Ask Paul: Is Windows To Go Coming to Windows 10 Pro?

Ask Paul: Is Windows To Go Coming to Windows 10 Pro?

As some of you may know, Windows To Go is a perk of Windows 10 Enterprise. So why is this feature available in Windows 10 Pro too?

Mike H. asks:

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I was doing a clean Windows 10 (non-Insider) install, and I noticed that Windows To Go has now appeared in the Windows 10 Pro control panel.

Previously I’ve only seen Windows To Go in the Control Panel in Enterprise installs. I haven’t had a chance to test it yet (can’t find my WTG stick to be honest, might have to hunt down the back of the couch) but why would it be available unless it works?

Can you shed any light on this? I’m wondering if it properly works, if it works without an Enterprise ISO or volume license. Microsoft certainly didn’t make any announcements about it.

So. Here’s the story. After a bit of back and forth with Microsoft, I asked Rafael to look into this. And he quickly discovered what’s up. Yes, Windows To Go is now available in the Windows 10 Pro Control Panel. It’s there so that you can create Windows To Go media, as you might expect, but you do need a Windows 10 Enterprise image for it to actually work.

My guess is that Microsoft includes this in Pro now because there are environments with both Enterprise- and Pro-based PCs. But it still requires Windows 10 Enterprise in the sense that the portable, USB-based workspace you’re creating will be that version, and not Pro.

A bit more info for those not familiar with this feature…

I’ve not really written about Windows To Go since my switch to over two years ago because it’s a business/enterprise technology. But as a refresher, Windows To Go is a feature that lets you install Windows 10 to a USB stick instead of a normal PC. Then, you can use this USB stick to boot into your newly-portable Windows 10 environment from any PC.

When I first began testing Windows To Go years ago, I found the technology to be dodgy and hard to use. At the beginning, it required very specific USB sticks, mostly because for performance reasons, and only some highly-specialized devices were certified for this use.

As it turns out, this is still the case: Windows To Go only works with a short list of compatible drives, including the IronKey Workspace W700, IronKey Workspace W500, IronKey Workspace W300,Kingston DataTraveler Workspace for Windows To Go, Spyrus Portable Workplace, Spyrus Secure Portable Workplace,Spyrus Worksafe, Super Talent Express RC4 for Windows To Go and Super Talent Express RC8 for Windows To Go, andWestern Digital My Passport Enterprise.

But it also still requires Windows 10 Enterprise (or Education), which pretty much limits this portable Windows 10 environment to businesses, if not very large businesses and educational institutions.


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Conversation 13 comments

  • 9518

    11 February, 2017 - 4:45 pm

    <p>10 on USB is [I think very] doable, FWIW…</p>
    <p>Traditionally there were 2 problems running Windows from external [USB] media — Windows had to be modded, as it wouldn’t work on removable drives, &amp; the drivers needed for device X were different from the drivers needed for device Y. Efforts like WinBuilder [reboot[.]pro] made up for that, providing both mods &amp; universal driver packs. Regular versions of Windows 10 [Pro &amp; Home] haven’t seemed to mind living on a USB drive, with caveats…</p>
    <p>The driver issue remains, &amp; you may not be able to update builds via Windows Update. Mileage may vary with the mainboard’s USB chipset &amp; the bios — it can also be complicated by the way that 10’s boot files may alter the bios settings available, e.g. you might have to change the bios settings back to their default just to be able to select USB as 1st boot priority. Many bios have both UEFI &amp; some form of Legacy mode — Legacy mode allows 10’s boot files to be on the same partition as Windows, so a USB stick can work as well as a USB hdd, albeit slower. Pure UEFI requires at least 2 partitions, &amp; by-the-book says GPT — more than one partition on a USB stick is iffy — by-the-book says it’s not spec. And you may have to get creative putting 10 on a USB storage device…</p>
    <p>I prefer applying an image [wim] with Dism, because the result is like running setup but stopping just before drivers are added — that way when it boots setup completes &amp; you have a normal Windows install. You can also connect an external drive via eSATA [so Windows setup will see it as a target drive], move an internal drive where you’ve added 10 to an external housing or dock, restore a image backup of a working copy of 10 to a USB device and so on. Depending on the hardware you might be able to transfer a working copy of 10 from a VM to a USB device, e.g. restoring a image backup. 10 will try to adapt &amp; replace drivers as necessary, but I’ve had it work, &amp; not.</p>
    <p>I have used BCDBoot to make sure I had both UEFI &amp; Legacy boot files on a GPT disk for greater compatibility, but I haven’t had 10 running on a USB device [with drivers already installed] work as universally as the WinBuilder-type versions of XP &amp; 7 in the past. I have used the portable V/Box launcher together with a VM to give me a ready made Windows environment with needed software installed. I’ve used 10 on a USB device to get a copy of Windows running on devices where Windows won’t start, so I could make repairs, or do stuff like perform backup or restore a backup, see if a new build works on that hardware etc. In the last example, might even transfer 10 from the USB drive to an internal one once satisfied.</p>

  • 9518

    11 February, 2017 - 4:58 pm

    <p><em>&gt;&gt;"…you can create Windows To Go media, as you might expect, but you do need a Windows 10 Enterprise image for it to actually work."</em></p>
    <p>I’m thinking it *may* be worth a shot using an Insider build, as edu &amp; ent versions are normally offered, but my reasoning may be a bit different than usual… I’ve got 10 activated on several devices. If/when I run a copy of 10 pro or home from a USB device, I’m guessing that it might be recorded as a hardware change, then as a 2nd change when the regular copies are run. Those might add up to a refusal to activate when say I replace a drive in the future. I’m thinking that if usable, maybe the edu or ent versions *might* not count the same way, especially if used as To-Go versions.</p>

  • 9518

    12 February, 2017 - 6:42 pm

    <p>So, gave Windows To Go a quick try… Running the 15025 Insider build of 10, the Windows To Go applet or wizard [in Control Panel] required the Enterprise Edition of Windows 10, contrary to online Microsoft docs that also mention edu versions. If you’re signed up for the Insider Program, you can download Insider builds of 10 Enterprise as ISO files, which is what I did [also build 15025].</p>
    <p>The 1st step is to mount the ISO in 10, then you can optionally copy the installation .wim file to your hdd, or just refer the wizard to the mounted ISO — it shows up as a DVD drive. Microsoft has a list of recommended USB devices, &amp; it will warn you if the device you select isn’t one of them, but it will let you proceed regardless. I used an SSD in a USB 3.0 housing supporting UASP. Then it’s just a matter of letting the wizard run. A message did pop up about formatting the SSD, &amp; when I clicked OK it said it couldn’t — it didn’t seem to effect anything however.</p>
    <p>Next comes booting to the USB drive… My Asus motherboard showed 3 choices, the drive itself, a UEFI FAT32 option, &amp; a UEFI NTFS option — I selected the 2nd, FAT32. After a few minutes setting things up it restarted, then continued setting up for a few minutes before getting any dialog. I declined setting up Bit Locker &amp; Cortana. I had the choice to download &amp; add updates — less than a minute after I selected yes it said it didn’t work, so I clicked Skip. It asked to either sign in with an account, or set a name &amp; password — I clicked to use an account, but that didn’t work either. A few minutes more &amp; I was in 10, updating the Store etc.</p>
    <p>A couple of messages said I was set up in the Insider Program, but when I checked for updates to 10 it said the Insider part needed fixed. When I checked to see if it was activated or not, it showed it couldn’t activate because it couldn’t reach the enterprise’s license server. I’ve no idea yet whether I’ll encounter limitations re: Insider status or not being activated — all I can say is that so far it works.</p>
    <p>Back in regular, installed 10, I backed up the SSD, creating a backup image in Paragon B&amp;R 16. I created a VHD, &amp; restored the backup to that, adding drive letters to both partitions so I could take a look at them. [By default when you’re running Windows To Go the PC’s drives/partitions are off line, &amp; when you’re running an installed copy of Windows, the plugged in drive is also off line.] I was surprised to see it formatted MBR rather than GPT, that the 1st, hidden FAT32 partition was 350 MB, &amp; saw that that 1st partition included both UEFI &amp; Legacy boot files.</p>
    <p>I set up the created VHD as dynamic or expanding, &amp; initially it’s ~12.5 GB. I plan on playing with it more as a V/Box VM to check out the effects of the Compact switch on the Windows system folders &amp; files for example, &amp; well, just play around &amp; see if I come across any limitations.</p>

  • 10774

    13 February, 2017 - 5:14 pm

    <p>There is at least one third-party tool that allows creation of a Windows to Go drive with any version of Windows such as Windows 10 Pro:</p>
    <p>I’ve trialled this with the free version and it works very well (not affiliated with the developer in any way).</p>
    <p>Also, Windows 10 works fine without activation, and when booting in a computer that has previously had a Windows 10 Pro upgrade installed, the WTG activates automatically (but deactivates again when changing to a different machine).</p>

  • 4964

    13 February, 2017 - 10:56 pm

    <p>Seems very niche, between the Windows requirements and hardware limitations I wonder how much use it gets?</p>

  • Jody Valencia

    31 July, 2017 - 3:22 am

    <p>Guys who wanna windows 10 key go link Great works it provide.</p>

  • Webmaster Thu

    16 October, 2017 - 4:38 am

    <p>Can I understand that want to install Windows To Go need to use Windows 10 Enterprise?</p>

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