Install Windows To Go on Removable USB Drive

Windows To Go installer won't allow you to use most USB thumdrives, because they appear as removable USB mass storage devices to Windows. Also, Windows To Go in default configuration won't work properly on the removable USB thumbdrives.

Using FlashBoot Free, it's possible bypass Windows To Go installer restrictions and install Windows To Go to any USB thumbdrive. Also FlashBoot will make removable USB thumbdrive always appear as fixed to Windows To Go.

Contents

1. Windows To Go on removable USB thumbrive installer error

When you are trying to use Windows To Go feature of Windows 10/8.1/8 Enterprise with your USB thumbdrive, the following error occurs in the Windows To Go installer:

This is a removable drive and isn't compatible with Windows To Go.
Choose a drive that meets the required hardware specifications.

Windows To Go on Removable Drive Error

2. Theory of Fixed vs Removable USB devices

All USB mass storage devices appear to Windows either as fixed or removable.

Usually external USB HDDs are fixed and USB thumbdrives are removable.

Whether the particular device is fixed or removable is determined by driver. Usually it's USBSTOR.SYS and it queries device itself to get removable/fixed flag.

The removable media device setting is a flag contained within the SCSI Inquiry 
Data response to the SCSI Inquiry command.
Bit 7 of byte 1 (indexed from 0) is the Removable Media Bit (RMB).
A RMB set to zero indicates that the device is not a removable media device.
A RMB of one indicates that the device is a removable media device.
Drivers obtain this information by using the StorageDeviceProperty request.
http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/archive/usbfaq.mspx

3. Why Windows To Go installer rejects removable USB devices

Originally, Windows was designed to run exclusively from fixed HDDs.

Later, when Windows To Go feature was implemented by Microsoft, it has been restricted to “certified list” list of USB mass storage devices which are both:

  • Fast enough (USB 3.0)
  • Appear to OS as fixed USB mass storage devices

First limitation exists to make sure that Windows to Go works fast enough to be on par with regular Windows installation (i.e. for optimum user experience).

Second limitation is due to compatibility requirements of Windows components, such as Kernel, Filesystem Drivers and Windows Restore.

4. Forcing Windows To Go installation on removable USB drive

However it's possible to circumvent Windows To Go installer restrictions and install Windows To Go on any USB mass storage device regardless of whether it's fixed or removable, USB 3.0 or USB 2.0.

Also, by using some clever tricks to tweak registry and drivers, it's possible to make initial (boot) USB storage device always appear as fixed to Windows To Go.

Our tool FlashBoot Free will automatically handle all this magic for you.

5. Using FlashBoot to install Windows To Go to any USB device

FlashBoot Free can be run under any version of Windows, starting from Windows XP, not necessarily under the version of Windows being installed to the target USB thumbdrive.

This example demonstrates installation of full-featured Windows 8.1 to bootable USB thumbdrive in BIOS mode.

1) Run FlashBoot Free, click Next

Windows To Go on Removable USB thumbdrive - Starting FlashBoot
Windows To Go on Removable USB thumbdrive - Starting FlashBoot


2) Choose "Full OS -> USB" in the the Main Menu

Windows To Go on Removable USB thumbdrive - Choosing Full OS to USB in the the Main Menu
Windows To Go on Removable USB thumbdrive - Choosing Full OS to USB in the the Main Menu


3) Choose "Windows 8/8.1/10 (for BIOS-based computers)" in this menu and click Next

Windows To Go on Removable USB thumbdrive - Choosing Windows for BIOS-based computers
Windows To Go on Removable USB thumbdrive - Choosing Windows for BIOS-based computers


4) Specify ISO image file (or DVD disc, or ESD image file) of Windows setup and click Next

Windows To Go on Removable USB thumbdrive - Specifying ISO image file of Windows setup
Windows To Go on Removable USB thumbdrive - Specifying ISO image file of Windows setup


5) Specify target USB storage device and click Next

Windows To Go on Removable USB thumbdrive - Specifying target USB storage device
Windows To Go on Removable USB thumbdrive - Specifying target USB storage device


6) If necessary, change volume label, or leave it as is, and click Next

Windows To Go on Removable USB thumbdrive - Changing volume label
Windows To Go on Removable USB thumbdrive - Changing volume label


7) Check summary information and click Format Now

Windows To Go on Removable USB thumbdrive - Checking summary information
Windows To Go on Removable USB thumbdrive - Checking summary information


8) Wait for process completion

Windows To Go on Removable USB thumbdrive - Installing Windows To Go to removable USB thumbdrive
Windows To Go on Removable USB thumbdrive - Installing Windows To Go to removable USB thumbdrive


9) Bootable USB storage device is ready to use. Click OK to exit

Windows To Go on Removable USB thumbdrive - Bootable USB storage device is ready to use
Windows To Go on Removable USB thumbdrive - Bootable USB storage device is ready to use