Windows to Go in all versions of Windows 7/8

Windows To Go is a new feature in Windows 8 Enterprise that allows Windows 8 Enterprise to boot and run from mass storage devices such as USB flash drives and external hard disk drives.

Using Windows to Go feature you can boot to Windows directly from USB media without having to install it on to your internal hard disk. This feature also allows you to carry your installation of Windows on your USB media and use it on any computer.

Unfortunately Microsoft has enabled this feature only for Windows 8 Enterprise Edition.

However there is a way to install all versions on Windows 7 and Windows 8 to a USB Flash Drive or an external USB Hard Drive and boot Windows directly from it. This method uses a tool called WinNTSetup created by JFX @ MSFN

There are two ways of installing Windows 7/8 to USB Storage Media.

  1. Format and create a minimum of 16GB partition on your USB Media and Install Windows in this partition.
  2. Create a Virtual Hard Disk (VHD File) in your USB media and install Windows in this Virtual Hard Disk.

This tutorial describes both ways of installing Windows. However I recommend the second method wherein we install Windows to a Virtual Hard Disk. This method saves you the trouble of backing up the data on your USB Storage Media and formatting it. Backing up and formatting can be a very big problem if you have 500GB or 1TB external USB Hard Disk filled with lots of data.


I highly recommend using the 32bit version of Windows as it is more portable. 64 bit versions of Windows do not boot on 32bit computers.However 32 bit versions of Windows boot on both 32bit and 64 bit computers.

Enable Windows To Go in Windows 7

With Windows 7 SP1, there is an easier way to install Windows 7 to a USB Hard Disk or USB Flash Drive.

This was discovered by cdob at Reboot

It boils down to two registry keys, which are present in Windows 8 to enable Windows To Go feature. This feature was present in Windows 7, but was never activated.

reg.exe add HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control /f /v BootDriverFlags /t REG_DWORD /d 0x6
reg.exe add HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\PnP /f /v PollBootPartitionTimeout /t REG_DWORD /d 15000

So inorder to use these new registry settings and install Windows 7 to a USB Hard Disk or Flash Drive, you can use a Tool called WinNTSetup

Install and Boot Window 7/8 to USB Drive

  1. Insert your Windows installation DVD or mount Windows Installation ISO using ImDisk.
  2. Download and extract Run WinNTSetup2_x86.exe as Administrator.
  3. Select the location of the install.wim file – choose the the sources folder in your Windows Installation DVD or mounted ISO. Select location of Boot Drive – Your USB Hard Disk. Select location of the Installation drive – Your USB Hard Disk or VHD Drive.Windows To Go - WinNNTSetup
  4. You can choose to create a VHD here.
  5. Choose the Edition of Windows
  6. Tick Mount Installation Drive as and select C:
  7. You can also enable some useful settings by clicking on the Tweaks Button.
  8. Click on Setup and tick Enable Native USB Boot of Windows 7
  9. It takes some time to install. After installation restart the computer and boot from your USB Hard Disk.
  10. Windows installation starts up and you have to complete all the installation steps.You will have to boot from your USB Hard Disk if the Windows Installation restarts the computer.

Install and Boot Windows 7/8 from VHD on USB Drive

In Step 3 in the above instructions you can choose to create a Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) on your USB Drive and install Windows to the VHD.

  1. Click on VHDCreate
  2. Give a filename for the VHD File and select location as your USB Hard Drive. Enter the desired size of the virtual Hard Disk
    Choose Fixed Size(Recommended)
  3. The VHD will be created and mounted as Z drive.Enter this drive letter in Select location of the Installation drive.

Important notes regarding installing and booting Windows 7 from USB Hard Disk

Installing and booting Windows 7 is not as easy as it is to do with Windows 8. This because Windows 7 does not officially support booting from USB. So the following points have to be kept in mind while installing and booting Windows 7 from a USB Hard Disk.

  • Windows 7 does not support USB 3.0 out of the box. Hence Windows 7 will have to be booted from a USB 2.0 port.
  • Windows 7 does not create Pagefile.sys on the USB Hard Disk. If the computer that you are booting has an internal hard disk, then pagefile.sys is created on the internal hard disk. If it does not have an internal hard disk, then Windows will warn you that it cannot create a pagefile as it will not create a pagefile on a ‘removable’ disk. This problem can be overcome by using a Filter Driver like DiskMOD to force Windows to create pagefile.sys on a USB Hard Drive.
  • USB Flash Drives are very slow. It takes a long time to install and run Windows from a USB Flash Drive. I highly recommend using a USB Hard Disk.
  • Windows 7 is not completely portable. You may have activation and driver problems when booting on different computers.

You can make Windows 7 more portable by using the bootable USB Driver stack from Windows Embedded Standard 7 with SP1.
You can get more details at the following link




About the Author: Bharat Balegere

Bharat Balegere is a 27 year old blogger from Bengaluru. He is a technology enthusiast and loves tinkering with computers and usb drives.

4 Comments + Add Comment

  • I tried this but it didn’t work.
    I installed to an NTFS external USB HDD. The HDD booted to ‘Starting Windows’ then Win7 animated flag icon – Setup is starting services but then said ‘Windows could not complete the installation’. I used Win 7 Sp1 Ult as source. I tried several times incl vhd install and all with the same result?

  • Windows 7 32 bit or 64bit ?

    Did you tick Enable native USB Boot of Windows 7 ?

    I will investigate this weekend.

  • yes, that is already ticked in latest version anyway.

  • Win 7 Sp1 32-bit

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