Windows To Go (WTG) is a new feature for Windows 8 Enterprise edition (the edition of Windows 8 that is available to customers with Software Assurance, e.g. OVS or Windows Intune) that allows you to install Windows 8 Enterprise on a USB 3.0 stick. That can be useful for a few reasons:
- BYOD: Allow users to buy their own machines (with USB 3.0 ports) and bring them onto the company network. Something like NAP/NAQ will keep their home OS isolated. Supply the end users with WTG USB sticks that are complete with the corporate build. They can then get onto the network and access company resources from their own machines by booting up using the company image on the stick.
- Test/Evaluation/Demo: You have a Windows 7 build on your machine but you want to be able to show or use Windows 8 without dual booting or wiping. That’s the case with my Ultrabook; I am in the middle of writing a book and don’t want to disturb my working environment. Every other machine I have is on Windows 8 but my Ultrabook is a nice machine to demo with because it is light and small, but there is no room on the SSD to dual boot. Booting from USB 3.0 gives me a portable temporary environment that doesn’t impact what’s installed on my laptop’s SSD.
WTG supports BitLocker which is great; USB sticks are easy to lose and losing a WTG stick would be like losing your laptop. That’s bad if the thing is unencrypted. With BitLocker you have protected the OS and data on the stick so the only pain is the pain of losing an expensive USB 3.0 stick.
Hardware Requirements For Windows To Go
The machine that will boot from Windows To Go must have a USB 3.0 port.
The USB 3.0 stick must be one of the supported devices. One of those is made by Kingston, and I’m lucky enough to have their WTG device in my possession – I work for a Kingston distributor.
Setting Up Windows To Go
Insert your USB 3.0 stick. Next you need to supply a Windows 8 Enterprise image, which can be:
- Original image such as install.wim on the Windows 8 Enterprise media
- A captured generalized image with your corporate build on it
Go into the
Metro new UI and type Windows To Go. That will do a search (below) and change the context to Settings. The Windows To Go shortcut will appear. Start it.
I’ve selected my Kingston DT Ultimate device as the destination for the image deployment. Notice the warning? I’m building the image on my PC, and it does not have a USB 3.0 port. That’ll slow down the image deployment, but I need a USB 3.0 port to boot this thing up reliably. The second USB in my example is my Windows 8 Enterprise installer.
Now pick an image to deploy on the USB 3.0 stick:
Now you can turn on and configure BitLocker to encrypt the USB 3.0 stick:
Now you can go ahead and create the stick!
Eventually the wizard finishes. You now have the option of rebooting your machine to boot up using the USB 3.0 stick. Remember that your machine must be configured to boot from USB 3.0.
And that’s it! Your stick is prepared.
Booting Up Windows To Go
Pop the USB 3.0 stick into the USB 3.0 port of the machine you want to boot up on. Power up the machine. In the case of my UX31, I press <ESC> to bring up a boot menu and select the Kingston USB 3.0 stick.
Enter the BitLocker password to access the device and then answer any setup questions.
My machine boots up in 12 seconds flat with WTG on the Kingston USB 3.0 device. BTW, the stick gets HOT. I’m told that it is a real SSD inside the stick.
The Windows Store
Open it in WTG and you’ll be told that:
Windows Store isn’t available on Windows To Go workspaces
According to TechNet:
Apps licensed through the store are linked to hardware for licensing. Since Windows To Go is designed to roam to different host PCs access to the store is disabled. You can enable the store if your Windows To Go workspaces won’t be roaming to multiple PC hosts.
USB 3.0 is portable between devices and therefore the Store is disabled.
You can override this behaviour to enable the Windows Store using Local Group Policy.
- Open MMC. (Click Start, click in the Start Search box, type mmc, and then press ENTER.)
- On the File menu, click Add/Remove Snap-in.
- In the Add or Remove Snap-ins dialog box, click Group Policy Object Editor, and then click Add.
- In the Select Group Policy Object dialog box, click Browse.
- Click This computer to edit the Local Group Policy object, or click Users to edit Administrator, Non-Administrator, or per-user Local Group Policy objects.
- Click Finish.
If you want to enable the Windows Store in your Windows To Go workspace then the policy you want to edit is Allow Store To Install Apps On Windows To Go Workspaces which is found at \\Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Store. Enable this setting, and run GPUPDATE /FORCE to apply the GPO.
Although your WTG stick will be portable, the apps won’t be because they are licensed by the Store to the PC that the stick is in when they are installed. Therefore:
Apps purchased from the Store are bound to the host PC’s hardware, using Windows To Go on another host PC will cause all the apps purchased from the Store to be disabled. Line of business apps that are side-loaded and default Windows Store apps will continue to work.
If you are not going to enable the use of the Store on your Windows To Go workspace, we recommend that you remove the default Windows Store apps that come with the Enterprise image since you won’t be able to update the default apps unless you turn on the Store.
This might be nicer if the apps were licensed to the storage that they are on instead of the tin … but that would then cause a problem if you were replacing the storage in your machine. I guess Microsoft had to do something and this was probably the best approach.
System Center 2012 Configuration Manager with SP1 will support Windows To Go.
You can use AD GPO to manage the Windows Store.
This blog post is the property of Aidan Finn (@joe_elway / http://www.aidanfinn.com) and may not be reused in any manner without prior consent of Aidan Finn. You may quote one paragraph from this blog post if you link to the original blog post.