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.