Windows To Go is a feature in Windows 8 Enterprise that allows Windows 8 Enterprise to boot and run from mass storage devices such as USB flash drives and external hard disk drives.[1] It is a fully manageable corporate Windows 8 environment. Using Group Policy, Windows Store can be enabled for a Windows To Go workspace (limited to one PC) and Store apps can be used on that workspace.

It is intended to allow enterprise administrators to provide users with an imaged version of Windows 8 that reflects the corporate desktop and as such is aimed at enterprises. Creation of Windows To Go drives is not supported by other Windows 8 editions.[2] However, flash drives set up by Microsoft were distributed to those who attended their BUILD developer conference held in September 2011.


Before Windows 8, only embedded versions of Windows, such as Windows Embedded Standard 7, supported booting from USB storage devices.[3][4]

In April 2011, after the leak of Windows 8 build 7850,[5] some users noticed that those builds included a program called "Portable Workspace Creator", indicating it was intended to create bootable USB drives of Windows 8.[6][7]

In September 2011, Microsoft officially announced Windows To Go at the Build Conference, and distributed bootable 32GB USB flash drives with Windows To Go pre-installed.[8]

Differences from standard installation Edit

Windows To Go has several significant differences compared to a standard installation of Windows 8 on a hard disk drive or solid-state drive.

Drive removal detection Edit

As a safety measure designed to prevent data loss, Windows pauses the entire system if the USB drive is removed, and resumes operation immediately when the drive is inserted within 60 seconds of removal. If the drive is not inserted in that time-frame, the computer shuts down after those 60 seconds to prevent possible confidential or sensitive information being displayed on the screen or stored in RAM.[9] It is also possible to encrypt a Windows To Go drive using BitLocker.[10]

Driver configuration Edit

The first time Windows To Go boots on a particular computer, it installs the drivers for that particular hardware and multiple reboots may be required. Subsequent booting operations go straight into Windows 8.[9]

Windows Store inaccessible Edit

The Windows Store cannot be accessed on a Windows To Go installation. Those attempting to visit the Store will receive an error message. Solutions to this problem are found online and it is an easy fix.

Hardware considerationsEdit

Windows To Go works both on USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 connections, and both on legacy BIOS and UEFI firmware.[11] Not all USB drives can be used in this environment; Microsoft has set up specific testing requirements that the USB drive manufacturer must meet in order to be a supported device. Currently there are five USB Flash memory devices listed as supported by Microsoft for Windows To Go:[12][13][14]

When using a PC as a host, only hardware certified for use with either Windows 7 or Windows 8 operating systems will work well with Windows To Go. Although Microsoft does not provide support for this feature on Windows RT or Macintosh computers,[12] it is possible to boot Windows To Go on a Mac.[22]


At the announcement at BUILD, licensing details were not discussed,[23] but on 18 April 2012, Microsoft Windows To Go will be licensed by Software Assurance as with Windows To Go rights under Software Assurance, employees can use Windows To Go on any Windows Software Assurance licensed computer as well as their home PC. With a new companion device license from Software Assurance, employees will be able to use Windows To Go on their personal devices from work.[24]


Simon Bisson, writing for ZDNet called Windows To Go "One of the more interesting features of Windows 8", noting "Even though we were using a USB 2.0 port performance was good, with no noticeable lag" and calling it "a very useful way of running of Windows 8".[2]

See alsoEdit


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External linksEdit

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