Prepare to Use Windows To Go

Applies To: Windows 8.1

When you prepare to deploy Windows To Go in your educational organization you need to consider a few things including limitations, user settings, remote access, host computer requirements, image creation, and USB drive requirements.

This section describes the infrastructure-related items that you must consider for a Windows To Go deployment and also provides considerations for that preparation. In addition to the considerations that the following sections describe, see Plan for Windows 8.1 Deployment: A Guide for Education for considerations affecting any Windows 8.1 deployment in an educational institution.

Windows To Go limitations

Although Windows To Go is similar to a typical Windows 8.1 Enterprise installation on a PC, some differences exist:

  • No access to internal disks. By default, the host computer’s disks are not accessible by a Windows To Go installation, and a USB drive with a Windows To Go workspace is not accessible by the Windows operating system installed on the computer. You can eliminate both of these limitations by using Group Policy. However, these restrictions are in place to protect the security and privacy of the Windows To Go workspace, and to help prevent end-user confusion.

  • Recovery options are limited. The Windows Recovery Environment (Windows RE) is not available in Windows To Go, nor are refresh and reset options. You should re-provision the Windows To Go workspace onto the USB drive in the event a Windows To Go workspace becomes unrecoverable. Because recovery options are limited, Microsoft does not recommend storing user data on the Windows To Go USB drive. Instead, use a network-based or cloud-based solution like Folder Redirection or OneDrive.

  • Trusted Platform Module (TPM) is not used. The TPM is tied to a specific physical computer. Therefore, because Windows To Go workspaces move among computers, the TPM is not used in a Windows To Go workspace. In its place, a password is required for BitLocker on a Windows To Go workspace.

  • Windows Store is disabled (Windows 8 only). In Windows 8, the Windows Store is disabled by default, because apps are tied to the computer itself. You can use Group Policy to enable the Windows Store. In Windows 8.1, this limitation is gone, and the Windows Store is enabled by default. Regardless of the Windows Store status, you can still sideload apps for which you have installation files. For more information about sideloading Windows Store apps, see Windows Store Apps: A Deployment Guide for Education.

  • Hibernate is disabled. Hibernation expects to find the same hardware when the operating system resumes. Because Windows To Go workspaces will likely roam among computers, hibernation is disabled. Like the Windows Store, you can re-enable hibernate, but only enable hibernation if you are certain that the device will only be used on the same physical computer.

Roaming with Windows To Go

During the boot process, Windows To Go examines the host computer’s hardware and installs the necessary device drivers. This process generally works well, especially if people will be using Windows To Go on host computers with similar hardware configurations. However, if the workspace will be used on different hardware with different device configurations, then you might need to inject additional drivers into the image. Testing the image on the hardware is a key step to ensure compatibility for the devices to be used with Windows To Go.

Some applications can bind to specific hardware. For example, an application might tie its licensing or activation to the computer’s hardware. If the Windows To Go workspace will be used on multiple host computers with different hardware configurations, the applications might not roam. Ensure that each application you are installing in a Windows To Go workspace supports roaming or provide for an alternate method of using those applications, such as Windows Server 2012 R2 RemoteApp.

Students and faculty are not usually aware of which type of firmware their computers have, and so they will likely boot their workspaces on different types. They can boot Windows To Go on computers with different types of firmware. Computers certified for Windows 8.1 have Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), while Windows 7 computers use the legacy BIOS firmware. Rather than creating separate workspaces for different firmware types, Windows To Go can boot on either firmware type.

Determine user setting storage

Users need access to their data and settings within the Windows To Go workspace in addition to their usual device. Determine how best to provide this access, whether through a user state virtualization (USV) technology or through other means. Options include local storage, Microsoft User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) with Folder Redirection and Offline Files, OneDrive, Microsoft Office 365, and other cloud-based storage solutions. Windows 8.1 also enables logon with a Microsoft account, which includes the option of roaming for many user settings. This aspect of Windows To Go is discussed in the Store User Data and Settings for Windows To Go section of this guide.

Determine remote access requirements

If Windows To Go workspaces will be used from off-campus locations, then you might provide a method for remote access. You can do so by using DirectAccess or by using an existing virtual private network (VPN) solution. More detail on remote access is available in the Configure Windows To Go for Remote Access section of this guide.

Determine host computer requirements

Windows To Go supports many different types of hardware. This support enables users to run Windows To Go workspaces on hardware certified for Windows 8.1, Windows 8, and Windows 7 alike. Note the following host computer requirements:

  • Booting. The computer must be capable of booting from a USB drive, and the drive must be directly connected; USB hubs are not supported.

  • Firmware. The computer can use UEFI or BIOS.

  • Graphics. The computer should have Microsoft DirectX 9 with Windows Display Driver Model 1.2 or later driver.

  • Processor. The computer should have a 1 GHz or faster processor, and the architecture can be 32 or 64 bit, as discussed later in this guide.

  • RAM. The computer should have at least 2 GB of physical memory.

  • USB port. The computer should have at least one USB 2.0 or 3.0 port.

When considering the processor architecture, the firmware is an important consideration. Table 1 describes the processor architecture considerations for Windows To Go.

Table 1. Processor Architecture and Windows To Go

Host firmware Host processor architecture Windows To Go architecture



32-bit only



32-bit and 64-bit



32-bit only



64-bit only


Windows To Go workspaces are not supported on Windows RT or Apple platforms.

Select the USB drive for Windows To Go

The USB drive used for Windows To Go must be Windows To Go certified. Windows To Go–certified drives are optimized for the rate of I/O operations necessary for Windows. They are capable of booting on hardware certified for Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1. The drives have manufacturer warranties and are meant to be used to support a typical Windows workload. Several hardware vendors offer these drives in a variety of sizes. See Windows To Go Overview for a list of currently supported drives.


A Windows To Go image running Windows 8.1 can boot from a drive that contains a built-in smart card. These composite drives combine a mass storage drive and smart card in one device. Windows 8.1 can enumerate the smart card when booting from the Windows To Go drive or by connecting the device to another host computer. For more information, see What's New in Smart Cards.

Understand Windows To Go image creation

Ease of deployment is a key feature of Windows To Go. A Windows 8.1 release to manufacturing (RTM) image is all that is needed to begin the Windows To Go image-creation process. Alternately, you can fully customize the image to include applications and other settings specific to the deployment. Users with local administrator privileges and a Windows 8.1 Enterprise image (an unlikely scenario in an education setting) can also create their own Windows To Go workspace. Therefore, school IT pros will be the likely sole creators of Windows To Go workspaces.


You can also use Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager to distribute workspaces. See How to Provision Windows To Go in Configuration Manager for more information

If you do not customize the image, then you will need to provide for the resulting Windows To Go workspace to be joined to the domain and for applications to be installed in the workspace. You can use Group Policy to manage the workspace, and you may want to customize certain settings for your environment. See the Manage Windows To Go section in this guide or the “Image Deployment and Drive Provisioning Considerations” section in Deployment Considerations for Windows To Go for more information on these Group Policy settings and Windows To Go deployment.

You can create a Windows To Go workspace by using the Windows To Go Creator Wizard or Windows PowerShell cmdlets. After you have provisioned the workspace onto a USB drive, you can duplicate the workspace onto other USB drives (assuming that the workspace has not yet been started for the first time). See Windows Deployment Options for more information on Windows Deployment Options. For more information on manual Windows To Go image creation, see the “Windows PowerShell equivalent commands” topic in Deploy Windows To Go in Your Organization.

Additional resources

See also