Do Not Install. Run a Portable Version of Windows 8 from a USB/External Drive

I am not talking about how to create a bootable  USB drive of Windows 8, which can be used as an installation media. There are ways to do that. All I am telling is how to run a portable version of Windows 8 from a USB drive on any computer. Precisely, a windows 8 (or 8.1) ready USB for just plug and play.

Before we start, I want to make my words pretty clear that, we are going to install Windows 8 (or 8.1) on a USB or external hard drive so we can run this on any computer we want. This is a whole different workaround from installing windows on a computer using a bootable USB drive. Even on Mac powered devices you can plug and run Windows 8 (or 8.1) using that USB or external hard drive.

The Enterprise version of Windows 8.1 has a feature namely, ‘Windows To Go‘, which lets you install a portable version of it on some ‘certified’ flash drives. Most of us don’t have these expensive gears. In spite of having this jinx, we can still test the fun with any version of Windows 8 or 8.1 using WinToUSB, a small utility for Windows.

Now, simply ready those things you will need for preparing the portable version of Windows 8 on a USB drive. The requirements list is very short. You will need a Windows 8 (or 8.1) ISO image or an Installation disk, a USB 2.0 (preferably 3.0 for faster operations) or an external hard drive and a copy of WinToUSB utility.

Lets start the real fun. Firstly, download the WinToUSB utility and install the same on your computer. Then run the utility as ‘Administrator’. I have used a ISO image of Windows 8.1 pro version in this workaround.


Simply, choose the required ISO image file you want and hit the ‘Next’ button. Now, select the destination USB memory disk you have plugged in. Select the System and Boot partitions on the disk. If you are not familiar with these phrases,do not worry. These are not that hard to understand.

Simply hit ‘Windows+ R’ to open the ‘Run’ window and within the text field type in ‘diskmgmt.msc’ and hit ‘Enter’ key.


A new window will open like in the screenshot under containing all the info about your hard drive partitions with plugged in removable storage if any. Now, on this screenshot you can see that I have marked out the system and Boot partitions.


System partition is an essential and reserved part of an installation disk where the computer boots from. Boot partition is that part of an installation disk on which Windows files are installed containing a Windows files directory. Under Windows both the partitions can not be formatted. I will not going to dig deeper than this as it’s not the main goal of this article.

Now, after selecting the system and boot partitions of your USB or external hard drive, hit the ‘Next’ button to initiate the installation process. Make sure that you have a minimum of 15 GB free space in both the cases on your external drives as the installation will consume close to 12 GB space. The total installation process will take around half an hour to complete depending on the speed of your devices.

Once the installation process completes, you are done. Now, your USB or external device is ready for the fun ahead.

You must be thinking about driver issues now. Thankfully, it will take care of these.

Simply, plug this external drive to any computer. Restart the computer and set this external drive as the first bootable media from BIOS settings. That’s it. Take a breath while it installs all the necessary drivers, automatically. Gradually, it will complete the booing process and you will have an all new Windows 8 machine. Simply, set it up as you would do with a new one. Windows 8 is all yours.

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