Create a Windows To Go USB Drive Without A Running Windows 8 PC

(This article is from our sister website GoGoToTo.com)

Microsoft released Windows 8 Consumer Preview on Feb 29, 2012. There are lots of people want to try Windows 8 so they installed this version on their PC, laptop, or on Virtual machine, so they can dual boot or use virtual machine. Also, some people use virtual box which is similar with virtual machine. and, using virtual hard driver: How To Guide to Installing and Booting Windows 8 Consumer Preview off a VHD (Virtual Hard Disk).

However, there maybe lots of people do not want to install current Windows 8 beta version (preview version) on their existing OS, for example, they have Windows XP / Vista / 7 installed, they do not want to any other OS to “disturb” their current OS, but just they want to try and see what Windows 8 is exactly. They can take advantage of the new feature named Windows to go from Windows 8.

There are many articles on the internet about How to make a Windows 8 bootable USB drive. But we will finally find most of those guide are about either just making a bootable USB drive to let you do the further steps to install a new Windows 8 system on your PC (if you see download the Windows7-USB-DVD-tool.exe, it definitely teaches you boot from USB and later you will have to install Windows 8 on your PC) or they provide steps to make a real Windows to go USB drive which can load Windows 8 system from USB but one important premise is that you must have a running Windows 8 system.

Of course it is easy if you have a running Windows 8 system to make a Windows to go USB drive because you have already installed a Windows 8 PC. just like you have a Windows 7 PC and make a bootable DVD or USB key.

But you know most of Windows users do not have a Windows 8 system installed yet. Is it possible still to make a Windows to go USB key ?

The answer is YES. We have made one successfully.

Now we provide all steps which we made the Windows to go USB drive without any Windows 8 system running.

What we need before we start to make Windows to go USB:

1: Download Microsoft Windows 8 Consumer Preview ISO file from Microsoft Official site, you can choose either 64 bits or 32 bits due to your USB size. Our USB is 16G so we chose 32 bits Windows 8;

2: A virtual CD tool which will mount the Windows 8 ISO file to a virtual CD driver; We used Virtual CloneDrive which is free:

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3: a 16GB or above USB drive, you’d better have a USB 3.0 32GB USB if you want to happy with the boot speed and configuration speed.

4: Of course you should have a running Windows 7 PC ( NO need Windows 8 running)

 

Now let’s start to make a Windows To Go USB drive:

1:  Make sure all files on your USB drive have been backup because later we are going to format the USB driver;

2: Prepare and format the USB driver follow the following steps:

- Open Command Prompt using Administrator role.

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- Run diskpart

- At the DISKPART> command prompt, enter list disk;

- Select the disk which indicates your USB: Ours is Disk 1

- select disk 1

- clean

- create partition primary

- format fs=ntfs quick

- active

- exit

The following is all commands and result screen shot

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3: Now we need to copy Windows 8 files to the USB.

   First we need a program named “ImageX.exe” that uses an API layer to support interaction with the .wim file. ImageX is an imaging tool built from a set of APIs, known as Imaging APIs for Windows. The primary purpose of ImageX is to capture, modify, and apply images for deployment in a manufacturing or corporate IT environment. ImageX supports the new Microsoft Windows Imaging (.wim) format.

ImageX.exe is included in Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) , so we download and install Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) for Windows 7 here.

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4: After you installed AIK, go to folder “C:\Program Files\Windows AIK\Tools\x86” (32 bit) or “C:\Program Files\Windows AIK\Tools\amd64” (64 bit) due to your current OS system, but you can still choose the 32 bit on whatever your system is 64 or 32. ).

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5: Mount Windows 8 .iso file using virtual CD tool:

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6: Locate the install.wim file in Windows 8 virtual folder, remember its path, we will use the path later;

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7: Go back to command line, current folder is C:\Program Files\Windows AIK\Tools\x86,

Then we input :

imagex.exe /apply F:\sources\install.wim 1 G:\

F:\sources\install.wim is the Windows 8 file and its path which we remembered in step 6, G:\ is our USB driver letter (don’t miss the parameter “1”)

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Now we will wait for quite long time to let system apply progress.

The waiting time really depends, for our case, we used a USB 2.0 driver and a old PC, so we waited over 1.5 hour in this step (109 min 28 sec).

8: By now we have Windows 8 system files on our USB drive, but we still have one more step: We need our USB drive bootable:

Attention: Just this step is different from most articles which from internet !

First we just simply copied the command which we see on the internet everywhere as the following in our command line:

bcdboot.exe G:\windows /s G: /f ALL  (again, G: is our USB driver letter)

however, it did not work but just listed bcdboot command help information because it told us we used wrong way for it.

Later we realized bcdboot.exe file which in Windows 7 does NOT support the parameter /f;

Then we found there is another bcdboot.exe file in C:\Program Files\Windows AIK\Tools\x86 folder, but it still did not help. we also used another bcdboot.exe file in 64 bit folder, still no work.

Finally, we realized the bcdboot.exe file in the folder AIK is still a Windows 7 version. So we should find a Widows 8 version of bcdboot.exe.

But where can we find the Windows 8 version? We said we do not need a running Windows 8 PC…Wait ! We have already got the Windows 8 system files on our USB driver, right? Why don’t go to search Windows 8 version bcdboot.exe file there ?

Yes! we really found it, it is just in the directory: G:\Windows\System32\

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Then we changed above command to the following:

G:\Windows\system32\bcdboot.exe G:\windows /s G: /f ALL

Unfortunately we got another error message:

The program can’t start because api-ms-win-cor-file-l1-1-1.dll is missing from your computer. Try reinstalling the program to fix this problem.

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Now we really felt trouble: Do we really need a running Windows 8 PC first ?

We almost gave up at that time.

Wait! let me try one more step: Why don’t copy the Windows 8 bcdboot.exe file to local C: or D: driver and try what will happened ?

Bingo!! It works!

We copied the bcdboot.exe file from our USB windows 8 folder to C:\ driver, and run the following command again. The boot information generated to USB drive successfully!

C:\bcdboot.exe G:\windows /s G: /f ALL

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OK! Now we have a Windows 8 To Go USB Drive, just plugin to any computer and change the machine’s boot from USB driver, you will see the Windows 8 boot and configuration process, and finally you can see the Windows 8 interface!

(BTW: If your USB is not perfect, the Windows 8 settings process still slow)

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