Windows 8 includes support for a new mobile “device” function called Windows To Go. The idea is that you can install Windows 8 Enterprise on a supported USB 3.0 removable storage device, such as the Kingston DT Ultimate G2 32 GB that I have. This means that you can have a working installation of Windows 8 that you can theoretically take around with you, plug into machines with a USB 3.0 port, and boot them up into your mobile workspace.
NOTE! The Kingston DT Ultimate G2 is not supported by Windows To Go. It worked back in the beta days, but no longer. You have to be very precise about what you purchase: http://legacy.kingston.com/wtg/
Note that the two supported device ranges (restricted because of performance) at this point (post updated on 13/June/2012) are:
- Kingston DT Ultimate: luckily the one I bought, and the range we’re distributors for at work
- SuperTalent RC8
I set up my stick so I could boot my Ultrabook up into Windows 8. It’s configured with Windows 7, and the 128 GB SSD is not big enough to dual boot. It’s my primary machine at home so I didn’t want to put a beta on the internal drive.
Here’s how I set it up. C: is my laptop’s internal drive, and E: is my USB 3.0 stick.
- I got a copy of ImageX and BCDBoot from the latest version of WAIK (Windows Automated Installation Kit).
- I copied install.wim from the sources folder of the Windows 8 ISO.
- I put all my files in C:Source
- I inserted the USB 3.0 drive (E:)
- Run DiskPart from an elevated command prompt
- Run List Disk. Identify the USB drive.
- Type Select Disk X where X is the number of the identified USB drive
- Run Clean if you are sure you have selected the USB drive. This will erase it.
- Now type Create Partition Primary to create a partition.
- Format fs=ntfs quick will quick format the new partition.
- Active will mark it for boot
- Type Exit to quit DiskPart
- Now I ran C:sourceimagex.exe /apply C:sourceinstall.wim 1 e: to install Windows 8 from install.wim to the USB 3.0 drive
- Running Bcdboot.exe e:windows /s e: will configure the USB 3.0 to boot Windows 8
Now you have a generalised USB 3.0 stick. You can pop it into your USB 3.0 port, boot from it, and Bob’s your uncle!
Quick note: I had tried this with the developer preview of Windows 8 but it refused to boot from my ultrabook (inacessible boot device Sad Face Of Death). I did configure my BIOS to do a UEFI boot – this might be required and I haven’t tried booting without it.
If you’re mass producing sticks then you might want to look at injecting drivers, etc, into the install.wim file to reduce specialisation when you deploy the sticks.
In terms of performance, obviously it is not as fast as the SSD in my machine. But it isn’t bad at all.