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Windows 8 Tips Part 8 – On the Move with Windows to Go

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Windows 8 Windows To GoWhat is Windows To Go? In short, it is a fully manageable Windows 8 Desktop on a bootable USB drive and is only available with Windows 8 Enterprise. IT Departments can give staff access to the corporate environment without compromising security. This means that users can use the USB drive to boot from any PC available (At home, At Work, connected or disconnected). It is like having  your secure corporate PC in your pocket.

Having Windows To Go allows you to boot from Windows 7, Vista or XP, as long as the machine meets the minimum requirements for Windows 8. According to Microsoft, the minimum requirements are as follows:

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with support for PAE, NX, and SSE2
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
  • Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver

The additional Windows 8 Requirements can be found here. To check if your PC meets these requirements, you can run the Upgrade Assistant.

To create the Windows To Go USB Drive you will need a USB 3.0 drive with at least 32 Gig capacity. I would suggest sticking with a USB Drive that is certified for use with Windows To Go. Personally, there is only one choice and that is the Kingston DataTraveler Workspace  available in 32 GB, 64 GB and 128 GB capacities, delivering max Sequential Read/Write speeds of 250/250 MB/s (according to Kingston). You also need a Windows 7 or 8 PC to build the USB Drive on and an ISO copy of the Windows 8 DVD. The creation process differs slightly for Windows 7 than for Windows 8. To use Windows 7, you will need to download additional software. For a full set of instructions on how to create a Windows To Go USB Drive, read  this excellent article by Steve Sinchak.

To use Windows To Go, you need to boot from the USB drive you created. Booting from the USB Drive keeps the main hard drive off-line, so nothing you do is stored there ensuring that your data (and the data of the PC you’re booting from) remains secure. The flash drive is secured with BitLocker which encrypts the flash drive and all your data. You can therefore rest assured that even if you lose the flash drive, your data is safe.

After you log on to Windows 8, you will notice that it is your full desktop with all your apps and data, only portable. You can run any application you like (even watch high definition videos without lag). Because the entire PC runs from the flash drive, there is a possibility that the flash drive could get knocked out or accidentily removed by the user. If this happens, it will freeze everything and the user will have 60 seconds to re-insert the flash drive. When you do, Windows 8 resumes exactly from where it left off. This means any documents that were open are safe and you can continue using them.

Should you fail to re-insert the flash drive within 60 seconds, the machine will power down. The 60 second time limit gives you enough time to recover from a mishap but also keeps security in mind so that in the event that the user removes the drive without shutting down, the data is still safe.

For a great video demo of Windows To Go, see the clip below by Stephen Rose, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Microsoft. The clip was originally posted on Demo Showcase Suite.

Dirk Strauss
Dirk is a Software Developer and Microsoft MVP from South Africa. He loves all things Technology and is slightly addicted to Twitter and Jimi Hendrix. Apart from writing code, he also enjoys writing human readable articles. "I love sharing knowledge and connecting with people from around the world. It's the diversity that makes life so beautiful." Dirk feels very strongly that pizza is simply not complete without Tabasco, that you can never have too much garlic, and that cooking the perfect steak is an art he has yet to master.

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