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 Neutral.cab 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:

Instructions

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:

diskpart

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:

clean

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:

active

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

exit

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.

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Mauro is a technology writer at Pureinfotech.com and WindowsCentral.com. 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.

Microsoft MVP Email @Pureinfotech