How to create a portable Windows 10 OS on a USB flash drive.
In this guide you will learn how to create a fully functional, portable Windows 10 OS - Windows To Go - running on a USB flash drive, which you can carry around in your pocket and use on multiple different computers, without losing your data.
- A PC that currently has Windows 10 installed.
- A 32GB or larger flash drive (64GB+ is ideal). which is USB 3.0 or higher and has read speeds of 100Mbps or faster. Any less than 100Mbps and you will be hampered by slowness and every porgram will take half an hour to launch. Your typical USB flash drive will most likely not be capable - most standard flash drive read speeds do not exceed (or even come close to) any more than 20Mbps. If you are unsure on which flash drive to use, we recommend the SanDisk Ultra Flair. It has read speeds of up to 150Mbps.
Prepare a Windows 10 ISO:
1) Download Microsoft's Media Creation Tool from this link. Save it to your computer.
2) Launch the Media Creation Tool.
3) Press "Accept".
4) Chose "Create Installation Media".
5) Unless you need specific options, check "Use the recommended options for this PC".
6) Chose "ISO File".
7) The download will take about 15 minutes. Be patient and close the Media Creation Tool when it is finished.
Flash the Windows image:
1) Download Rufus from this link.
2) Plug in your USB flash drive and run Rufus.
3) If you have multiple USB drives inserted, select the target one from the dropdown.
4) Change "Boot Selection" dropdown "Disk Or ISO Image", then use the "Select" button to find the Windows 10 ISO.
5) Change "Image Option" to "Windows To Go".
6) Set "Partition Scheme" to "MBR" and "Target System" to "BIOS or UEFI".
7) Set "Volume Label" to a name of your choice. We used "Local Disk".
8) Set "File System" to "NTFS".
9) Click "Start" when ready. You will be prompted to select the edition of Windows 10 you want. If you are unsure which version you need, press WINDOWS KEY+R, then type "msinfo32" into the box. You will be shown a screen, and the top line will say what edition you are using.
10) Press "OK".
11) Now wait patiently while your Windows image is flashed. The installation can take up to 30 minutes.
12) When the flash is finished, unplug the USB drive and power off your PC.
Boot the portable OS:
1) While the computer is off, plug in the USB flash drive.
2) Power on the PC and boot from your USB flash drive. This is usually obtained by pressing a hotkey during initial boot stage. The key is usually one of: ESC, F1, F2, F4, F6, F8, F9, F10, F11, F12, DEL. Every computer is different. You may need to do some research to find the key that is correct for you. On our system, it is F11 to enter the boot menu, from which the USB drive can be selected.
3) The USB will boot and initial setup will begin. This includes loading the correct drivers and files, etc. This takes between 5-10 minutes.
4) Your system will reboot, and you will need to once again boot from your USB flash drive.
5) If done successfully, your OS should eventually land at the Windows setup page. Follow the instructions from there to complete initial setup.
6) Congratulations! Your Windows To Go portable flash drive is ready! Simply plug it in on any computer and boot from USB, and your files and programs will be right there!