Windows 2 Go - how to install Windows 8.1/10 on an USB Key

Windows 2 Go - how to install Windows 8.1/10 on an USB Key

This article will show you how to install Windows 8.1 or 10 on an USB Key. After this you can use this Key to boot to a working Operating System on your Notebook or Desktop. This can be used for Troubleshooting and to rule out the Operating System which is installed on the Computer.

Windows 2 Go is a live Operating System on a USB device. You can use it on any UEFI based System. It is a fully functional Windows Operating System (Windows 8.1 or 10). You can use this to rule out the installed Operating System as the cause of an issue while troubleshooting. You can also check if the System is booting and run several Diagnostics, if installed, on the USB Operating System.

In the following steps you will learn what you need to create a Windows 2 Go USB Key, how to prepare the USB Key, how to install Windows and what to do on the first start-up.

Before you can start, you will need to get some things ready. Here is a list what is needed and where to get it:

Warning: All content on the USB Key will be erased during this process, so please make sure that you backup all important files saved on this USB Key.

If you use a Windows ISO-File you will have to mount the drive to make it available for the installation. In Windows 8.1 and 10 you can simply right-click the file and choose Mount. The ISO is now available as a virtual DVD drive. Note the drive letter, you will need in the later steps.

Now that all things are ready you can proceed with the preparation of the USB Key.

Note: The Windows 8.1 and 10 Product Key is usually injected in the Motherboard. If purchased separately, you should find the key on an extra card or email.

In order to use the USB Key as a drive for a Windows Installation we have to do some preparation. We need to clean the existing configuration and setup a new one.

  1. Insert the USB Key.

  2. Click Start and type in CMD. Right-click Command Prompt and choose Run as Administrator.

  3. In the Command Window, Type in Diskpart and press Enter to start the Diskpart Tool.

  4. Type in List disk and press Enter

  5. In the table you see all available Disks, identify the USB Key and use the ID in the following command:
    Select disk [ID]

  6. Type in the command Clean followed by Enter to delete all configurations on the USB Key.

  7. Once complete you will now need to create a new partition

  8. To create a new Partition use the command Create partition primary

  9. Use Format fs=ntfs quick to format the USB Key.

  10. To finish up the Process enter Assign letter=X (Where X is the drive letter you wish to use) then Active followed by Exit.

You can now proceed with the next step of this guide and install Windows onto your USB Key

It is now time to install Windows onto your USB Key. Therefore open up the Command Prompt. Open start and type CMD, right-click on Command Prompt and choose Run as Administrator.

At the prompt, type the following command:

[Path to]imagex.exe /apply [Path to]install.wim 1 [USB Key Drive]

You need to change the command to fit your system. Choose the path to the correct ImageX.exe, for 32bit or 64bit. The install.wim or install.esd is found in the sources folder in your Windows ISO or Media. The USB Key Drive is the drive letter that you assigned to the USB Key. Here is an example command:
C:\temp\imagex.exe /apply E:\sources\install.wim 1 G:\

In some ISO-Files or Windows Media the install.wim is saved as install.esd, you can use both in the command, just check which one is present.

After you press Enter, the install process will start.

The installation process will take several minutes to complete. In our tests it took around 25 minutes, this can vary by USB Key size, type and port used.

As final step, you have to create the needed boot files on the USB Key. Use the BCDBoot tool to create the files.

bcdboot G:\windows /s G: - G should be the drive Letter of your USB Key, change it to the drive letter present on your system.

Now that Windows 10 or 8.1 is installed on your USB Key, you can boot from it on any UEFI based system. On a Dell system, hit the F12 key at the Dell Logo. After that choose the key in the boot menu.

On the first start-up, Windows will guide you trough the normal first startup routine to configure your Windows Installation. After this is done you can use the Key on every System without going through the routine again. All files and programs you save on your Windows are kept. So it is possible to install Diagnostic tools such as Dell SupportAssist or the Intel CPU Diagnostics on the key and also use them on every system you boot.

Keep in mind that you have to Shut down the operating system correctly before removing the USB Key from your System. Otherwise the Operating System may become corrupted and non-functional.

Article ID: SLN304299

Last Date Modified: 09/14/2019 08:49 AM

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