One of the most talked about yet not so consumer oriented feature of Windows 8 is Windows To Go which is the ability to run Windows 8 from a USB drive instead of installing it onto a fixed hard drive. And of course everyone wanted to cool looking thumbdrive!
There are no shortage of instructions on how to make a Windows To Go drive. Here's 2 of them
- Link 1 (Requires downloading of the Windows Automated Installation Kit)
- Link 2 (Requires an already running Windows 8 installation)
So of course I decided to try and make one myself then! Here's what I found out after tons of sweat and disappointment.
Your USB thumbdrive probably ain't gonna work!
I have a wide range of USB drives ranging from so called super fast speeds, to petit drives that hides itself from the user.
They all failed miserably at running Windows 8! How do you know if your thumbdrive can't run Windows 8?
First of all, when you try to image it following the instructions on the links above it'll take a LOOOOOOOOONG time to image. Basically if the imaging process takes longer than 60 mins (don't read the estimated time from the imaging program) Your thumbdrive is probably not going to work too well. If you actually decide to press on after the installation and actually boot into Windows 8, the first boot is gonna take more than 30 mins to finish the initial setup. If that STILL doesn't deter you from attempting to use Window 8 on your thumbdrive and you actually make it into Windows 8, disk access would be so slow that the user experience is totally unbearable at all!
A Hard Disk Works Best!
The one thing that worked the few times I tried it? A simple USB hard drive. I suppose that since it's on USB, disk access would be slower than on a normal SATA channel, but performance generally feels... normal when I was using a hard drive as the source.
USB 3.0 Might Not Make A Difference
What about USB3.0? That question might have crossed your mind when you were reading the paragraph above. That was what I thought so too! Until I found out that my motherboard's USB 3.0 ports CANNOT be used as a boot drive, I *think* it's because they're basically sitting on a different channel or something like that. While it didn't work for me I suppose there's probably some motherboards out there which CAN boot from their USB 3.0 ports.
In conclusion, does that mean that as long as we use an external HDD we can run Windows To Go probably then? Well...
This probably isn't how to install Windows To Go in the release version of Windows 8
If you go back to the Microsoft page about Windows To Go which I linked at the start, it mentions that a Windows To Go system
- Disables sleep and hibernate
- Disabled internal hard drives of the computer it is booting on
- etc. etc.
This does NOT happen with the install method I link to above, also during my various attempts in getting Windows To Go to work. There was ONE instance which after I booted into Window, a message actually popped up informing me that I was using Windows To Go mode. This has NEVER happened again.
So be warned that all the instructions online probably aren't creating a Windows To Go drive the way Microsoft is talking about.
If you STILL want to proceed...
While it's great that a simple USB hard drive would work, you might want something small and more compact to move around with compared to a hard disk. If that's the case you might want to try and look for the Pen Drive USB 3.0 External SSD
It's a small, thin solid state drive which seems to be capable of running Windows 8 properly.
26th August 2012 : Update #1