Create a Windows To Go Drive

Applies To: Windows 8.1

When you deploy Windows To Go in your educational organization you can create Windows To Go workspaces quickly with the Creator Wizard, or with Windows PowerShell cmdlets when you need additional flexibility and customization.

You can use either of two primary methods to create a Windows To Go drive:

  • The Windows To Go Creator Wizard

  • Windows PowerShell cmdlets

The method you use depends largely on the goals of the deployment and the skills available for the deployment. Regardless of which method you employ, the result is a USB drive with a Windows To Go workspace on it.


Always safely eject the USB drive when the provisioning process is complete. Removing the drive in an unsafe manner can result in an unbootable Windows To Go workspace.

Table 2 provides considerations to help you decide which method of Windows To Go workspace creation is right for you.

Table 2. Choosing a Windows To Go Creation Strategy

  Windows To Go Creator Wizard Windows PowerShell

Number of workspaces needed

  • Few

  • USB duplicator

  • Many workspaces with potentially unique configurations for each

Customizations needed

  • None

  • Customized image

  • Custom provisioning (for example, offline domain join, partitioning, BitLocker) required


  • IT generalist

  • IT pro with Windows PowerShell experience

Use the Windows To Go Creator Wizard

The Windows To Go Creator Wizard is a simple way to create a Windows To Go workspace quickly. The wizard creates a fully functional workspace with just a few mouse clicks. Using the Windows To Go Creator Wizard involves selecting the USB drive along with the Windows image to be used for the deployment. To use the wizard, you must have:

  • A Windows To Go–certified USB drive connected to the computer prior to starting the wizard

  • A Windows 8.1 Enterprise image, either the RTM image or a customized image that has been generalized with the Microsoft System Preparation Tool (Sysprep)

  • Local administrator privileges

You can enable BitLocker during the Windows To Go Creator Wizard. If you will be using a drive duplicator to make copies of the workspace, however, do not enable BitLocker from the wizard but rather after deployment. See the “Enable BitLocker protection for your Windows To Go drive” topic in Deploy Windows To Go in Your Organization for more information on enabling BitLocker.

The overall process for workspace creation involves the following tasks:

  1. Select the USB drive on which to create the Windows To Go workspace.

  2. Select the Windows image to use as an installation source for the workspace.

  3. Optionally, enable BitLocker on the workspace immediately.

The process of workspace creation takes 20 to 30 minutes, and the result is that you have a Windows To Go workspace on the USB drive. From that point, you can either boot the workspace or duplicate it to other USB drives.

Use Windows PowerShell cmdlets

Use Windows PowerShell cmdlets to create Windows To Go workspaces when you need additional flexibility. Windows PowerShell enables you to create a custom, scripted solution for large-scale Windows To Go workspace creation.

The tools used to create a Windows To Go workspace are essentially the same tools you use to manually provision and deploy Windows images. They include:

  • Disk partitioning cmdlets such as Clear-Disk, Initialize-Disk, New-Partition, Format-Volume, and so on

  • Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM)

  • Bcdboot

You use these tools to perform the same steps manually that the Windows To Go Creator Wizard performs. The process includes the following tasks:

  1. Partition the USB drive, including FAT32- and NTFS file system–formatted partitions.

  2. Use DISM to apply the Windows image.

  3. Use Bcdboot to enable the system to start on UEFI and BIOS systems.

  4. Use DISM to apply a storage area network policy to prevent the internal disks from being used.

  5. Create an answer file to disable Windows RE.

Like the Windows To Go Creator Wizard, the result when using Windows PowerShell is that you have a Windows To Go workspace on the USB drive. See Deploy Windows To Go in Your Organization for more information about scripting Windows To Go provisioning by using Windows PowerShell.

Enable the Windows Store

The Windows Store is enabled by default on Windows To Go drives running Windows 8.1. Users can start the drive on any number of host computers, access the Windows Store, and run their apps.

In Windows 8, the Windows Store is disabled in a Windows To Go workspace by default, because apps purchased through the Windows Store are tied to the device’s hardware and can be installed on as many as five devices. This means that the app will not run if the Windows To Go workspace is booted from more than five different devices.

You can enable the Windows Store by using the Allow Store to install apps on Windows To Go workspaces Group Policy setting found at \Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Store. Use this policy setting when the workspace will be booted from the same or a limited number of computers.

If the Windows Store will remain disabled, Microsoft recommends that you remove the default Windows Store–related apps, such as Sports or News, from the Windows To Go workspace image. These apps are updated through the Windows Store and therefore cannot be updated with the Windows Store disabled. Educational apps that you sideload are unaffected by this policy and can still be loaded, run, and managed through normal app management processes.

Activate Windows To Go workspaces

Windows To Go can use Active Directory-Based Activation (ADBA) and Key Management Service (KMS) activation, similar to a typical installation of Windows 8.1. However, Windows To Go cannot use Multiple Activation Key (MAK) activation, as MAK activation binds to the host computer’s hardware. Windows To Go uses a standard Windows license and counts as an installation for applicable licensing agreements.

The Windows To Go workspace needs to renew its activation every 180 days. It does this whenever the workspace is booted within the school’s network or when using a remote connection like DirectAccess or a VPN. If workspaces are not used within the 180-day period, you will need to reactivate them by connecting them to the network containing the ADBA or KMS services.

Applications to be used within the workspace might also need to be activated. Office 2013 uses the same activation methods as Windows To Go, but software from other vendors, such as LMSs and other educational applications, might have different licensing. Verify the Windows To Go usage scenario with the appropriate vendors to ensure licensing compliance.

Build multiple Windows To Go drives

When you need to distribute a Windows To Go workspace to more than a few users within the institution, you can look to bulk methods to duplicate the workspace. You can use a USB drive duplicator to create a large number of copies of a given workspace. This scenario is appropriate when the workspace has the same applications and tools and will be distributed to the same types of users, such as students; it also enables you to create multiple workspaces, one for students and one for faculty.

When using a drive duplicator, be aware of the following caveats:

  • Do not boot the drive prior to duplication.

  • Do not enable BitLocker on the drive.

  • Do not configure offline domain join in the workspace.

Whether you need to create a single or many copies of a workspace, a Windows PowerShell cmdlet might be appropriate. See Advanced deployment sample script for more information, including a sample script for creating multiple drives with Windows PowerShell. By using Windows PowerShell, you can create custom workspaces (for example, based on grade, homeroom, and so on).

Additional resources

See also