Create Free Windows to Go system on ext USB/SSD disks (UEFI system)


  1. Posts : 11,232
    Windows / Linux : Arch Linux
       #1

    Create Free Windows to Go system on ext USB/SSD disks (UEFI system)


    Hi folks

    Don't pay any money for software to create Windows systems that run entirely from bootable USB external devices.

    I'm talking here also of a Normal Windows running system (like a live Linux distro) that reboots and runs completely from the external device even if all internal devices are hosed up -- quite different from an "installation drive" or a VIBOOT system.

    Note thanks to @NavyLCDR who suggested the method. It's easy enough as always when you know how but the commands can be a bit off putting when you first try them.

    Pre-reqs - -- preferably an SSD connected to a USB 3/3.1/USBC connector via SATA->USB adapter. USB2 works but with USB3 and above and a decent SSD type device the performance will be almost as good as Native (and certainly better if the internal OS is running on a "spinner" type HDD).

    You will also need a Windows install ISO - get either from UUPDUMP or MCT tool and of course a running version of Windows.

    Unlike Wintousb etc this method doesn't nag to "keep USB plugged in" --it doesn't even know that it's running on a USB device and windows can be updated to newer versions without any problem -- I find using this much better than continually updating a Windows "internal" drive. Having say some spare USB's over you can make several Windows versions to play and test with.

    One restriction - this method gives you a "Clean install" - there might be a method to create a wim image of current system but that's beyond my skill set yet - maybe someone can add it to this thread. Note - simply restoring a macrium image from your current system to this type of system won't work (or I can't make it work).

    so assuming you have the Windows iso and a spare ssd external USB drive

    target Windows partition -> drive W
    target EFI partition -> drive S
    Source windows iso image drive Q

    i've put quotes around the dism commands to stop "smiley's" being generated in the command lines.

    1) create EFI partition

    in administrator mode : -- diskpart,list disk select disk nn clean convert gpt, create partition efi size 250
    format fs=fat32
    assign letter=S

    2) create Windows target partition -- still in diskpart create partition primary, format fs=ntfs quick
    assign letter=W, exit

    3) mount the windows iso -- simply click on the iso with file explorer -- will mount - here I assume it's Q

    4) you might have more than one windows image on the iso - especially if you created the iso from UUPDUMP so you need to display what windows versions are on the iso image :

    "dism /Get-WimInfo /WimFile:Q:\sources\install.wim"
    in my case it shows that windows for workstations has index 2 so that's the version I'll use on WTG drive

    5) use dism to get the image on to the target drive

    "dism /Apply-Image /ImageFile:Q:\sources\install.wim /Index:2 /ApplyDir:W:"

    On a decent SSD could take around 10 mins for this step

    5) now create the boot entry on the target drive in the UEFI :

    W:\Windows\System32\bcdboot W:\Windows /f UEFI /s S:

    note - you must run this command using the program from the image copied to the target Windows drive--not your running Windows system or the mounted iso.

    Now all done -- simply re-boot your external Windows to Go drive - install and update at will.

    Have fun

    thanks again @NavyLCDR and if anybody knows how to modify this to use the running OS so it's more of an update than clean install please post.

    Cheers
    jimbo
      My Computer


  2. Posts : 17,443
    Windows 11 Pro
       #2

    If you do convert mbr instead of convert gpt, create partition pri instead of partition efi, mark the FAT32 partition as active, and then use the /f BOTH option in bcdboot instead of /f UEFI...

    You will get a universal USB drive that is bootable bootable under both legacy BIOS (CSM) and UEFI.
      My Computer


  3. Posts : 11,232
    Windows / Linux : Arch Linux
    Thread Starter
       #3

    Hi folks

    Added : capture image of running Windows system for Windows to Go creation.

    1) Boot into the windows system you want to replicate on to a Windows to Go system -- easier than messing around with sysprep / winpe etc. Assume D is an external device or partition for saving the image.

    2) Dism /Capture-Image /ImageFile:"D:\Images\yourwinimage.wim" /CaptureDir:C:\ /Name:winimage

    3) now apply image and boot files to the target device as before

    e.g dism /Apply-Image /ImageFile:%1 /Index:1 /ApplyDir:W:\ ( %1 - name of image file - index = windows version to capture - should be 1 for running system)

    4) then run the bcdboot -- remember to run it FROM the windows target device.

    Job done

    Have fun

    thread marked as solved.

    Cheers
    jimbo
    Last edited by jimbo45; 03 Nov 2020 at 03:55. Reason: Added to capture image of running Windows system
      My Computer


  4. Posts : 130
    windows 10
       #4

    Hi, in 2022 what' s the best patice to create Windows to GO from legacy BIOS (CSM) and UEFI support ?

    format fs=fat32
    assign letter=S

    The system partiton(letter S) where the boot files are stored with the bcdboot command

    must be in fat32 or ntfs ?

    Thanks for any clarification
      My Computer


  5. Posts : 17,443
    Windows 11 Pro
       #5

    blueskyler said:
    Hi, in 2022 what' s the best patice to create Windows to GO from legacy BIOS (CSM) and UEFI support ?

    format fs=fat32
    assign letter=S

    The system partiton(letter S) where the boot files are stored with the bcdboot command

    must be in fat32 or ntfs ?

    Thanks for any clarification
    FAT32 if you want universal compatibility with all UEFI computers.
      My Computer


 

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