To USB or Not to USB


Windows 8 from a Flash Drive


Windows 8 from a USB 3.0 Flash Drive

At the Build Conference, Microsoft  introduced something called “Windows To Go” 

This lets you boot Windows 8 on a USB Flash Drive, so you no longer have to carry around a whole computer.  You could carry around USB Flash Drive that has your entire Windows 8 workspace, software, music files, browser bookmarks, Work files, and other elements.

So you could have a Computer at Work and a Computer at Home, and you would just carry the USB drive back an forth.  You wouldn’t need to contaminate your home computer with work materials.

So how does this work?

  • You reset your BIOS to boot from USB
    • BIOS is the firmware/software that starts up your computer before the Windows operating system starts
  • Plug in your USB Drive
  • Start up your PC
  • Windows 8 will load from your USB flash drive
    • All your software/applications will be available
    • Files will be stored either on a Windows Live SkyDrive (Windows Cloud I’m guessing this is)
  • When you shutdown, you take everything with you on your drive.

This works with USB 2.0 okay, but it will work better on USB 3.0. It will boot faster.

Win 8 demo on a MacBook

Here’s a demonstration of Windows 8 using Windows To Go on a MacBook run by ExtremeTech

Better on USB 3.0

The Microsoft Speaker at the //Build conference said that the USB experience will be “much enhanced” with USB 3.0.

To me this means it will boot faster and run faster, more like an SSD inside your PC if you have both a USB 3.0 Flash Drive and fast flash memory.  The free USB memory sticks you get today, the cheap ones you get at Target, FNAC, Metro, NOVA, BestBuy, Gome, or Yodobashi Camera.  You need to buy the more expensive drives. 

If you watch the video below, and advance to 27:00 (27 minutes) then you can see what happens when you unplug the USB drive while running Windows off of it. Basically, the PC will give you 60 seconds to re-insert the drive and resume, or it will shut down. You will see that Win 8 resumes cleanly, resuming a video playback, if you re-insert the drive within 60 seconds.

Here are some tips to view the video, in the lower right corner, click “Format”, then choose “Smooth Streaming”, then advance to the time slot of 0:27:00 for the Windows To Go Flash Drive removal and re-insertion.

The Windows USB 3.0 Logo Program has an additional requirement for a USB Windows To Go Drive
It will require that a USB drive can withstand many,many Win 8 file accesses over a 2 year lifetime.  This means it needs to be able to have Win 8 running on the drive and constantly being accessed over time. USB 3.0 Logo Program requirements are discussed at 28:50. on the video above.

For an even better article on the Windows To Go feature running on a USB 3.0 Flash Drive, you can go read the ExtremeTech article here.

Next Week: (Maybe) Pictures of Thunderbolt products.  (Definitely) How USB will save the earth from it’s doom.


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