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How (and why) portable Windows versions are running



  A Pair of Zune and Microsoft-branded USB Drives

If you travel frequently, do not carry a laptop, or regularly work on missing applications, consider portable Windows. With portable windows, you have less to carry and all your preferences come with you.

Why you want portable windows

  Luggage on a luggage belt at the airport terminal
CatwalkPhotos / Shutterstock

Travel is a pain, especially when flying. You have limited carry-on luggage and your suitcases can increase airfare. The more you take, the more you will regret traveling, especially if you have to travel long distances. Even if you do not regularly commute longer distances, consistently using different computers throughout your career, you will often find yourself without the tools you need, and sometimes the inability to change the settings required for your workflow.

You can Solve all this by placing Windows on a USB flash drive. If you make a portable copy of Windows and then boot from that USB drive, you have your PC with your applications, settings, and passwords on a device that's less than a pound and small enough to fit in your pocket.

Unfortunately, the official "Windows To Go" feature of Microsoft only applies to Windows Enterprise and requires a certified USB flash drive (which is expensive). We have described a method in detail here, but it is complicated and requires command lines. You can use Portable VirtualBox, but it requires the installation of VM software and an operating system on which to run it.

If you're looking for an alternative with less effort, Rufus and WinToUSB are free for most of the time and can be used with a single catch. With WinToUSB you have to pay if you want to install Windows 10 1809. This is the October 2018 update. Rufus does not offer the option to install 1809 at all. Alternatively, you can download Windows 1803 with the Microsoft Windows and Office ISO Download Tool. Just download the program, run it, select Windows 10, and then select the appropriate option for Windows 10 1803.

Of the two, Rufus is the better option, as you will not have to pay for compatibility with modern UEFI and older versions computers. You should be able to work with both and WinToUSB fees for this feature.

What you need to get started

For this process to work, you will need some options:

Option 1: Install Windows on a USB drive with Rufus

To start, you must download Rufus and start. Rufus is a portable app and therefore does not need to be installed.

In Rufus, select the USB device on which you want to install Windows in the "Device" field. Click Select and point Rufus to the Windows ISO from which you will install it.

 Rufus Dialog with Device drop-down menu and radio button

After selecting your ISO, click on the "Image option" box and select "Windows To Go".

 Rufus Dialog changed with drop-down menu for image options in Windows To Go

Click "Partition Scheme" and select "MBR". Finally, click on "Target System" and select "BIOS or UEFI".

Click the "Start" button when done. Rufus formats your drive and installs Windows.

 Rufus Dialog with MBR, Bios or UEFI and Start Button

Wait for the process to complete and safely remove the USB drive from your PC. and you can now start it on any PC.

If you are on a computer from which you want to start your Windows copy, you must reboot, enter the BIOS, and select the option to boot USB devices.

RELATED: How to Boot Your Computer from a CD or USB Drive

Option 2: Create a Windows Drive with WinToUSB

The first step is Download and install WinToUSB. There is a free version, and if you install Windows 10 version 1803 (April 2018 update), you will only need it Once you have it installed, start it (you will find the "Hasleo WinToUSB" link in your Start menu) and vote to the following user account control prompt.

Once WinToUSB is open, you have two options. You can clone your current system to USB (giving you a copy of your settings, settings, etc.), or you can choose to make a new copy of Windows from an ISO. However, to clone, you need a larger USB drive (at least equal to the current computer space), so we focus on making a new copy of Windows.

Click the icon that looks like a magnified file Glass in the upper right corner of the window, to the right of the image file.

 WinToUSB program with arrow pointing to the button

Navigate to your Windows ISO file and open it. On the next screen, select the version of Windows for which you have a key (probably Home or Pro) and click Next.

 Dialog Box

Click the down arrow to the right of the path field and select your USB drive. If you do not see it, click the refresh button to the right of the down arrow.

 WinToUSB USB Drive Selection Dialog Box

A warning and formatting dialog box appears. Do not worry, the official WinToUSB documentation says you can ignore the slow speed warning when you see it. If you are on a USB 3.0 high-speed drive or a Windows To Go-certified drive, the warning may not be displayed.

Select the option "MBR for BIOS" and click "Yes". If you have paid For advanced features, you can use MBR for Bios and UEFI, which is compatible with both modern UEFI and legacy systems.

WinToUSB proposes partitions according to your selection. Select the option "Legacy" and click on "Next".

That's it. WinToUSB performs the installation process and prompts you when you are done. Safely remove the USB stick and take it with you.

If you are on a computer from which you want to start your Windows copy, you must reboot, enter the BIOS, and select the option to boot from USB devices.

Using a Compute Stick When Only One Monitor Is Available

  Intel Compute Stick
Intel

Here's the downside: You need a computer wherever you go. On this computer you need to boot from USB devices, which is not always possible. If you know that this is not an option, but a TV or monitor with HDMI output and keyboard and mouse inputs is available, you can use an Intel Compute Stick.

The Intel Compute Stick connects to an HDMI port and makes a full copy of 32-bit Windows. They have USB ports and a power connector. They use a weak processor (usually Atom or Core M3) and usually have only 32 or 64 GB of onboard memory. They are limited and you want to take that into account. But they're not much bigger than a USB drive, and you just need the monitor, keyboard, and mouse to get started. Make sure the hardware is available everywhere. Note that Windows ultimately does not run as fast from a USB flash drive as it does from a regular internal drive. At least you have the desired programs and settings.


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