Windows To Go is a new feature that comes with Windows 8. This will let you run Windows 8 straight from a USB rather than an internal hard drive, which lets you move around and use almost any hardware without much effort. There is a bunch of information from Microsoft here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh831833.aspx if you care to read further.
Why use Windows To Go instead of just doing a few tricks and installing Windows 8 on a USB?
- Windows To Go blocks access to the local hard drive – this may be good in corporate environments, but bad for home users and enthusiasts (which is why Windows To Go is part of Windows 8 Enterprise and not all flavours)
- Windows To Go has built in protection if you accidently unplug your USB stick. It will wait 60 seconds before killing off your frozen Windows 8 session. If you plug in the USB stick again before the 60 seconds is up, your session will continue with a little warning about the dangers of unplugging a USB stick.
- It’s an official supported way of running Windows 8 off a USB stick. SCCM 2012 is supported talking to the device too, so you can roll out apps the same way you would to any other PC in a Microsoft supported fashion.
- Licensing. As taken from Microsoft’s FAQ (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj592680.aspx#wtg_faq_who ):
Wndows To Go allows organization to support the use of privately owned PCs at the home or office with more secure access to their organizational resources. With Windows To Go use rights under Software Assurance, an employee will be able to use Windows To Go on any company PC licensed with Software Assurance as well as from their home PC. Additionally, through a new companion device license for Software Assurance, employees will be able to use Windows To Go on their personal computers at work.
Using the official method of creating a Windows To Go USB stick ensures you’re using hardware that meets Microsoft’s specifications and has been tested.
The first caveat for Windows To Go is that as of the time of writing this post, there are only two USB sticks supported (You can’t just use any USB stick!);
- Kingston DataTraveler Ultimate specialized for Windows To Go (http://www.kingston.com/wtg/)
- Super Talent Express RC8 for Windows To Go (http://www.supertalent.com/wtg/)
For Australians, unless you’re buying from overseas your only choice is the Kingston. Super Talent doesn’t have any Australian distribution (confirmed via Twitter here https://twitter.com/gosupertalent/status/243137926437937152 )
So, after some chasing around I finally managed to get my hands on a Kingston.
The USB stick is actually quite heavy and thick. About double the weight thickness of a regular USB 2.0 stick, and runs quite hot (not too hot to touch, but enough to actually make you think ‘that’s warm’ when removing it).
To create your Windows To Go USB, you first need to have a Windows 8 installation. From that, search for ‘Windows To Go’ and you’ll find the option to create one.
Aidan Finn’s blog has great instructions on how to do this, so I won’t duplicate his work:
You need to have the original Windows 8 install files too as it looks for the install.wim.
I suggest choosing the option for Bitlocker. If you don’t, your data on the USB will be readable quite easily. The bitlocker password isn’t linked to your login password, or anything else to do with the actual image. You can integrate Bitlocker recovery with AD, but that’s a whole different discussion. For people using a Live ID, you can set up the key so that if you forget the Bitlocker passwords, you can go to http://windows.microsoft.com/recoverykey and log in with your Live ID, and reset the password.
Bitlocker will also prevent someone cloning the USB key. It’s still a PC, so if one was lost you’d just remove the computer object from AD so it couldn’t authenticate against the domain anymore.
Other things to note about Windows To Go:
The USB stick is 3.0 but will actually work in a 2.0 port. It still works quite fast, I personally haven’t noticed any issue in running it this way.
Windows will try to use inbuilt drivers where it can, but if it doesn’t you’ll need to add the extra drivers onto the USB stick. The driver support is great though, so hopefully this won’t be too much of an issue.
Performance even via a USB 2.0 port was great from my experience, and I’ll use it as my main Windows 8 PC (easy way of doing an inplace upgrade with failback option!). Also, this is a great way to test Windows 8 on different hardware.
If you have any questions or want me to do any tests, please let me know!
3 thoughts on “Windows To Go”
Did the Kingston WTG work on your Mac? Thanks…
It didn’t out the box, but I also didn’t put the drivers into it. I’ve heard of others just having it work, so must depend on the specific type of Mac (Mine was a MacBook Air late 2010 model). So it works, but the amount of effort may vary from nothing to an annoying amount.
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