Windows to Go could also be attractive to desktop support teams—or anyone else who ever gets drafted into fixing a friend's or relative's computer. While it doesn't access local storage at start-up, local drives can be mounted and accessed so they can be repaired, or scrubbed of boot-sector viruses and other nastiness on the host computer.
Because Windows to Go needs to run on anything you plug it into, there are some inherent limitations and considerations to think about. To avoid compatibility issues, you'll likely want to use the 32-bit version of Windows 8 (unless you want to specifically restrict it to systems with Intel or AMD 64-bit processors, which sort of defeats the purpose of Windows to Go).
Creating your Windows to Go
To get an idea of what can and can't be done with Windows to Go, I built my own installation of the OS—a task that is not for the faint of heart, as it involves the command line. It's probable that Microsoft will make the process a little more polished (and easier to replicate) before the OS is released commercially, but for now Windows to Go relies on the same Microsoft command-line tools administrators have used to roll their own images for years. For those who dare, here's what you'll need to get started:
- A PC running Windows 7 or Windows 8 beta;
- The ISO image of Windows 8 Consumer Preview (32-bit);
- The Windows Automated Installation Kit (AIK)
- A USB storage device (at least 30GB)
While Windows 8 itself doesn't take up a full 30GB—a fully configured image I built, including Microsoft Office, takes up about 14GB of disk space—Windows to Go also needs room for temporary files and memory swap space. After overpaying for a 32GB SanDisk Cruzer flashdrive from a local computer store, I set to work. Here's the step-by-step replay:
First, the USB drive needs to be prepared for the image by using Windows' diskpart command-line disk partitioning utility to re-partition and format it as a bootable NTFS drive. From an administrator-level command prompt:
This approach is a little different than the one I mentioned here, Windows 8 To Go - A step by step setup guide..., using a few different utilities and approaches...
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Windows 8 To Go - A step by step setup guide...