Microsoft’s Windows 8 has several new features that we’ve covered over the past few months. One of the cooler features that hasn’t been talked about a lot is the ability to take your entire Windows 8 installation with you on a USB drive and use it on any machine. And this isn’t a half-baked solution, with Windows To Go, a user can take his Windows install with files and data on any USB drive and plug it to any other PC and continue working.
The feature according to Microsoft is meant for Enterprises. Scenarios Microsoft sees this feature for are:
Contractors and vendors now won’t have to spend time setting up computers
Work from home or remote locations
Microsoft says this feature works with both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 and according to the demo, USB 2.0 seems to be usable by itself. Some technical details shared by Microsoft:
Windows 8 will default boot to a Windows To Go drive if one is present
Several drivers will be bundled and in case some aren’t there Windows Update will download them
It will support USB 2.0 and 3.0
There is no Hibernate possible for a Windows To Go instance
Windows To Go will work on legacy BIOS and UEFI firmware (the deployment will have support for both enabled, it can be toggled.)
Crash and Dump will be available for Windows To Go instances.
Here’s a demo of Windows To Go in action:
The first question that comes to mind what happens if the USB drive is unplugged. According to Microsoft, this is similar to yanking your HDD when Windows is running. However, in Windows To Go, Microsoft has a very clever implementation. Windows To Go will freeze the OS instance for 60 seconds if the pen drive is removed. Plugging it back within 60 seconds, Windows will resume where it was, if not inserted within 60 seconds, Windows will shut down. Microsoft suggests a 32GB USB drive for Windows To Go.
Update Here’s a demo of what happens if you remove a Windows To Go USB drive:
Yesterday I shared screenshots of how Metro-based and older Win32 applications will be available on Microsoft’s upcoming Windows App Store. The post also detailed some of the steps developers will have to go through to submit and get their applications approved.
In a session today, Microsoft elaborated more on their strategies for the app store and gave a quick demo of the app store. One of the key points mentioned during the presentation was that Microsoft plans to make their Windows App Store the only place to get the Metro-styled apps for Windows. For the developers Microsoft says this will let them get telemetry data about their app’s usage, have them promoted and get feedback from users. A quick demo shows the Marketplace interface and how users will be able to buy their apps:
An interesting fact mentioned during the presentation was that Microsoft will index all the apps submitted to the app store and have them searchable through Internet search engines.
As of now SkyDrive offers remote connections into another device on your Mesh network. Unfortunately it is useless to me. I cannot install Mesh on my college computers and there is no Internet Explorer on OS X. In most cases it is a file that I need to access and not remote control (there’s Team Viewer for that).
With Windows 8 and the new Windows Live update, Microsoft will allow you browse through another device on SkyDrive. WIthin the browser, the Explorer interface is replicated in tiles that allows you to navigate your computer remotely. While not a lot of details were shared about the update, the Windows Live team did sneak this screenshot: