What is "Windows to go" ?

Windows to go ( WTG ) is a capability to reimagine possibilities in your enterprise when it comes to addressing BYOD scenarios.

Note - This is an enterprise feature hence will require Windows® 8 Enterprise client to build such scenarios, not applicable for other editions.

WTG is an enterprise feature of Windows® 8 that enables the creation of a Windows To Go workspace that can be booted from a USB-connected external drive on PCs that meet the Windows 7 or Windows 8 certification requirements, regardless of the operating system running on the PC. Windows To Go workspaces can use the same image enterprises use for their desktops and laptops and can be managed the same way. Windows To Go is not intended to replace desktops, laptops or supplant other mobility offerings. Rather, it provides support for efficient use of resources for alternative workplace scenarios.

Enterprises install Windows on a large group of computers either by using configuration management software (such as System Center Configuration Manager), or by using standard Windows 8 deployment tools such as DiskPart, ImageX, and the Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) tool.

These same tools can be used to provision Windows To Go drive, just as you would if you were planning for provisioning a new class of mobile PCs. You can use the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit to review deployment tools available.

Lets understand in what are the use cases where WTG makes sense

The following scenarios are examples of situations in which Windows To Go workspaces provide a solution for an IT implementer:

  • Continuance of operations (COO) In this scenario, selected employees receive a USB drive with a Windows To Go workspace, which includes all of the applications that the employees use at work. The employees can keep the device at home, in a briefcase, or wherever they want to store it until needed. When the users boot their home computer from the USB drive, it will create a corporate desktop experience so that they can quickly start working. On the very first boot, the employee sees that Windows is installing devices; after that one time, the Windows To Go drive boots like a normal computer. If they have enterprise network access, employees can use a virtual private network (VPN) connection or DirectAccess to access corporate resources. If the enterprise network is available, the Windows To Go workspace will automatically be updated using your standard client management processes.
  • Contractors and temporary workers In this situation, an enterprise IT pro or manager would distribute the Windows To Go drive directly to the worker where they can be assisted with any necessary additional user education needs or address any possible compatibility issues. While the worker is on assignment, they can boot their computer exclusively from the Windows To Go drive and run all applications in that environment until the end of the assignment when the device is returned. No installation of software is required on the worker’s personal computer.
  • Managed free seating The employee is issued a Windows To Go drive that is then used with the host computer assigned to that employee for a given session (this could be a vehicle, workspace, or standalone laptop). When the employee leaves the session, the next time they return they use the same USB flash drive but use a different host computer.
  • Work from home In this situation, the Windows To Go drive can be provisioned for employees using various methods including System Center Configuration Manager or other deployment tools and then distributed to employees. The employee is instructed to boot the Windows To Go drive initially at work, which caches the employee’s credentials on the Windows To Go workspace and allows the initial data synchronization between the enterprise network and the Windows To Go workspace. The user can then bring the Windows To Go drive home where it can be used with their home computer, with or without enterprise network connectivity.
  • Travel lightly In this situation you have employees who are moving from site to site, but who always will have access to a compatible host computer on site. Using Windows To Go workspaces allows them to travel without the need to pack their PC.

Note- If the employee wants to work offline for the majority of the time, but still maintain the ability to use the drive on the enterprise network, they should be informed of how often the Windows To Go workspace needs to be connected to the enterprise network. Doing so will ensure that the drive retains its access privileges and the workspace’s computer object is not potentially deleted from Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS).

 

If any of the above scenario makes sense for you, lets understand what to do next to get ready with Windows to go.

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
  • Have USB boot enabled in the firmware
  • Meet Windows 8 minimum system requirements
  • 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.
  • Have firmware architecture that is compatible with the architecture of the image used for the Windows To Go workspace

 

Windows To Go workspace operates just like any other installation of Windows with a few exceptions. These exceptions are:

  • Internal disks are offline. To ensure data isn’t accidentally disclosed, internal hard disks on the host computer are offline by default when booted into a Windows To Go workspace. Similarly if a Windows To Go drive is inserted into a running system the Windows To Go drive will not be listed in Windows Explorer.
  • Trusted Platform Module (TPM) isn’t used. When using BitLocker Drive Encryption a pre-operating system boot password will be used for security rather than the TPM since the TPM is tied to a specific computer and Windows To Go drives will move between computers.
  • Hibernate is disabled by default. To ensure that the Windows To Go workspace is able to move between computers easily, hibernation is disabled by default. Hibernation can be re-enabled by using Group Policy settings. 
  • Windows Recovery Environment isn’t available. In the rare case that you need to recover your Windows To Go drive, you should re-image it with a fresh image of Windows.
  • Push Button Reset isn’t available. Resetting to the manufacturer’s standard for the computer doesn’t really apply when running a Windows To Go workspace, so the feature was disabled.
  • Store is disabled by default. Apps licensed through the store are linked to hardware for licensing. Since Windows To Go is designed to roam to different host PCs access to the store is disabled. You can enable the store if your Windows To Go workspaces won’t be roaming to multiple PC hosts.

  

As you are deciding what to include in your Windows To Go image, be sure to consider the following questions:

  • Are there any drivers that you need to inject into the image?
  • How will data be stored and synchronized to appropriate locations from the USB device?
  • Are there any applications that are incompatible with Windows To Go roaming that should not be included in the image?
  • What should be the architecture of the image - 32bit/64bit?
  • What remote connectivity solution should be supported in the image if Windows To Go is used outside the corporate network?

For more information about designing and planning your Windows To Go deployment, see Prepare Your Organization for Windows To Go

 

Hardware considerations

For USB drives        

The devices listed in this section have been specially optimized and certified for Windows To Go and meet the necessary requirements for booting and running a full version of Windows 8 from a USB drive. The optimizations for Windows To Go include the following:

  • Windows To Go certified flash drives are built for high random read/write speeds and support the thousands of random access I/O operations per second required for running normal Windows workloads smoothly.
  • Windows To Go certified drives have been tuned to ensure they boot and run on hardware certified for use with either Windows 7 or Windows 8.
  • Windows To Go certified drives are built to last. Certified drives are backed with manufacturer warranties and should continue operating under normal usage. Refer to the manufacturer websites for warranty details.

As of today, the following are the USB drives currently certified for use as Windows To Go drives; as more drives are certified for use with Windows To Go this list will be updated:

 

For host computers        

When assessing the use of a PC as a host for a Windows To Go workspace you should consider the following criteria:

  • Hardware that has been certified for use with either Windows 7 or Windows 8 operating systems will work well with Windows To Go.
  • Running a Windows To Go workspace from a computer that is running Windows RT is not a supported scenario.
  • Running a Windows To Go workspace on a Mac computer is not a supported scenario.

 

Step by Step guide on building Windows To Go - http://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/contents/articles/6991.windows-to-go-step-by-step-en-us.aspx