How to create a Windows To Go USB drive in Windows 8 (step-by-step)

Windows To Go medium

To create a Windows To Go USB drive in Windows 8 you’ll need a  32GB or larger capacity USB storage device (you could also use an external USB hard drive), a Windows 8 PC to create the “To Go” drive, the Windows 8 ISO file, and finally you’ll need a copy of the Imagex.exe file that you can easily download from the Microsoft Download Center — The Windows Automated Installation Kit (AIK) for Windows 7 (this is about 1.7GB download).  

Trick: Instead of setting up “The Windows Automated Installation Kit” (AIK) in your computer, download PeaZip and install it, then mount the AIK ISO file that you just downloaded, browse and open the with PeaZip, extract the file name F1_imagex and rename it to imagex.exe.

Alright now, before we get started let’s talk a bit about Windows To Go (a.k.a Portable Workspace). This is a new feature in Windows 8 that the software maker is targeting to enterprise customers, but anyone can use it, and it allows to install a full copy of Windows 8 into a USB drive (and this is not just a stripped down version, this is the real deal) which you can then boot from, taking the corporate environment anywhere. This feature will be useful in many scenarios to provide a secured environment when, for example, working remotely from home or from a shared computer, or even to avoid spending hours setting a new computer for a contractor that has to work for limited time in a different location. 

If you would like to learn more, I would recommend you to check out these two previous articles:


1 To start you need to make sure that the USB drive is connected to your computer, then you need to open the Command Prompt as administrator — To do this, go to Start, in the search box type cmd, right-click it in and select Run as Administrator

2 While in the Command Prompt type the following and press Enter:


3 You’ll now need to list all the available disks on your system, type the following command — your USB drive should now be listed and press Enter:

list disk

4 Select your future Windows To Go USB drive by typing the next command and press Enter:

select disk #
Important: Replace # with your USB drive number.

5 Next you need to clean the partition, so type:


6 Now is the time to create the new partition, type the following command:

create partition primary

7 Next, select and format the boot partition that you just created by entering this command:

format fs=ntfs quick

8 Configure the partition to be active by typing:


9 To finish with Diskpart just type the following and press Enter:


Windows 8 - Windows To Go: DIskpart

10 Now to the fun part, mount the Windows 8 ISO file by double clicking it, look for the install.wim file that it should be in the \sources\ folder and copy it to the folder where you have placed the Imagex.exe.

11 Detect the USB drive letter and run the following command from the folder that contains the Imagex.exe and now the install.wim:

imagex.exe /apply install.wim 1 h:\

Windows 8 - Windows To Go: Imagex

Important: Replace h with your USB drive letter.
Quick Tip 1: To open the Command Prompt from a specific folder in Windows 8, just open the folder, click File, select Open command prompt, and click Open command prompt as administrator.

Quick Tip 2: If you cannot see the USB drive in Computer, go to Computer Management look for the drive, right-click select Change drive letter and paths, and assign a new letter to the USB drive.

12 When the above step has finished, you’ll need to configure the boot record in the Windows To Go USB drive. Type the following command:

bcdboot.exe h:\windows /s h: /f ALL

Windows 8 - Windows To Go: Bcdboot

Important: Replace h with your USB drive letter.

And this was the last step, now you have just created a Windows To Go, the next step would be to test it out. Good Luck and have fun!

As a final note, make sure that your computer is configured to boot from the device you are about to use, i.e., USB drive. Also the first time that you install Windows 8 doesn’t need to be activated– Windows To Go startup will take a bit of time, because this is the first time booting from that particular machine, then the next time it will boot faster, and if you are prompted to enter the product key, just click Skip.

Be the first and leave us comment with your thought on Windows To Go.

Mauro is a technology writer at and He’s been recognized as a Microsoft MVP, he’s also a technology enthusiast and enjoys writing content about Microsoft, Google, Apple, and other interesting technologies. Got a hat tip? Send him an email with your rants, rumors, tips and tattles.

Email @Pureinfotech
  • Kevrit

    Can I do this using a Windows 7 PC?

    • mhweb

      Hi Kevrit, good question. My my recommendation is that you use a Windows 8 PC, because when you are in step 12 (refer to the tutorial above) the bcdboot.exe in Windows 7 doesn’t have the /f command that is used with the /s command that specifies the firmware type of the target system partition. The options for firmware are UEFI, BIOS, or ALL.
      I hope this helps,
      Thanks for your comment.

    • davefranklyn

      I did it on Windows 7.  As mhweb says above, the bcdboot /f opttion won’t work but I left it out.

      The Windows 8 to Go stick still worked fine.

  • Abdel TIh

    I followed the steps and it worked fine. many thanks .Sadly Microsoft were very late in implementing this while Apple and Linux never had such issues.

    • mhweb

      Adbel thanks for the comment!

  • Abdel TIh

    I followed the steps one by one and it worked great. Now we can be proud of windows at last. with Apple MaxOs and Linux we never had such issue before. the good news for me is that i can now have a disk that boots Mac OsX as well as windows 8. Thanks for the tutoral

  • Risky73

    Works great! It even runs well on old Asus eee 4G Surf with internal HDD too small to install Win 7.
    After this procedure add BluePoison (Google for it) to unlock other options (like standard desktop interface and some hidden applications).

    • mhweb

      Awesome! Thank you for the feedback.

  • Trevor Halsey

    I followed those steps without even looking at it.  I just missed the fact there was a step-by step guide out there that I ended up doing blindly anyways.  Nice guide though.

    I found it easier do the partitioning in Disk Management (which is the GUI version of diskpart) than to attempt to run diskpart. 

    BTW, as long as your flash drive has NTFS on it, you don’t need to reformat it (You can skip the entire diskpart portion.) I had a WD My Passport that was 500GB that was already split up between two partitions. The first partition was a FAT32 partition with 32GB (I did that for my xbox, since it doesn’t support NTFS yet) and the rest of the space was made into a NTFS partition I set as active. I pretty much had everything already there, just needed to install the bootloader and the OS.

    • mhweb

      Nice! Thanks for the comment and you have an interesting tip here I appreciate you sharing. I believe that Windows 8 To Go is going to make easier to take all your stuff with you and just use a shared computer without hassles, even though this feature is target for enterprise.

  • Trevor Halsey

    Oh, BTW if anyone cares heres the key to Windows 8

    • mhweb

      Thanks for the tip Trevor!

  • robotics1

    What have I done wrong? I did all the steps as shown but when I come to boot it is ignored and just boots from the hard drive. I disconnected the hard drives in my desktop and tried it and it was just not recognized. The only step I missed out was active – because that wasn’t mentioned in other sites. I had already had one go from another sites instructions. Is that critical?

    • mhweb

      Hello robotics1, the ACTIVE command is important.
      Marking a partition as active is an advanced task that should only be performed by advanced users. Marking a partition as active on a basic disk means that the computer will use the loader (an operating system tool) on that partition to start the operating system.
      Also make sure that your BIOS is set correctly to boot from an USB device. Note that older machines may not support boot from USB.
      Thanks for your comment!

    • Gary Plattenburg

      Perhaps the Boot Order in your Bios needs reordered?  Make sure USB or External is before your Internal HD.

  • robotics1uk

    I guess the dust settled on this months ago. I found the problem. The 32Gb USB stick does not work, but a 70Gb USB drive does. It is a 32Gb Freecom stick, actually slower than the USB drive.

  • Akansha

    bcdboot.exe h:windows /s h: /f ALL not working then use following,
    bcdboot.exe h:windows /s h:

    • mhweb

      Thanks for the tip Akansha.

    • 2008sean

      I installed the AIK on my Windows 8 test box, and to get this command to work I had to full path it out.. C:Windowssystem32bcdboot.exe h:windows /s h: /f ALL

      • Pit

        2008sean thanks for the tip.

  • KK m

    Step 11 Failed on me. Command Prompt simply said the command is not recognized

    • Pit

      Make sure that you have the imagex.exe file and that you are running the Command Prompt as an administrator.
      Also (important) make sure that you are typing the path for the imagex.exe correctly.


      • KK m

        I have found another working source, but that DID work.

        • Pit

          Glad it did. Thank you for your comment!

  • bisdak2008

    works 101%. copied install.wim (win8 enterprise rtm) in 10 minutes to my 60gb ssd with usb3 enclosure. I just wonder if this ill work using win8 pro rtm install.wim.

    • Pit

      Two months until we figure out, right?

      PS: I’m sure it will, but I am bet it is going to be a manual process.


  • Jeff Dowers

    ANyone know if it is possible to run Windows 8 from DVD instead of usb?

  • Pit

    I can assure you that isn’t a supported feature.

    • Soylent

      Well, there is the Windows 8 Pre-Installed Environment (PE), which does exactly that

  • DagG

    help please

    I followed this guide step by step, it doesnt work for me

    flash drive ADATA 32Gb

    W8 enterprise version

    ImageX Tool for Windows
    Copyright (C) Microsoft Corp. All rights reserved.
    Version: 6.1.700.16385
    [ 100% ] Applying progress
    Successfully applied image.
    Total elapsed time: 103 min 17 sec

    C:Windowssystem32>bcdboot.exe m:windows /s m: /f ALL
    Boot files successfully created.

    Documents and Settings
    Program Files
    Program Files (x86)

    tried 3 laptops, usb3, usb2, custom boot, direct boot from flash…

    operation system not found… :(((

    • Mauro

      If you can, try using a USB external hard drive instead and try these steps. I experienced in the past that depending on the brand of the USB “flash drive” you are trying to use matters. Once I tried to create a Windows To Go with a cheap drive and it didn’t work either, then I tried using a western digital external hdd and it work perfectly.

      Here is a bit of more information of what I am talking about:

      I hope this helps,

  • DagG

    same process worked on 128Gb SSD drive! thank you !!! also on another 16GB Flash drive :D

    • Mauro

      DagG, I am glad it worked.

      Thank you for commenting back on the topic.

  • John Tomas

    There is a third-party tool called WinToUSB which can help you create Windows To Go drive more easily. I have been using it for over a year now, it works very well for me.