Windows To Go

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Windows To Go
A component of Microsoft Windows
Windows To Go USB Drive.png
A USB flash drive offered by Microsoft at the BUILD conference with Windows To Go pre-installed
Type Live USB
Included with Windows 8 Enterprise, Windows 8.1 Enterprise, Windows 10 Enterprise, Windows 10 Education

Windows To Go is a feature in Windows 8.1 Enterprise, Windows 8 Enterprise, Windows 10 Enterprise, and Windows 10 Education that allows them to boot and run from certain USB mass storage devices such as USB flash drives and external hard disk drives which have been certified by Microsoft as compatible.[1] It is a fully manageable corporate Windows environment.

It is intended to allow enterprise administrators to provide users with an imaged version of Windows that reflects the corporate desktop. Creation of Windows To Go drives is not officially supported by non-Enterprise (or Education) Windows 8.1 editions;[2] however, Enterprise and Education versions of Windows 10 are supported. Some information has been published describing various ways to install Windows To Go using any version of Windows 8.x and 10 and any bootable USB device.[3][4] Reported restrictions of some unofficial versions include unavailability of Bitlocker protection, no access to the Windows Store, and inability to boot on both BIOS and UEFI machines.


Before Windows 8, only embedded versions of Windows, such as Windows Embedded Standard 7, supported booting from USB storage devices.[5][6]

In April 2011, after the leak of Windows 8 build 7850,[7] some users noticed that those builds included a program called "Portable Workspace Creator", indicating it was intended to create bootable USB drives of Windows 8.[8][9]

In September 2011, Microsoft officially announced Windows To Go at the Build Conference, and distributed bootable 32GB USB flash drives with Windows To Go pre-installed.[10]

Differences from standard installation

Windows To Go has several significant differences compared to a standard installation of Windows 8 on a non-removable storage (such as hard disk drives or solid-state drives).

Drive removal detection:

As a safety measure designed to prevent data loss, Windows pauses the entire system if the USB drive is removed, and resumes operation immediately when the drive is inserted within 60 seconds of removal. If the drive is not inserted in that time-frame, the computer shuts down after those 60 seconds to prevent possible confidential or sensitive information being displayed on the screen or stored in RAM.[11] It is also possible to encrypt a Windows To Go drive using BitLocker.[12]

Driver configuration:

The first time Windows To Go boots on a particular computer, it installs the drivers for that particular hardware and multiple reboots may be required. Subsequent booting operations go straight into Windows 8.[11]

Windows Store:

For Windows 8.1, the Windows Store is enabled and working by default in Windows To Go.[13] In Windows 8 the Windows Store cannot be accessed on a Windows To Go installation: those attempting to visit the Store will receive an error message.

A Group Policy Object exists to manage this.[14]

Using Group Policy, Windows Store can be enabled for a Windows To Go workspace (limited to one PC) and Store apps can be used on that workspace.

Local hardware inaccessible:

In default configurations, Windows To Go installations do not see the local hard disk drive or solid-state drive present in a host computer. This can be changed by policy (OfflineInternal).[15]

Hardware considerations

Windows To Go works both on USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 connections, and both on legacy BIOS and UEFI firmware.[16][17] Not all USB drives can be used in this environment; Microsoft has set up specific testing requirements that the USB drive manufacturer must meet in order to be a supported device. As of June 2017, there are 12 USB devices listed as supported by Microsoft for Windows To Go:[18][19][20][21]

  • IronKey Workspace W700
  • IronKey Workspace W500[22]
  • IronKey Workspace W300
  • Kanguru Mobile Workspace
  • Kingston DataTraveler Workspace[23] (first drive to support Windows To Go)[24]
  • SPYRUS Portable Workplace[25][26]
  • SPYRUS Secure Portable Workplace (with Hardware Encryption)[27][28]
  • Spyrus Worksafe
  • Spyrus Worksafe Pro
  • SuperTalent Express RC4
  • SuperTalent Express RC8[29]
  • Western Digital My Passport Enterprise[dead link]

When using a PC as a host, only hardware certified for use with either Windows 7 or Windows 8 operating systems will work well with Windows To Go. Although Microsoft does not provide support for this feature on Windows RT or Macintosh computers,[18] it is possible to boot Windows To Go on a Mac.[30]


Microsoft announced that Windows To Go is licensed by Microsoft Software Assurance as with Windows To Go rights under Software Assurance, employees can use Windows To Go on any Software Assurance licensed computer as well as their home PC. With a new companion device license from Software Assurance, employees will be able to use Windows To Go on their personal devices from work.[31]


Simon Bisson, writing for ZDNet, called Windows To Go "One of the more interesting features of Windows 8", noting "Even though we were using a USB 2.0 port performance was good, with no noticeable lag" and calling it "a very useful way of running of Windows 8".[2]

Michael S. Lasky, writing for, wrote "For IT departments that want to ensure that employees can safely access a corporate network, Windows To Go USB drives are incredibly convenient. Having the ability to instantly remake any Windows PC into your own secure, personal computer is a worthwhile and productive time-saver."[32]

See also


  1. ^ Gregg Keizer (2011-09-14). "Windows 8 will run from USB thumb drive". Computerworld. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  2. ^ a b "Windows 8: Windows To Go". First Take. CBS Interactive. ZDNet UK. 20 September 2011. Retrieved 3 September 2012. 
  3. ^ Hasleo Software. "How to create Windows To Go on non-certification Windows To Go drive?". Retrieved 2 May 2017. 
  4. ^ Chris Hoffman (24 September 2014). "How to Create a Windows To Go USB Drive Without the Enterprise Edition". Retrieved 24 February 2016. 
  5. ^ "Build a Bootable USB Image". MSDN. Microsoft. 13 June 2012. Retrieved 3 September 2012. 
  6. ^ "Bootable Windows USB Stack". MSDN. Microsoft. 13 June 2012. Retrieved 3 September 2012. 
  7. ^ "Windows 8 leaked, caught looking a lot like Windows 7". Engadget. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  8. ^ "Windows 8: Portable Workspace allows you to run Windows from a USB device". WinRumors. 2011-04-15. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  9. ^ "Windows 8 to feature USB-runnable Portable Workspaces, sales of 16GB thumb drives set to soar". Engadget. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  10. ^ Take, First (2011-09-20). "Windows 8: Windows To Go | ZDNet UK". Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  11. ^ a b Bright, Peter (2011-09-18). "Making the lives of IT easier: Windows 8 Refresh, Reset, and Windows To Go". Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  12. ^ "Windows 8 Running on a USB – Windows To Go - Softpedia". Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Microsoft Demonstrates Windows To Go (Run Windows 8 From USB On Any PC)". Retrieved 2011-09-16. 
  17. ^ Create Windows 10 To Go USB.
  18. ^ a b "Windows To Go: Feature Overview". Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Super Talent Also Has a Windows To Go Certified Flash Drive". Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  21. ^ "Imation’s IronKey Workspace Certified For Windows To Go". Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  22. ^ "IronKey Workspace for Windows To Go". Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  23. ^ "Kingston Windows To Go". Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ "SPYRUS Portable Workplace for Windows To Go". Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  26. ^ "Windows Certified Products List - SPYRUS Portable Workplace for Windows To Go". Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  27. ^ "SPYRUS Secure Portable Workplace for Windows To Go, the first hardware encrypting WTG drive". Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  28. ^ "Windows Certified Products List - SPYRUS Secure Portable Workplace for Windows To Go". Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  29. ^ "SuperTalent Windows To Go". Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  30. ^ Kakkar, Manan (September 13, 2011). "Windows To Go Hands-On: Running Windows 8 From A USB Drive On MacBook Air". Retrieved January 14, 2014. 
  31. ^ Visser, Erwin (18 April 2012). "Introducing Windows 8 Enterprise and Enhanced Software Assurance for Today’s Modern Workforce". Windows for your Business Blog. Microsoft. Retrieved 3 September 2012. 
  32. ^ Windows To Go Review

External links

  • Running Windows from an external USB drive with Windows To Go - Official Microsoft Presentation at BUILD
  • Windows To Go: scenario overview on Microsoft TechNet
  • Windows Developer Preview Guide (brief mention of Windows To Go in page 36)
  • How to create a bootable Windows 8 USB thumb drive - Ars Technica
  • NSA - Configuring Windows To Go as a Mobile Desktop Solution
  • Use Cases for Windows 8 To Go
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