1.    23 Apr 2017 #1
    Join Date : Aug 2015
    Posts : 46
    Windows 10 Pro x64 / Arch Linux

    Creating bootable USB 3.0 Flash Drive...


    I have followed instructions to create my own Windows 10 To Go flash drive.

    I have two suitable USB 3.0 flash drives: Corsair Voyager GTX and Super Talent RC4, both 128 GB versions. The Corsair Voyager GTX is not a certified Windows To Go drive, whereas the Super Talent RC4 is Windows To Go certified by Microsoft. Like all certified Windows To Go drives, the RC4 is significantly more expensive than the Corsair at equivalent storage capacities. The RC4 is generally at least twice the price of the Corsair.

    The Corsair may actually be a bit faster than the RC4, but the RC4 feels a bit more "balanced" in its performance with large and small file sizes, and between read / write. That's my unofficial perception of the two; I haven't done any benchmarking to quantify performance differences.

    Anyway, I started by installing Windows 10 to the Voyager GTX. And then I cloned that installation to the RC4.

    Now here is where it gets interesting. Both drives work perfectly fine on my main desktop, booting from a USB 3.0 port. However, on another computer, only the RC4 will boot from USB 3.0. Attempting to boot the Corsair there produces an "Inaccessible Boot Device" Blue Screen. Now booting the Corsair from a USB 2 port actually does work on that machine, although one really only wants to use USB 2 as a last resort.

    My theory at first was that the Corsair wouldn't boot [from USB 3.0] on the one machine because it lacked the correct drivers. However, the fact that a clone of that Windows 10 install on the Super Talent RC4 does boot from USB 3.0 pretty much invalidates that theory.

    So does anyone have any idea what the "secret sauce" of the Super Talent RC4 may be? I'm quite sure its not that the Corsair Voyager GTX is too slow: I think it is actually a bit faster than the RC4 at least for large file reads. And also the fact that the GTX will boot through USB 2, tells me that its not related to being too slow... It also apparently isn't because my Windows 10 image lacks the appropriate USB 3.0 drivers for that computer, or why would the same image on the RC4 boot just fine through USB 3.0?

    I have the drives formatted as MBR disks, not GPT disks. So these boot in legacy BIOS mode, not UEFI.

    So this is a bit of an interesting mystery to me. For now, it appears it may be worth paying the premium for a certified Windows To Go drive as a non-certified drive may not work with all machines. Although I'm also not sure if the difference is due to something specified for Windows To Go certification. The only certified drive I've tested like this is the RC4. And it is entirely possible that certified drives from other brands may be more similar to the Corsair GTX, I don't know.

    All of that said, I was wondering if anyone had any knowledge or theories to explain this phenomenon. Ideally, it'd be nice if I could get the Corsair to boot from a USB 3.0 port in the other machine. But maybe that just isn't possible due to a technicality in the hardware of that drive?

    Thanks for any feedback.
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  2.    25 Apr 2017 #2
    Join Date : Dec 2013
    Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Posts : 10,399
    Windows 10 IoT

    If you use the official Microsoft WTG utility it looks for drives with the bit set in the firmware to make them show up as Fixed Disks. Standard thumb drives usually show up as removable media. There are a few exceptions, I had some SanDisk thumb drives show up as fixed disks. They were only 8 gig drives and way to small for WTG. The official WTG will only let you create Enterprise WTG installs. Point it at a Pro ISO and it will refuse to use it. It wants an Enterprise ISO. I have MSDN and have created an official drive. It worked the few times I tried it. I haven't tried one recently, I repurposed the drive I had made the WTG install on. I've been meaning to have another go though. The official utility will let you use pretty well any hard drive in and external enclosure you want to use. Mine was a dirt slow 5400 RPM laptop IDE drive in a USB 2 enclosure. Plug in my nice fast Kingston Hyper X USB 3 thumb drive and it refuses to use it. The official WTG utility in Control Panel, up until recently, only showed up in Enterprise installs. Then I noticed the Education had it, still wanted Enterprise ISO though. And now Pro has it in Control Panel too.

    I have had absolutely no luck getting an unofficial WTG setup to work. I tried several method trying get WTG to run from my Hyper X thumb drive with no success. I don't remember what the issues were, was quit a while ago.
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  3.    25 Apr 2017 #3
    Join Date : Aug 2015
    Posts : 46
    Windows 10 Pro x64 / Arch Linux
    Thread Starter

    Yes, the Corsair GTX does present itself as a fixed disk, although I did not use the official Microsoft WTG utility to install W10. I used a W10 Pro ISO, which is also what I have installed on my desktop. There are a few unofficial utilities [Rufus, WinToUSB, ...] that will do it for you as well as more manual methods I've found of making a WTG USB flash drive. Those all work with a Pro ISO instead of Enterprise, but I assume that in itself is a "hack", and as such unsupported by Microsoft.

    And WTG may work with a non-certified USB flash drive, if it is big enough, and one that has good small 4K file performance. But apparently it may not be as compatible as one of the WTG certified drives. I'm not sure why. It seems that the Corsair GTX would meet all the requirements for WTG certification, but maybe there is a technical specification missing. It does still work fine with some computers, but at least one other generates an "inaccessible boot device" error on startup [through USB 3.0]... So it seems to me, if you want WTG with greatest likelihood of compatibility, you are best off investing in one of the certified drives [which are much more expensive than comparable non-certified drives].

    Not sure why Microsoft wants WTG to be a strictly Enterprise [and Education] feature. WTG is a nice option in certain situations.
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  4.    25 Apr 2017 #4
    Join Date : Dec 2013
    Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Posts : 10,399
    Windows 10 IoT

    It still wants an Enterprise ISO, even if run from the Education version. Licensing may be one issue as to why they want you to use Enterprise. Use your unofficial Pro WTG on too many different PC's and you'll have activation issues.

    I did up an official Enterprise WTG drive today. Activated it with my MSDN MAK key and it activated with a Digital License. Booted it up on my spare desktop PC and it stayed activated. In the past it wouldn't have gotten a Digital License. it would have show as activated with a product code.
      My ComputerSystem Spec

 


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