Dell recommends Windows 8.

Windows To Go: What You Need to Know

Brien Posey, Freelance Writer and Former CIO | 6/26/2013 | 13 comments

Brien Posey
Windows To Go is a Windows 8 feature that allows a fully functional corporate desktop running Windows 8 to be booted from a USB flash drive. Many organizations have discovered that Windows To Go is a great addition to their BYOD programs. Windows To Go devices can also be provided to those who wish to work remotely, which allows remote users to always work from a fully sanctioned corporate desktop.

There are numerous benefits associated with Windows To Go, but before you attempt to create a series of Windows To Go devices, there are a few things that you need to know.

The first consideration you must take into account prior to deploying Windows To Go is that it is only supported for use with Windows 8 Enterprise Edition. The reason for this has to do with the way that Windows is activated (and licensed). Prior to deploying Windows to Go, Microsoft recommends that you have a key management service server in place to handle the activations. As an alternative, Windows To Go also supports multiple activation keys so long as you are using an enterprise device.

There are also a number of hardware considerations that must be considered. First, Microsoft only supports installing Windows To Go onto a certified USB flash drive. This isn't to say that Windows To Go cannot be installed on other types of flash drives, but performance and reliability may suffer.

There are also hardware requirements surrounding the PC on which the Windows To Go device will be used. Generally speaking, any PC that is capable of running Windows 8 should also be able to handle Windows To Go. The biggest things to keep in mind are that the PC must be capable of booting from a USB device, and that the PC must be a PC. You cannot boot a Windows To Go device from a Macintosh computer, a Windows RT device, or anything other than a PC. Furthermore, the USB device must be inserted directly into the PC. The use of a USB hub is not supported.

Another factor to think about in preparation for using Windows To Go is that of application compatibility. Some websites incorrectly report that applications cannot be installed onto a Windows To Go device. In actuality, Microsoft does support installing applications onto Windows To Go. However, not all applications work well with Windows To Go devices.

The rumor that applications are not supported for Windows To Go devices might have started because of the fact that Microsoft disables the Windows Store within Windows To Go installations. They do this because it is assumed that Windows To Go devices will roam from one PC to another. Windows 8 in general has difficulty with roaming. However, legacy applications often work very well with Windows To Go devices. In fact, I personally have a Windows To Go device that includes a Hyper-V installation and a legacy Windows application that launches a Windows Phone 8 emulator.

You must also understand that in Windows To Go, certain Windows 8 features are disabled. As I previously mentioned, the Windows Store is disabled by default, but it is possible to manually re-enable it (at your own risk). In addition, Microsoft disables hibernation capabilities and the ability to refresh or reset the Windows To Go image.

The biggest limitation with Windows To Go is put in place for security reasons. Windows To Go treats the PC's internal hard disks as if they are offline. Microsoft does this as a way of guaranteeing that the Windows To Go environment remains isolated from the PC's local hard drives. This is done to protect the integrity of the Windows To Go image.

While I am on the subject of security, I also want to mention that Microsoft highly recommends that you secure Windows To Go images using BitLocker. Doing so protects the device's contents in the event that the flash drive is lost or stolen. In case you are wondering, when BitLocker is used on a Windows To Go device, the Trusted Platform Module is not used. This is because the Trusted Platform Module is unique to a specific PC, and Windows To Go is designed to roam from one PC to another.

As you can see, there are a number of considerations that must be taken into account prior to deploying Windows To Go. Even so, it is usually fairly easy to address all of these issues and move forward with your deployment.

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Susan Fogarty   Windows To Go: What You Need to Know   7/7/2013 2:46:55 PM
Encryption
Encryption options for any type of device would be an excellent feature. Does anyone know if that exists or can be added?
TJGUK   Windows To Go: What You Need to Know   7/4/2013 9:18:18 AM
Re: What are some examples?
The security on a tablet issue is a real one. Samething with a smartphone. I'm surprised there isn't some sort of way to encrypt the data on tablets and make it viewable only when a key USB is attached. Obviously this cannot happen with an iPad but eventually they are going to have to address this since security is rudimentary on these devices.
TJGUK   Windows To Go: What You Need to Know   7/4/2013 9:13:57 AM
Anything else?
Good old MS. Trying to make Win8 more accessable by allowing you to boot to Win8 off a USB device. Sounds great but in true MS fashion there are more caveats than on a bank loan.
PositivelyKeith   Windows To Go: What You Need to Know   6/30/2013 6:27:05 PM
Re: Windows Centric Vs, Hybrids
It all looks very good but there do seem to be a whole load of requirements/ exclusions that may well confuse. I loved the PC must be a PC phrase. It just seems a 'simple' benefit may just be too.complicated.
Tuscany   Windows To Go: What You Need to Know   6/29/2013 3:21:49 AM
Windows Centric Vs, Hybrids
I can see how Windows centric enterprises might benefit from Windows To Go - I just wonder about the hybrid enterprises - do they spend the time and effort on it ?
Trek   Windows To Go: What You Need to Know   6/28/2013 8:46:40 PM
Re: What are some examples?
@ Joseph, I didn't think of that, but you are right. Windows to Go is a much easier way to travel and we all know that security checkpoints are a drag. Also, being able to keep it out of view, will hopefully deter theives.  You'll just have to be sure there will be a computer availabe for use where ever you are going. 
michaelsumastre   Windows To Go: What You Need to Know   6/28/2013 4:56:03 AM
Re: Slightly confused
Windows to Go is a feature for the client side with Windows Enterprise. My Guess is that the OS residing in the USB is a curated form of Windows 8 which means it won't be as feature-rich as the basic edition itself. This should be something IT has been doing with company provided laptops and PCs anyway. Legacy applications should work although I'm not sure how company developed Modern apps can be side loaded. 
SaneIT   Windows To Go: What You Need to Know   6/27/2013 1:06:50 PM
Slightly confused
When you say it is only allowed with Windows 8 Enterprise do you mean as the OS loaded on the USB stick or on the client side?  One potential use I could see for Windows to go is as a backup OS for travelers.  I've had far too many support calls with people who installed something late at night in a hotel room only to cause all kinds of software and OS issues.  Even if they aren't using the Windows to Go stick for day to day use it would be a nice safety net as long as the hardware is working.
michaelsumastre   Windows To Go: What You Need to Know   6/27/2013 12:04:50 PM
travelers rejoice
I once worked for a company that had me travelling all over the country for trainings. While a laptop (or laptops) are standard issue, I can see the virtues of having a ready OS in device smaller than my car keys! Had I been still in that company I would have used Windows to Go quite often as the apps I would need run from browser and other files are uploaded to the cloud anyways. It can even be an unintended marketing tool for Windows, with my trainees seeing how Windows 8 would work. The only that could ruin it for me then and now would be the variety (or seniority) of hardware the corporate machinery chooses to maintain.
JosephMoody   Windows To Go: What You Need to Know   6/27/2013 6:55:27 AM
Re: What are some examples?
Thanks Zaius! I could certainly see that, especially if an organization isn't running BitLocker with TPM. I would also bet that traveling with a Windows To Go device is can sometimes be better that lugging a laptop/tablet around. Especially if you are only on business and will have access to a computer.
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