How To Run Windows 8 From USB

By now you probably have heard about Windows To Go feature in Windows 8 OS. If you are not aware of Windows To Go, it’s a new feature available in Windows 8 that lets you install and run Windows 8 from USB storage device.

In simple words, Windows To Go first installs Windows 8 on a USB drive. Then you can connect the USB drive to a PC and run the PC using the new Windows 8 USB drive. The term running Windows 8 from USB drive should not be confused with installing Windows 8 from USB drive. The later one is used to install Windows 8 from USB (see bootable USB)and former one (Windows To Go) is used to run a PC from Windows 8 installed on the USB drive.

If you have been using Windows 8 Developer Preview build, you probably know that Windows To Go is not available in Windows 8 Developer Preview. So, how to install Windows 8 on a USB drive without actually using Windows To Go feature?

In this guide, we will show you how to easily install Windows 8 on a USB drive. Thanks to Windows8Italia for this.

Things you need:

# A bootable Windows 8 PC (if you are on Vista or Windows 7, install Windows 8 on VMware or VirtualBox)

# A USB drive with 16GB or more capacity

# Windows 8 DVD or Windows 8 ISO file


Step 1: Boot into your current Windows 8 PC. If you are on Vista or Windows 7, please refer our how to install Windows 8 on VMware or how to install Windows 8 on VirtualBox guide. Once installed, use the Windows 8 running in virtual machine to install Windows 8 on USB drive.

Step 2: Connect the USB drive (16 GB or larger) and backup all data from the USB to a safe location. We are going format the USB drive to make it bootable.

Step 3: Download and install Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) for Windows 7 on your Windows 8. The WAIK software is ~1.7 GB. Once installed, go to C:\Program Files\Windows AIK\Tools folder to see amd64 and x86 folders. If you are on 32-bit Windows 8, copy imagex.exe file from x86 folder to the desktop. And if you are on 64-bit version, copy imagex.exe file from amd64 folder to the desktop.

Step 4: If you have a Windows 8 DVD, insert it into the optical drive (DVD drive) and note down the DVD drive letter. And if you have Windows 8 ISO (see Windows 8 ISO direct download links), simply right-click on the ISO and select Mount option. You will see a new drive under Devices with Removable storage in Computer (My Computer).

Run Windows 8 From USB

Run Windows 8 From USB step

Step 5: Next, open Command Prompt with admin rights. You must run the Command Prompt as administrator to complete the procedure without any errors. Switch to Windows 8 Start screen, type CMD and then press Ctrl + Shift + Enter to run Command Prompt with admin rights. Click Yes for the User Account Control prompt. You may refer our how to run Command Prompt as administrator guide for more details.

Step 6: In the Command Prompt, type the following Command and hit enter key:


Next, type List Disk and hit enter key.

You will see list of connected storage drives to your PC (see the screenshot). If your PC has one internal drive and one external drive (the one that you connected in step 2), then you need to select Disk 1 in the next step. Double check the list and note that USB drive number before proceeding to the next step. Selected drive will be erased to make it bootable.

Step 7: Type the following commands one-by-one and hit enter key after typing each command:

Select Disk 1 (replace 1 with your USB disk number that you have obtained in step6)
Create Partition Primary
Select Partition 1

Format FS=NTFS Quick


Don’t close the Command Prompt, simply minimize it.

Install Windows 8 On USB Drive Step2

Step 8: Maximize the Command Prompt and execute the following command:

C:\Users\Home\Desktop\imagex.exe /apply I:\sources\install.wim 1 H:\
(here, replace “H” with your USB drive letter, replace “Home” with your user name and replace “I” with your Windows 8 DVD drive letter or virtual drive letter that you have obtained after mounting the ISO file)

Install Windows 8 On USB Drive Step5

Step 9: The last step is to copy boot files to the USB drive. Type the following command and hit enter key:

bcdboot.exe H:\windows /s H: /f ALL

(in the above command, replace “H” with your USB drive letter)

Install Windows 8 On USB Drive Step6

Step 10: Once done, exit the Command Prompt. You have just installed Windows 8 on a USB flash drive.

Step 11: Disconnect the USB drive from your PC and connect it another PC to test the new Windows To Go drive. Turn on the PC, enable boot from USB in BIOS and then wait for a while to see Windows 8 booting from the USB drive. On the first run, Windows 8 make take a few minutes to setup up registry and other settings. On the first run you will be asked to enter the product key, accept license agreement, and personalize other settings. Good luck!



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