Running Win 10 as a 'Live' OS from a USB stick.

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  1. Posts : 290
    Windows 10 Pro (x64) 21H1 (OS Build 19043.1165)
       #1

    Running Win 10 as a 'Live' OS from a USB stick.


    Here's a question.

    With Linux, you can download an image to a USB stick and run the OS off the USB - a so-called 'live' session - i.e. you don't need to install anything.

    You switch the machine off and pull the USB stick and your PC is back to how it was before - presumably running Windows.

    Is there a way of doing this with Windows??

    Would like to run Windows 10 on my daughter's 12-year-old desktop so that she can see what Win 10 is like before potentially adopting it. The PC in question originally shipped with Vista and was then upgraded to Win 7.

    I'm guessing this is possible??

    Cheers,

    Art
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  2. Posts : 13,933
    Windows 10 Pro X64 21H1 19043.1503
       #2
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  3. Posts : 305
    Microsoft Win 10
       #3

    WinToUSB
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  4. Posts : 1,408
    Windows 10 Pro
       #4

    I've have a coupe of "boot" Win 10 SSDs I cart around for emergencies.

    Swap out the drive from an existing computer, and do a Win 10 install on a blank drive.

    Switch drives back, and use the newly created Win 10 as a USB boot device. I've found Win 10 is very forgiving of hardware changes between different devices, as long as there is an internet connection.
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  5. Posts : 290
    Windows 10 Pro (x64) 21H1 (OS Build 19043.1165)
    Thread Starter
       #5

    Thanks folks.

    Googled my question after posing on here. I found WinToUSB or using the alternative - Rufus - and selecting 'Windows to Go'. Isn't that only offered in Enterprise versions of Windows?

    Something else I found was that the free version of the program only supports Windows 10 versions 1803 (April 2018 release) and lower.

    Does WinToUSB not do everything in transferring an .iso to the USB and making it bootable?

    Procedure also said that you had to authenticate the Win 10 installation on the USB stick.

    If you have a valid digital license for your home PC - does this cover you for the 'Windows on a Stick' version too?

    Cheers

    Art
    Last edited by ArthurDent; 16 Jul 2020 at 10:26.
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  6. Posts : 17,246
    Windows 11 Pro
       #6

    I create my "Windows To Go" external drives by manually creating a system partition (100 MB), then a second partition for the OS. If you partition the external drive as MBR, and create a FAT32 system partition marked as active, followed by an NTFS partition for the OS, the external drive will be bootable on both legacy BIOS and UEFI computers. I then use the dism /apply-image command to apply the image from a Windows 10 ISO file to the NTFS partition on the external drive:

    Code:
    C:\Windows\system32>dism /apply-image /?
    
    Deployment Image Servicing and Management tool
    Version: 10.0.19041.329
    
    
    /Apply-Image /ImageFile:<path_to_image_file> /ApplyDir:<target_directory>
      {/Index:<image_index> | /Name:<image_name>} [/CheckIntegrity] [/Verify]
      [/NoRpFix] [/SWMFile:<pattern>] [/ConfirmTrustedFile] [/WIMBoot] [/Compact] [/EA]
    
      Applies an image to a specified drive.
      Use /CheckIntegrity to stop the operation if WIM file corruption is detected.
      Use /Verify to check for errors and file duplication.
      Use /NoRpFix to disable the reparse point tag fix.
      Use /SWMFile to reference split WIM files (SWMs). <pattern> is the naming
      pattern and location of split files.
      Use /ConfirmTrustedFile to validate the image for Trusted Desktop. See
      https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=309482 for more information about
      supported platforms.
      Use /WIMBoot to apply the image with WIMBoot configuration.
      Use /Compact to apply the image in compact mode.
      Use /EA to apply extended attributes.
      Use /SFUFile to reference split FFU files (SFUs). <pattern> is the naming
      pattern and location of split files.
    
        Examples:
          DISM.exe /Apply-Image /ImageFile:install.wim /Index:1 /ApplyDir:D:\
    
          DISM.exe /Apply-Image /ImageFile:install.swm /SWMFile:install*.swm
            /ApplyDir:D:\ /Index:1
    Then I use the bcdboot command to write the boot files to the FAT32 system partition:

    Code:
    C:\Windows\system32>bcdboot /?
    
    Bcdboot - Bcd boot file creation and repair tool.
    
    The bcdboot.exe command-line tool is used to copy critical boot files to the
    system partition and to create a new system BCD store.
    
    bcdboot <source> [/l <locale>] [/s <volume-letter> [/f <firmware>]] [/v]
                     [/vbcd] [/m [{OS Loader ID}]] [/addlast] [/p] [/c]
    
      source     Specifies the location of the windows system root.
    
      /l         Specifies an optional locale parameter to use when
                 initializing the BCD store. The default is US English.
    
      /s         Specifies an optional volume letter parameter to designate
                 the target system partition where boot environment files are
                 copied.  The default is the system partition identified by
                 the firmware.
    
      /v         Enables verbose mode.
    
      /vbcd      Enables BCD logging.
    
      /m         If an OS loader GUID is provided, this option merges the
                 given loader object with the system template to produce a
                 bootable entry. Otherwise, only global objects are merged.
    
      /d         Specifies that the existing default windows boot entry
                 should be preserved.
    
      /f         Used with the /s command, specifies the firmware type of the
                 target system partition. Options for <firmware> are 'UEFI',
                 'BIOS', or 'ALL'.
    
      /addlast   Specifies that the windows boot manager firmware entry
                 should be added last. The default behavior is to add it
                 first.
    
      /bcdclean  Clean the BCD Store. By default, simply removes any duplicate
                 entries in the BCD. Can be followed by 'full'. In this case,
                 each entry is scanned. If the corresponding device for that entry
                 does not exist, the entry is deleted.
    
      /p         Specifies that the windows boot manager firmware entry
                 position should be preserved. If entry does not exist,
                 new entry will be added in the first position.
    
      /c         Specifies that any existing objects described by the template
                 should not be migrated.
    
    Examples: bcdboot c:\windows /l en-us
              bcdboot c:\windows /s h:
              bcdboot c:\windows /s h: /f UEFI
              bcdboot c:\windows /m {d58d10c6-df53-11dc-878f-00064f4f4e08}
              bcdboot c:\windows /d /addlast
              bcdboot c:\windows /p
    This work with any edition of Windows 10, Home, Pro, etc. The edition you get is determined by the index number you use in the dism /apply-image command:

    Code:
    F:\sources>dism /get-wiminfo /wimfile:install.wim
    
    Deployment Image Servicing and Management tool
    Version: 10.0.19041.1
    
    Details for image : install.wim
    
    Index : 1
    Name : Windows 10 Home
    Description : Windows 10 Home
    Size : 14,212,376,596 bytes
    
    Index : 2
    Name : Windows 10 Home N
    Description : Windows 10 Home N
    Size : 13,441,677,475 bytes
    
    Index : 3
    Name : Windows 10 Home Single Language
    Description : Windows 10 Home Single Language
    Size : 14,211,972,277 bytes
    
    Index : 4
    Name : Windows 10 Education
    Description : Windows 10 Education
    Size : 14,450,251,000 bytes
    
    Index : 5
    Name : Windows 10 Education N
    Description : Windows 10 Education N
    Size : 13,693,633,242 bytes
    
    Index : 6
    Name : Windows 10 Pro
    Description : Windows 10 Pro
    Size : 14,450,428,963 bytes
    
    Index : 7
    Name : Windows 10 Pro N
    Description : Windows 10 Pro N
    Size : 13,691,468,430 bytes
    
    Index : 8
    Name : Windows 10 Pro Education
    Description : Windows 10 Pro Education
    Size : 14,450,189,418 bytes
    
    Index : 9
    Name : Windows 10 Pro Education N
    Description : Windows 10 Pro Education N
    Size : 13,693,570,760 bytes
    
    Index : 10
    Name : Windows 10 Pro for Workstations
    Description : Windows 10 Pro for Workstations
    Size : 14,450,220,209 bytes
    
    Index : 11
    Name : Windows 10 Pro N for Workstations
    Description : Windows 10 Pro N for Workstations
    Size : 13,693,602,001 bytes
    
    The operation completed successfully.
    When you boot a computer from the external drive, so long as that computer has had that same edition of Windows 10 activated on it before and has a digital license, the Windows on the external will activate, if it is connected to the internet.

    This way you don't need any external programs to create the drive.
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  7. Posts : 13,933
    Windows 10 Pro X64 21H1 19043.1503
       #7

    Does this work with a USB flash drive?
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  8. Posts : 17,246
    Windows 11 Pro
       #8

    Ztruker said:
    Does this work with a USB flash drive?
    Yep.
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  9. Posts : 13,933
    Windows 10 Pro X64 21H1 19043.1503
       #9

    I'll give it a try and see if I can make it work. Thanks.
    Last edited by Ztruker; 16 Jul 2020 at 19:48.
      My Computers


  10. Posts : 13,933
    Windows 10 Pro X64 21H1 19043.1503
       #10

    I create my "Windows To Go" external drives by manually creating a system partition (100 MB),
    then a second partition for the OS. If you partition the external drive as MBR, and create a FAT32 system partition marked as active, followed by an NTFS partition for the OS, the external drive will be bootable on both legacy BIOS and UEFI computers. I then use the dism /apply-image command to apply the image from a Windows 10 ISO file to the NTFS partition on the external drive:
    This is on a 16GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive:

    So I need 3 partitions?

    Code:
    100MB FAT32 | another FAT32 (how big) | rest NTFS
    System      | System, Active
    or 2 partitions?

    Code:
    100MB FAT32    | rest NTFS
    System, Active |
    How do I make the FAT32 partitions System?
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