Making A Bootable Windows To Go USB Device with Windows 8.1


Windows To Go is a feature only in Windows 8 that enhances the mobility of Windows. Like its name says, it puts the whole Windows 8 system with data onto a single USB storage device to make it as a complete mobile operating system that you can boot it up on any of Windows-ready computers, regardless of the running operating system.


In Windows 8.1, Microsoft enhances this cool feature to make it even better by enabling Windows Store access, allowing to download and install apps onto the Windows To Go drive right from the network. It truly makes Windows To Go a workable solution for mobile use.

Building a Windows To Go USB device for Windows 8.1 is also not so difficult. It’s done in the steps exactly like what we explained in Windows 8. In case you missed, let’s take look again.

Things we need

There are a few things we need to prepare before starting building Windows To Go drive.

  1. A 16GB or up USB devices, either flash drive or external hard drive. The larger storage the drive has, the better. It’s also worth mentioning that the performance on an external HD is much better than on a flash drive.
  2. A Windows 8.1 ISO image file. What we really need here is to access to a file named install.wim located in \sources folder. You can mount the 8.1 Image file in Windows 8, browse through \sources folder in Windows Explorer, and copy install.wim file to a convenient location, for example, c:\temp folder.
  3. The ImageX.exe file from Windows 7 Automated Installation Kit.
  4. Last, you will need a PC that runs Windows.

That’s all we need. And let’s start building your very first Windows To Go drive.

3 Steps to go

Step 1: prepare the USB drive to make it bootable

Open Command Prompt Window in Admin (press Win+X and select Command Prompt (admin) on Windows 8), type diskpart, and press Enter.

diskpart>list disk
diskpart>select disk n  (make sure replacing n with the number shown from the last step)
diskpart>create partition primary
diskpart>format fs=ntfs quick

That’s it. You now have a device that’s ready to put Windows 8 image on.

Step 2: use ImageX to apply the image

In the same Command Prompt window that has the Admin rights, navigate to the location that stores both ImageX.exe and Install.wim files, and type the following command (Figure 1):

ImageX /apply install.wim 1 h:\

Assume that H: drive is the drive for the USB device.

Figure 1 - use ImageX to apply image file to USB
Figure 1 – use ImageX to apply image file to USB

This step may take at least 30 minutes to finish, depending on what kind of USB device you are using.

Step 3: apply the boot record

In the same Command Prompt window, type the following command to apply the Windows 8 boot record to the device (Figure 2):

bcdboot.exe h:\windows /s h: /f all

Again, H: drive is the drive for the USB device.

Figure 2 - apply boot record
Figure 2 – apply boot record

That’s it.

Now, reboot your computer and select Boot to USB from the boot option and complete the final setup to get your Windows To Go ready.

/header photo credit: Technodify/


  1. Hello everyone, just wanted to let you know that you don’t have to use imageX to apply image on win8+, you can use DISM this way:

    in cmd (admin):

    dism /apply-image /imagefile:c:pathtoinstall.wim /index:1 /applydir:X:

    where “c:pathtoinstall.wim” should be poiting at your install.wim file and “X” needs to be replaced by your W2G device’s letter !
    Have fun!

    • Awesome Spangenhelm! You got me unstuck for Windows 8.1, Thank you!

      I was getting the same error that BigBaug described 4 months ago on this thread.

      [ 0% ] Applying progress
      [ ERROR ] e:Program FilesWindowsAppsMicrosoft.BingFinance_2013.809.632.3676_n
      eutral_~_8wekyb3d8bbwemicrosoft.system.package.metadata (Error = 5)

      Error restoring image.

      Access is denied.

  2. Perhaps this should be updated to reflect Windows 8.1

    Win 8.1 does include an “install.wim” file, rather an “install.esd” file. This guide will only work for Windows 8, not 8.1

  3. Hey guys! I get the same issue as JoeJoe. Windows To Go 8.1 (March update) x64 Entrprise hangs almost immediately when starting boot. Tried with different drives and PCs. What I saw – the loader reads only one-two files, not much. Indicator blinks less then a second. Then usb drive disconnects (indicator turns off). Then connects again, but nothing reading or writing – just hanging and showing logo with spinning wheel. I think it’s loader problem, not windows itself. Somebody solved this yet?


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