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HW-245T. Running Windows from an external USB drive with Windows To Go. Steve Silverberg Principal Lead Program Manager Microsoft Corporation. Agenda. Windows To Go overview Key s cenarios Windows To Go in-depth New partner opportunities You’ll leave understanding

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running windows from an external usb drive with windows to go

Running Windows from an external USB drive with Windows To Go

Steve Silverberg

Principal Lead Program Manager

Microsoft Corporation

  • Windows To Go overview
  • Key scenarios
  • Windows To Go in-depth
  • New partner opportunities

You’ll leave understanding

Windows To Go and how it can be used

New opportunities for hardware partners


Windows To Go enables enterprises to provision a full corporate environment – that people can boot and run from on multiple computers – on a USB drive.

windows to go
Windows To Go


CompatibleUSB Drive


Volume Activation


Line of Business Applications

Productivity Suites





windows to go1

Windows To Go

Booting and running Windows To Go

scenario working from home
Scenario: working from home


Employee working from home on personal PCs loaded with consumer versions of Windows


Once rebooted, employees work from a PC that is fully configured and managed, versus unmanaged and untrusted

Doesn’t impact consumer’s PC


Employees are provisioned with a Windows To Go device they can use when caught at home due to bad weather

scenario supporting c ontractor pcs
Scenario: supporting contractor PCs


Contractors working within a corporate network on PCs owned by their companies


Once rebooted, they work from a PC that is fully configured and managed, versus one in an unknown state


Contractors boot their PCs from a Windows To Go drive provisioned while they were on-premise that enables secure network access

scenario shared pcs
Scenario: shared PCs


Employees using PCs that are shared by multiple people


Reduces hardware costs

State roaming is much simpler than alternatives

No data remains on the PC after removing the USB drive


Police officers boot PCs in their cars from USB drives

They remove the drives at the end of the day leaving no sensitive data or applications in their car

design considerations
Design considerations
  • Booting over USB bus
  • Roaming to multiple PCs
  • External boot disks
  • Provisioning and deployment
usb stack o ptimizations
USB stack optimizations

The USB 3.0 and 2.0 stacks in Windows 8 support features optimized for booting and running

  • Booting
  • Paging
  • Standby and Hibernate
  • Crash dump
roaming to multiple pcs
Roaming to multiple PCs
  • Windows uniquely identifies computers based on constant characteristics of the machine firmware -SMBIOS UUID if present or certain SMBIOS strings
  • This ID is used to ensure when Windows returns to a computer, only the necessary set of drivers are loaded
  • When roaming to a new computer drivers are installed on the first boot, similar to the first time you boot a generalized Windows image
roaming across f irmware
Roaming across firmware

MBR Disk

  • System Partition - Boot Files
  • FAT32 File System
  • 300MB
  • Legacy Boot Manager(Bootmgr)
  • UEFI Boot Manager(Bootmgfw.efi)
  • Operating System Partition - Apps, Data, Settings
  • NTFS File System

Windows To Go can be configured to boot on both UEFI and BIOS computers

  • Both sets of boot components are placed on a FAT32system partition
boot redirection to usb
Boot redirection to USB

New boot redirection feature helps boot from USB

  • Inserts a USB class boot entry on UEFI systems
  • Modifies NTFS boot sector to detect Windows To Go drives

PC’s InternalDisk

Master Boot Record

Boot Sector


Normal Boot


To GoDrive

Master Boot Record

Boot Sector

Normal Boot

deployed and managed like windows
Deployed and managed like Windows
  • The same APIs used to deploy desktops and laptops can be used with Windows To Go

imagex /apply N:\Images\my-windows-partition.wim 1 W:\

Bcdboot.exe w:\windows /s X: /f ALL

  • Managed like Windows using existing technologies
  • BitLocker with a pre-OS password is supported
boot disk r emoval
Boot disk removal
  • Boot disk removal is detected by the USB stack
  • The kernel freezes the system
  • The stack will wait 60 seconds for the boot disk to returnand then power down the system
  • If the boot disk is returned, the system will resume
windows to go2

Windows To Go

Removal Mitigation

new storage o pportunities usb drives o ptimized for windows to go
New storage opportunities: USB drives optimized for Windows To Go

USB 3.0

  • Latest technology without sacrificing compatibility

High Performance

  • SSD speed in external form factor
  • High speed read/writes and low latency


  • 2 year expected lifetime under typical Windows I/O load
new pc opportunities enterprise pcs optimized for windows to go
New PC opportunities: enterprise PCs optimized for Windows to Go
  • System includes USB 3.0 support
  • System minimizes hub depth to external ports
  • System firmware supports reliable USB boot
  • UEFI firmware supports USB class boot entries
  • Windows To Go addresses key Enterprise scenarios
  • New opportunities for partners to offer hardware optimized for Windows to Go
    • Systems support reliable USB boot
    • Storage devices provide performance and reliability for running Windows
windows to go handout
Windows To Go handout


  • Boot to USB by modifying the firmware boot order
    • This often requires pressing one of the F1-12 keys during boot
  • System must be X64 to boot this specific workspace


  • Always shut down before booting on a different system
related sessions
Related sessions
  • HW-256T Understanding USB 3.0 in Windows 8
  • HW-774T Building great Windows 8 systems
  • HW-773T Building great USB 3.0 devices
feedback and q uestions http forums dev windows com session f eedback http bldw in sessionfeedback
thank you

Feedback and questions

Session feedback


© 2011 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Microsoft, Windows, Windows Vista and other product names are or may be registered trademarks and/or trademarks in the U.S. and/or other countries.

The information herein is for informational purposes only and represents the current view of Microsoft Corporation as of the date of this presentation. Because Microsoft must respond to changing market conditions, it should not be interpreted to be a commitment on the part of Microsoft, and Microsoft cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information provided after the date of this presentation. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS, IMPLIED OR STATUTORY, AS TO THE INFORMATION IN THIS PRESENTATION.

  • How do I boot from USB?
    • Review manufacturer documentation to determine how to modify the firmware boot order
    • This typically can be done by pressing an F1-12 key during boot
  • Does Windows To Go require volume activation?
    • No, the Windows Developer Preview will work with Windows To Go without volume activation
  • What computers can I roam to with my Windows To Go workspace?
    • The workspace handed out with the Windows Developer Preview can boot on any X64 based system that has a Windows Vista or Windows 7 system logo
  • Why isn’t my computer booting from USB?
    • If booting from a USB 3.0 port, try booting on a USB 2.0 port
    • Some manufactures currently ship systems that are unable to boot to USB 3.0
    • Systems designed for Windows 8 will support booting to USB 3.0
    • Try updating your computer’s firmware to the latest version
    • If the Windows To Go workspace is connected to an external hub, try connecting it directly to the computer
  • I plugged my Windows To Go drive into a running system and I can’t see the partitions on the drive, why?
    • Windows To Go volumes aren’t assigned driver letters by default to discourage offline access
  • I’m booted into Windows To Go and I can’t browse to the internal hard drive of the host computer. Why?
    • Internal disks are kept offline when booted into Windows To Go