Microsoft Demonstrates Windows To Go (Run Windows 8 From USB On Any PC)

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: