Create your own Windows To Go USB drive for free

You don't need the Enterprise version to make a portable version of Windows 8

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Microsoft added an interesting feature to the Enterprise version of Windows 8: The ability to create an image of the operating system so you can insert a USB drive into any computer and boot into Windows 8. If you have the regular version of Windows 8, there's still a way for you to create your own personalized and bootable version of Windows To Go.

First: What's the point of Windows To Go? Microsoft highlights a few use cases: You can bring an image of your work computer home to use with your home PC, test Windows 8.1 on your hardware before you install it, and bring your own personal device to work. It might be especially useful for travelers and works pretty much like the typical Windows installation, except the host computer's hard disks are offline by default.

The official, supported way to get Windows To Go is to 1) have the Enterprise edition of Windows 8 and 2) use a certified USB drive, which can be much more expensive than regular USB thumb drives.

Betanews offers these instructions for building Windows 8 or 8.1 on any USB drive of your choice, from any copy of Windows 8:

  1. Download Aomei Partition Assistant
  2. Insert your Windows 8 installation disk or mount the Windows 8.1 ISO you can download
  3. Plug in your USB drive (it should be at least 13GB) 
  4. run Aomei Partition Assistant and choose the "Windows To Go Creator" wizard link in the left menu

Walk through the wizard and then you can boot into Windows 8 using your USB drive on any computer. Note that this is a full installation of Windows and when you first run it, you'll have to enter your Windows key and go through the setup process.

Read more of Melanie Pinola’s Tech IT Out blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Melanie on Twitter at @melaniepinola. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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