. So far I can only get:
    input “Jimmy, are you a troll?”, a$
    select case a$
    case “Yes”
    print “Yeah, you can.”
    case “No”
    print “Are you mad? That thing’s got an ARM CPU in it! Try Windows RT though, if you ARE a troll”
    case else
    print “Invalid. Type Yes or no”
    end select

    That’s QBASIC, very basic.

  19. Taylor Gibb

    @Naman that was “written” in PoSH (PowerShell) but i could write it in basically any .Net language. Here’s C#:

    if(HTGCommenter Jimmy.IsTroll == true) {Console.WriteLine(“Yes it will work”)}
    else {“Of course it wont work”}

  20. Okeydokey

    RE:@Okeydokey This was written on a perfectly legit copy obtained through someone at Microsoft however, because im a Windows Fanboy and i dont like Linux too much, i can tell you to give Google a search.

    You really should try a Linux distro some time. You may be surprised! I also hope I don’t have to go into the fact that web servers more often use Apache on a Linux or Unix box and far outnumber everything Microsoft has. There’s a reason for it too. I just hate to see someone as bright as you dedicate himself to one (seemingly doomed) platform. Seems like you’d be a natural once you got into Linux a little. (And you could probably be a little more objective too.)

    In any case, I still can’t find a Windows 8 RTM version available for download even after using Google – or DuckDuckGo. So, will the RC release (the third one) update itself to RTM, or is there some special “process” involved? I intend to reinstall it again and see, but maybe you can clear it up for me and possibly everyone else? I really would like to try this USB thing but last time I looked it simply wouldn’t work with the RC version (the third one) that I have – and probably most everyone else has too.

  21. Taylor Gibb

    @Okeydokey I have a few linux boxes as home, first off my NAS which is running UNRAID. That was introduced to me by someone at work and seriously i fought and fought for WHS and one day i just decided to give it a try and i have never looked back. I also have an Ubuntu Box and a Linux Mint box.

    You see i dont mind what platform im on as long as it does its job. By day im actually a geek who does everything from Active Directory to VMWare vSphere from PoSH to C#. I just find it easier to solve my problems on Windows. I guess if the first PC i ever used ran Linux things would be very different.

    In connection with the release of the Windows RTM, the RC wont update you will have to re-install or upgrade using the wizard, the actual release date for the RTM is tomorrow (the 15th). I think it will be available for everyone to download from MSDN. Ill post a link as soon as i know of a legit one.

  22. sudthedevil

    Can you tell me What should be the minimum USB size as you seem to be working with quite big one :)

  23. Naman

    PowerShell? Windows PowerShell? I’ve got something to learn :P

  24. Ashwat

    What are the minimum space requirements on the portable disk so as to install windows 8 on it?

  25. Taylor Gibb

    @everyone the minimum size is 32GB, i should have mentioned that in the article, i will update the article shortly.

  26. dogflaps

    @Taylor Gibb @ Narman Whilst I’m not a ubergeek like some who post on here, I do find I insulting that Jimmy has been called a troll for asking a simple question.

    Maybe you should think back to amount of knowledge you had about hardware when you where the one asking question that seem obvious to everybody else, and maybe leave your darkened room in your mom’s house and get a life

  27. Taylor Gibb

    @dogflaps He was clearly trolling, you cant tell me you cant see hes saying that Linux will run on a Pi but Windows wont?

    Also my darkened room in my moms house is perfect, why would i want to leave? That’s just silly.

  28. dogflaps

    Just looks like a simple question to me …. but them I’m just simple

    watch out for the natural light …. it burns

  29. Naman

    @Dogflaps Nope, I don’t think he was a troll. I was only giving an example of QBASIC. When I first heard about the Raspberry 22/7, I was like “Oh wow, a Windows machine that fits in your hand!” I later learnt it had an ARM processor.

  30. solan

    I am trying to use windows to go at school but I am unable to boot from usb.

    I tried entering the bios setup but this requires the administrators password, which i doubt will get…

    Any other option to boot from usb available?

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