Creating Windows 8 USB Windows to Go Drive

Bryan Von Axelson 2010

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One of my favorite new features that offers significant business value to move to Windows 8 is the USB Windows to goWindows To Go workspace is an enterprise feature of Windows® 8 that enables users to boot Windows from a USB-connected external drive. Windows To Go drives can use the same image that enterprises use for their desktops and laptops, and can be managed the same way.  Offering a new mobility option, Windows To Go workspace is not intended to replace desktops or laptops, or supplant other mobility offerings.  Windows To Go will allow companies to support Bring Your Own PC scenarios and will give employees who need to work from home more secure access to their full corporate environment. With Windows To Go use rights under Software Assurance, an employee will be able to use Windows To Go on any company PC licensed with Windows SA as well as from their home PC. Additionally, through a new companion device license for SA, employees will be able to use WTG on their personal devices at work. 

For more information on different functionalities between Windows 8 Pro, and Windows 8 Enterprise – See my previous blog post at:

Let’s take a look at what you need to create the Windows to Go USB drive:

Before you begin

  1. Have a Windows To Go certified USB drive. – USB 3.0 Kingston and Super Talent have certified USB drives
  2. Have a host system with Windows 8 Enterprise client installed.
  3. A Windows 8 Enterprise sysprep generalized .WIM file (can be from install media or a captured custom Enterprise image).  See Creating Images  for more information about creating .WIM files.


To create a Windows To Go workspace with Windows To Go Creator Wizard

Note:The Windows To Go creator wizard is only available on Windows Enterprise clients.


  1. Connect your Windows To Go USB drive to your machine.
  2. Validate that the WIM file location you wish to use is accessible to the elevated user that will run the tool and that the WIM contains a valid Enterprise sysprep generalized image.
  3. Click Win+W, type Windows To Go and then press Enter. If the User Account Control dialog box appears, confirm that the action it displays is what you want, and then click Yes. The Windows To Go Creator Wizard opens.
  4. On the Choose the drive you want to use page, select the drive that represent the USB drive you inserted in step 1.
  5. On the Choose a Windows 8 image page, click Add Search Location and then navigate to the WIM file folder location verified in step 2 to identify the Windows image that you are going to use for your Windows To Go workspace.
  6. (Optional) On the Set a BitLocker password (optional) page, you can select Use BitLocker with my Windows To Go Workspace to encrypt your Windows To Go drive. If you do not wish to encrypt the drive at this time click Skip. You can also decide later and enable BitLocker once you have booted into your WTG device. If you choose to encrypt now:
    1. Type a password that is at least eight characters long and conforms to your organizations password complexity policy. This password will be provided before the operating system is started so any characters you use must be able to be interpreted by the firmware. Some firmwares do not support non-ASCII characters.
    2. If you chose to use BitLocker to protect your drive, your recovery password will be saved in the documents library of the computer used to create the workspace automatically. If your organization is using Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) to store recovery passwords it may also be saved in AD DS under the computer account of the computer used to create the workspace. This password will be used only if you need to recover access to the drive because the BitLocker password specified in the previous step is not available, such as if a password is lost or forgotten.
    3. ! WARNING - If you are planning to use a USB-Duplicator to create multiple Windows To Go drives, DO NOT enable BitLocker prior to duplication. Drives protected with BitLocker should not be duplicated as they will use the same encryption key.
    4. Retype the password, and then click Next.
  7. Click Create to start the Windows To Go workspace provisioning process.
  8. Wait for the creation process to complete, which could take up to 30 minutes or longer depending on the size of the image you are creating. A completion page will be displayed that tells you when your Windows To Go workspace is ready to use. You can now enable the Windows To Go startup options and reboot into your Windows To Go device.

Alternatively you can do this manually using a combination of Windows PowerShell and command-line tools. – Check out the following TechNet article for PowerShell Instructions: (command line scripting will need two free drive letters; the examples use S and W).

Booting your Windows To Go workspace

Now that your workspace is ready you have two primary options for booting, using either the new Windows 8 startup options or configuring your machines firmware.

Enable the Windows To Go Startup options

  1. Click Win+W
  2. Type Windows To Go Startup, click enter
  3. Select Yes
  4. Click Save Changes

Set the firmware boot order to USB first.

  1. Reference your machines user manual for instructions.


Comments (7)

  1. Darren says:

    Hi, quick question regarding the licensing.

    If I have a Windows 8 Enterprise license with SA i can use Windows to Go on any other company device.

    I can also use Windows To Go on a personal laptop outside of the office with no additional licenses.

    However if I bring my personal laptop into the office I would need to purchase a Companion license befoere I could use Windows to Go.

    Is that correct?



  2. Eric says:

    The on-screen document is TERRIBLE and poorly designed UX. When I tried to create a Windows To Go USB on Windows 8 and inserted a 4 GB USB, it gave me an error that I needed to insert one with 32+ GBs with no other warnings. It FAILED to mention that it must also be "Certified for Windows To Go." I bought a regular Kingston 32 GB USB drive at the store, which returned an error it did not meet the hardware requirements. I had to dig through the page linked of hardware requirements to determine that it only works with USB drives certified for Windows To Go. This is a HUGE FAILURE in online menus and error messages that resulted in a waste of time and money to purchase a USB drive that doesn't work. Thanks!

  3. jrv says:

    @Eric – from article:

    Before you begin

    1.Have a Windows To Go certified USB drive. – USB 3.0 Kingston and Super Talent have certified USB drives

    2.Have a host system with Windows 8 Enterprise client installed.

    3.A Windows 8 Enterprise sysprep generalized .WIM file (can be from install media or a captured custom Enterprise image).  See Creating Images  for more information about creating .WIM files.

  4. G says:

    Your instructions are cryptic at best…and the instructions for creating a .wim file are worse. WTG is an awesome idea, but it should NOT be this convoluted and obtuse.

  5. vera says:

    You refers a way about create a bootable USB with Win 8 built-in wintogo, but i find this way is a little difficult. I want to recommend one software to do this is better, in Windows 8, you can create a bootable USB to boot system anywhere, any computer
    is ok. AOMEI Partiton Assistant windows to go creator feature: can do this, maybe this can bring convenience to you. Hope you like it.

  6. Chris says:

    I have successfully created a Windows To Go USB drive from Windows 8 ISO image, by using the freeware ISO2Disc.

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