Microsoft demonstrates Windows To Go, running Windows 8 from USB

By Tom Warren, on 15th Sep 11 9:35 pm with 29 Comments

Microsoft detailed and demonstrated Windows To Go on Thursday.

The new feature will allow Windows 8 users to boot the operating system from USB on any other PC. Microsoft is targeting big business and enterprise with Windows To Go, a perfect market for such a feature. Windows To Go works by effectively ghosting a Windows 8 install onto a USB drive. Windows 8 users will be able to take their entire install with files and data and run it on a PC without needing to install it on the host PC. It’s simply a plug and play method.

Windows To Go works with both USB 2.0 and 3.0 devices, with the latter providing improved performance. Microsoft shared some technical details in a session at BUILD earlier today. Manan Kakkar detailed several of the points in a blog post on Thursday:

  • Windows 8 will default boot to a Windows To Go drive if one is inserted into a system
  • Core drivers will be bundled in Windows To Go to avoid situations where Windows Update is unavailable
  • It will support USB 2.0 and 3.0
  • There is no Hibernate mode in Windows To Go
  • Windows To Go will operate on legacy BIOS and new UEFI firmware
  • Crash and Dump will be available for Windows To Go

Microsoft has also considered the potential issues if a USB drive is removed from the system whilst it is in use. Windows To Go will freeze the instance for 60 seconds to give the end user enough time to replace the USB device. Windows 8 will then resume the instance gracefully. If an end user fails to replace the device then the system will shut down after 60 seconds.

The addition of such a feature in Windows will ease document compatibility and application feature differences for information workers. It appears as though Microsoft is targeting the feature at Enterprise customers who may have several varied uses for portable versions of Windows. IT professionals will welcome the feature as it will empower them to quickly boot a copy of Windows 8 to diagnose any existing problems on the local PC installation. Information workers will be able to power up a copy of Windows 8 on a client’s PC with their own documents and workspace to securely and easily share any presentations or company data.

Check out an impressive demo of Windows To Go in action below.

  • Daniel Paulino

    wow. just wow

  • AlienSix


  • Anonymous

    That is absolutely incredible

  • Jose Luis Canovas

    And how can we make a USB with windows to go?, installing w8 there like another hard disk?
    And could we run windows to go in other pc without w8 to show it to our friends ;) ?

    • Anonymous

      It sounds like you need to have a pc running w8 to run windows to go. I would imaging your w8 install will create windows to go copy on a usb by copying the necessary files and setting it up to be bootable.

  • Avatar X

    Los Links!

    heh, looks like people at Microsoft loved those Bing Ads as they were added as sample videos all over in demos. Don’t blame them, they are hilarious. 

  • Carl

    Dear Microsoft, you’ve truly outdone yourselves on this one.

  • AlienSix

    Windows To Go, sounds like take out lol

  • The Black Mamba

    I feeling really bad for Apple and google. I mean it was due for a long time and Microsoft is now rewarding the patient users has gone trough the vistaly moment of the past. Windows 7 was my idea but windows 8 is not even my idea but damn I love it…..

    • Jinge

      The problem is you will have to wait 1 more year to get W8 devices, Apple and Google have a lot of time to prepare themselv… And knowing google, it can be quite quick if they understand that W8 is going to kill them if they keep doing the same poor user-interface. Same for Apple, but it might be a bit slower… 1 year is a lot…

    • Jinge

      Oops, wrong section ^^
      But anyway still true!

    • trashoner

      you can be wrong on this since we’re just looking at a pre beta OS. There’s a lot more room to improve during 1 year too… and lets not forget that since Windows has an awesome beta program most of us will be using Windows 8 for about 7 months before this thing hits RTM

    • Jinge

      Sure, but I don’t think they add features between beta and RTM, only before beta. So not 7 months but less…. And everything developped has to be verified and tested many times before release, it takes time… So we may see new features in the coming 4 months, but probably not after that for W8 (before SP1)

    • Guest

      No date has been provided, so not sure where you’re getting one year from? That’s pure speculation at this point. I for one think they could release on ARM earlier.

    • Jinge

      I am pretty sure the ARM version is not finalized yet, you could see it during the presentation (“no, don’t
      touch here”…). 
      For the “1 year” it is between 6 and 12 months for sure, because they still have beta and RTM phases. if you don’t take in account WinFans who are waiting for W8 to buy a new tablet, random people won’t say “I want a tablet now!” when they will see it. I think the ones who really wanted a tablet will already have one, and the others will wait for special events like christmas or any other. But even 4 months after W8 release it will still be time for Apl&Ggl to show new innovating interfaces, to take back their customers.

      1 great thing I am really waiting for will be Zune on tablets. People will be able to present easily pictures they have token with their windows phone. 

    • Anonymous

      Most people taht willbe getting ‘tablets’ , between now and full beta, will most likely be Tech enthusiasts ; people that already build/install their own O.S’s, and change gadgets rapidly (maybe 0.5 – 5% of their target market/fans). So when Microsoft does release the x86/ARM devices these will target the Whole Wide General populace of the World!

      In the meantime expect every OEM, Subsidary, and garage comapny to start developing/releasing (flooding) the market with “Win7″ tablets/slates! :) (some probably with the claim that they are Win8 ready!)

    • oolong2

      The biggest problem for Google is that Android is not full OS.

      The biggest problem for Apple is that iOS and Mac OSX are two separate things.

      The is not something they can fix in a year no matter what they do…

      Mac OSX with VMWare Fusion was a great thing for Apple because finally people could use a Mac without worrying about compatiability with Windows applications and documents.

      However instead of capitalizing on that and extending the capabilities of OSX they decided to make the iPhone bigger and come out with the iPad. Which on the one hand has allowed them to come quick to market with a touch device and has given them great sales over past couple years, but the fad of just having a big iPhone was bound to come to an end at some point….

      This is a lot more than just “user interface”. People are going to start thinking “Hey why should I by two devices (laptop & tablet) when I can buy just one?”

      And from a business perspective, now you can walk into a meeting with not only a touch tablet, but one that you can pull up PowerPoint, Excel, Word, and various other windows applications that your company relies on with access everything on your secure corporate network.

      I’m sure even designers will think “Hey why not get a device that can draw on, run Photoshop, 3D Max, or that I can do my website comps on?”

      The iPad and Android tablets will be useful toys but not the “tool” that windows has always been.

      I’m sure Apple will add some things, maybe a 3D interface, maybe a camera button, maybe voice control or something, but in the end it will just be an “entertainment” gadget that does email.

    • wetworker

      The last part of you post is me. A designer.

      This is what I’ve been waiting for. Perfect device to show clients comps and if they have changes I can do it on the fly .just switch over into traditional windows attach mouse/keyboard then get paid.

    • Anonymous

      Looks like steve jobs had it wrong. It’s not a post pc era, it’s a post laptop era. Now you have a tablet with the full os. Plug it into a keyboard dock and you have a laptop with the power of most laptops. It can’t replace a full desktop because of heat and power issues.

    • Aaron

      It helps Google to be quick when they ignore patents and IP laws.

    • Anonymous

      Windows 7 was your idea?

  • Jinge

    They should have removed the “Crash” feature! :D

    • Guest

      its needed for the “power users” out there

  • Anonymous

    My idea did work. Sliding finger off the screen and then back on again when dragging old applications in from the left changes the app that gets brought forward. I still think the app switcher nneds to be tweaked, but this lefts you fairly easily bring up exactly what you want.

    Tom, please do a small write-up/demo on this. It’s important!

  • Anthony Dziewulski


  • Frank C Anderson

    Image the possibilities… How about managed through MED-V
    and stateless? The power of VDI management with local execution (no graphics
    remoting for desktop delivery), something for the BYO use case as well.

  • franz99

    Very intersting but my question is:


    A similar
    feature called  « Portable WorkSpace » was included in the Windows 8 leak
    of build 7850 milestone 1.

    See here:



    But WHERE
    CAN YOU FIND  this  « Windows To Go » 
    in the
    actual  « Windows
    Developer Preview English, 32-bit (x86) 6.2.8102 »

    I mean the 32 bits version dowloaded from Microsoft here:

  • Aaron

    This is really cool, but I hope they allow you to edit the time span for having the drive removed and re-inserted before the computer shuts down.  I can see cases where some companies may want your computer to go for  hours without the USB drive, while others may want a quicker shut down for security reasons.  I don’t know all of the scenarios, but the point is, leave it up to the enterprise admins to decide.

  • J.L.

    How is it different from Windows PE? There are plenty of tutorials on how to install that on a USB drive.