Installing WindowsToGo on USB Drive for Mac

Developer Support

App Dev Manager Al Mata shares tips on running Windows on a Mac using Windows to Go.

Like many of you, I purchased a Mac with 256GB of storage and need to run Windows. The current SSD on the Mac doesn’t have enough space so I need to run Windows via an external USB drive for business purposes or testing. This article is written to show you how to run Windows on a Mac that doesn’t have enough local storage by working around issue using an external USB drive and Windows To Go product to create image. This configuration is not supported or been tested by Apple or Microsoft. This article serves as a workaround for testing purposes and introduces you to the Windows To Go product.

What you will need:

  1. A PC with a current Windows 10 OS version running.
  2. A UBS Portal SSD Drive like one in picture. Ideally and SSD with minimum 512mb transfer R/W rate for decent data transfer. Look at supported Windows To Go drives below as these are the only official drives supported by Microsoft.
  3. A Windows Key for Volume Activation Mechanism such as Active Directory.
  4. A Mac
  5. A Thunderbolt 3 to USB dongle if you don’t have a USB port.

Reference this article to understand Windows To Go and how to create image –

What is Windows To Go?

Windows To Go is a feature of Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education that enables users to boot Windows from a USB-connected external drive. Windows To Go drives can use the same image that enterprises use for their desktops and laptops, and can be managed the same way. Offering a new mobility option, a Windows To Go workspace is not intended to replace desktops or laptops or supplant other mobility offerings.

Enterprise customers utilizing Volume Activation Windows licensing will be able to deploy USB drives provisioned with Windows To Go workspace. These drives will be bootable on multiple compatible host computers.

Compatible host computers are computers that are:

  • USB boot capable
  1. Have USB boot enabled in the firmware
  2. Meet Windows 7 minimum system requirements
  3. Have compatible processor architectures (for example, x86 or AMD64) as the image used to create the Windows To Go workspace. ARM is not a supported processor for Windows To Go.
  4. Have firmware architecture that is compatible with the architecture of the image used for the Windows To Go workspace

Booting a Windows To Go workspace requires no specific software on the host computer. PCs certified for Windows 7 and later can host Windows To Go.

Current Supported Windows To Go Drives:

(Using a USB drive that has not been certified is not supported)

The high-level important things you need to know before installing Windows on a USB drive is the following:

  1. You need a Windows ISO and a running Windows 10 PC to run the Windows To Go assistant to create a Windows USB image drive.
  2. You cannot upgrade a Windows To Go installation on a USB drive to a newer build using Windows Setup as Windows doesn’t allow Windows installations on USB drives. You will need to backup your data and install new version of Windows when you need to upgrade to newer version. A fresh new image will need to be created for big Windows updates.
  3. You need a USB drive with minimum specs indicated by Microsoft to get good performance.

High Level of Steps Needed:

  1. Use the Apple BootCamp assistant to create a Windows Volume License image Windows Partition and image. Reference article to install Windows on the Mac. You will need 32GB minimum of space on current drive to install Windows. This is required as you will need the Windows 10 image to run the Windows To Go wizard on the partition and get the BootCamp drivers.
  2. Boot into the Windows OS as per Apple article in step 1 and copy the BootCamp drivers to a USB or external location.
  3. On the Mac running current version of Windows 10 connect your Windows To Go USB drive (Note: all data will be erased) that is going to run Windows 10 image.
  4. Use this article to run the Windows To Go Wizard step by step instructions to configure the USB drive to run Windows.
  5. Once you create your Windows image you will need boot into it (Restart Mac and select <option> button at boot to select image to boot) and need to install the Apple BootCamp drivers. Use the BootCamp drivers on the USB drive or external location and copy them to the Windows OS on the USB drive.
  6. Install the BootCamp drivers for all the Mac hardware and you are done.

Post any questions on blog feedback below and I will reply to your inquiries.


1 comment

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  • James Wilson 0

    You don’t reference the Startup Security Utility, users with Mac computers that have the Apple T2 Security Chip will need to change the default settings.

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