Creating a non-certified Windows To Go USB drive

On the Go

Creating the W2G Bootable Image

Before you continue, know your USB drive letter. For this demonstration, the USB drive is E:, so I would transfer the install image to the USB drive with the command:


This process can take a very long time. Mine took more than an hour to complete, so be patient and don't assume anything is wrong. ImageX provides a progress indicator like this

[ 30% ] Applying progress: 43:22 mins remaining.

during the transfer process. When the image is fully transferred to the USB drive, you need to enter one final command to copy Windows boot files to the root of the bootable USB drive:

Boot files successfully created.

This command transfers the boot or system files to the USB Drive for any firmware (BIOS or UEFI) type (ALL ).

Initial Boot and W2G Setup

Next, remove the USB drive and insert it into any other Windows 8-capable and USB-bootable computer to boot into Windows To Go. The initial setup process is lengthy, so be very patient. W2G requires two boots.

The first boot is to detect hardware, which takes you through a series of colorful screens that display messages such as Getting devices ready X% and Getting ready . The system will reboot itself, so be ready to boot from the USB drive for the second boot.

The second boot steps you through the following Windows 8 setup screens:

  • Accepting the License Agreement
  • Personalize Color Scheme and Name the Computer
  • Select a Wireless Network
  • Enter the Wireless Network Password
  • Set Express or Custom Settings
  • Sign In to Your PC (Enter a Microsoft Account Name )
  • Enter Your Microsoft Account Password
  • Mouse Setup

After you enter your information and personalize your computer, you have to wait through another series of fascinating screens, such as We're getting your PC ready , Installing apps , Taking care of a few things , Almost ready ; finally, you're sent to the Start (Metro) screen, where you can interact with the operating system.

Using Windows To Go

You'll notice that W2G behaves almost exactly like Windows 8 in every respect, and it should, because it is a full Windows 8 installation. The two major exceptions that prevent me from saying it behaves exactly like Windows 8 are: Windows Store is disabled and you'll soon get a "nag" notification about Windows activation.

You might see a notification when you first log in telling you to: Keep the USB drive plugged in. Only remove it after your PC has shut down completely. Otherwise, your Windows To Go workspace might crash and you could lose data . The W2G workspace is not loaded into memory and used from there; it remains on disk and is accessed as you use it. Windows 8 also creates a pagefile, if needed, on the USB drive.

Installing traditional applications, such as Microsoft Office, on W2G works just as you'd expect, but you need to open an Administrative command prompt and use The Group Policy Editor (gpedit) to enable Windows Store.

C:> gpedit

To enable the Windows Store, under Computer Configuration , open Administrative Templates | Windows Components | Store . In the right-hand pane, right-click the entry Allow Store to install apps on Windows To Go workspaces , click Edit to select the Enabled option, and click OK (Figure 1). Now you can close the Group Policy Editor.

Figure 1: The Group Policy Editor with Windows Store enabled.

You should now be able to open the Windows Store and install apps.

If you still have trouble, try connecting into your Active Directory (AD) domain with your W2G system and allow it to activate Windows. Activation and subsequent activation checkups are required every 180 days. Remember that W2G is Enterprise-only; so, to use it, you'll need a KMS Server or AD to help you manage it.

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