Hard to believe it’s been just over a year that Windows To Go has been generally available. I remember watching some of the very early demos dating back to //build in September of 2011 and seeing the excitement generated by this great feature. To be honest, a quick demo of Windows To Go to those seeing it for the very first time still creates quite a bit of excitement.

For those that may not know what I’m talking about, Windows To Go is Windows 8.1 Enterprise deployed on a certified Windows To Go drive, versus installed directly on the hard drive of the host machine. Simply insert the drive into a compatible device, power on and boot into your own personalized Windows 8.1 Enterprise experience. Windows To Go is perfect for a variety of scenarios, including BYOD, supporting contractors or vendor workforces, or working from home. For a broader look at scenarios and use cases, visit our Windows To Go technology page.

Wondering if this is a stripped down version of Windows? Or how Windows To Go differs from Windows on your hard drive, or what works and what doesn’t? Well, with Windows 8.1, these are pretty simple questions to answer: almost everything you know and love about Windows, you can now know and love about Windows To Go. DirectAccess, check. BitLocker, check. Domain Join, Group Policy, BranchCache, check, check and check. And new for Windows 8.1 and different from Windows 8, the Windows Store is enabled by default.

Wait, what? Is Craig saying, “I can now access the Windows Store from my Windows To Go drive, purchase and install apps, as well as keep all of my apps updated, just like on my tablet or desktop?” Correct. While this is not possible on a Windows To Go drive running Windows 8 Enterprise, it was a key focus area of support in Windows 8.1. Now just to note, there are a few differences to be aware of between Windows To Go and a typical installation of Windows.

In addition to new Windows Store access capabilities, a Windows To Go image running Windows 8.1 is capable of booting from a composite drive that contains a built-in smart card. These composite drives have both a mass storage drive and smart card together in one device. The smart card can be enumerated when booting from the Windows To Go drive or by connecting the device to another host machine. If you are interested in specific information about smart cards in Windows 8.1, see What's New in Smart Cards. It’s important to note this new functionality requires both Windows 8.1 Enterprise and a Windows To Go certified composite drive. The first drives passing certification and supporting these requirements are the SPYRUS WorkSafe and WorkSafe Pro drives.

While the above is a brief description of Windows To Go and new features with Windows 8.1 Enterprise, I urge you to head on over to TechNet where there is a treasure trove of great IT Pro information available related to Windows To Go. And have fun testing, trialing and deploying Windows To Go.

  1. Windows To Go Feature Overview
  2. Windows To Go Demo
  3. Prepare Your Organization for Windows To Go
  4. Deployment Considerations for Windows To Go
  5. Deploy Windows To Go
  6. Using Windows To Go
  7. Security and Data Protection Considerations for Windows To Go
  8. Best Practice Recommendations for Windows To Go
  9. Hardware Considerations and Windows To Go Certified Drives
  10. Windows To Go Frequently Asked Questions
  11. Tips for Configuring Your BIOS Settings to Boot from Windows To Go

This blog post is part of a series of guest posts we’re publishing from Windows 8.1 experts across Microsoft. – Ben

Craig Ashley
Senior Product Marketing Manager
Windows Commercial