Windows 8 First Contact and first Problems: Installing Windows 8 To Go

One of the really cool features of the new Windows release is the possibility to install it on a removable disk and have a full blown Windows 8 to go. However, taking a closer look I found out that there are a couple of issues.

My prerequisites:

  • A Windows 7 Host System on my Lenovo Notebook
  • A Sony 64GB USB Stick
  • A Windows 8 Enterprise Installation File

I followed the instructions provided by chip.de:

http://www.chip.de/artikel/Windows-To-Go-Windows-8-auf-dem-USB-Stick-installieren_54945116.html

The installation succeeded without any issues. Windows booted from the stick and recognized all the available hardware. So far, so good!

The problems started when I tried to install Visual Studio 2012. The installer refused to start, shouting: “The path entered cannot be on a removable drive.”

(See here: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/heaths/archive/2012/08/22/visual-studio-2012-can-only-install-to-certified-windows-to-go-drives.aspx)

It turns out that Windows 8 to go can only be installed on certain “certified” usb sticks. The list can be found here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh831833.aspx Of course, my stick was not on the list.

Only these sticks will report to Windows as fixed drives (Showing “Basic” in Disk Management). All others will show up as removable and therefore not support certain scenarios, such as the installation of VS2012. Damn! So close!

“Challenge Accepted” is what I told myself at that moment. Some research turned up that there is a so called “Removable Media Bit (RMB)” that decides if you are IN or OUT.

These are the options (Disclaimer: I describe how I understood it should work. There might be slight discrepancies to how it really works):

1. Buy one of the supported usb sticks.

Nope, not interested!

2. Hack your usb stick and flip the RMB

There are several ways to go from here. The easiest is:

2a) Use BootIt.exe

Download Bootit from http://www.getusb.info/flip-your-bit-usb-utility-to-make-local-drive/ and just click “Flip removable bit”. Whether it works or not depends on the brand and type of your stick. It confirmed flipping to me but in the end did not work with my stick.

2b) Use a Mass Production (MP) Tool

Follow the instructions at http://superuser.com/questions/391176/flipping-the-removable-media-bit-alternatives-to-bootit.

Short version: Download ChipGenius and extract VID and PID identifiers from your stick. Go to http://flashboot.ru/iflash.html and search for a Mass Production tool for your exact chipset. Use it to fiddle with your stick and flip the RMB. (Warning: This is where you might destroy your stick).

3. Modify the device driver that is used for the stick

The Windows device driver for your usb stick reads the RMB and communicates it to Windows, I think. A driver and instructions to modify it can be found here: http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1655684

You might need to sign your driver or run your host windows in test mode in order to allow the modified driver to be executed.

4. Install Win8 as a bootable virtual hard disk (*.vhd) to your stick

This seems to be the most reasonable approach: http://www.rmprepusb.com/tutorials/win8vhdonusb

And Scott Hanselman explains why it is cool: http://www.hanselman.com/blog/HowToGuideToInstallingAndBootingWindows8ConsumerPreviewOffAVHDVirtualHardDisk.aspx

Just install Windows 8 into a bootable virtual disk (*.vhd), store it on the stick and modify the boot instructions of your host. They say that the partition should be recognized as a fixed drive.

 

I tried all of the approaches mentioned but none of them worked for me.

I either got stuck in the middle or did not get any positive results. Due to the lack of success and some additional problems I decided to suspend my Windows 8 To Go project and continue with local installations. See my lessons learned post for further information.