How (and Why) to Run Portable Versions of Windows

A pair of Zune and Microsoft brand USB keys

If you travel frequently but do not want to lug a laptop, or if you regularly work with missing applications for your computer, you should consider using Windows Laptop. With Windows Mobile, you have less to carry and all your preferences are with you.

Why you might want Windows Laptop

Suitcase on wheels on a luggage rack at the airport terminalCatwalkPhotos / Shutterstock

Traveling is a pain, especially in flight. Your hand luggage is limited and your luggage can increase the cost of flights. The more you take, the more you'll regret traveling, especially if you have to travel long distances. Even if you do not travel long distances regularly if you regularly work with different computers as part of your career, you often end up without the tools you need and sometimes the inability to change preferences that facilitate your workflow. working.

You can solve all this by placing Windows on a USB flash drive. By creating a portable copy of Windows and then booting from that USB drive, you will have your personal computer with your applications, preferences, and passwords in a device smaller than one pound and small enough to fit in your pocket.

Unfortunately, the official "Windows To Go" feature of Microsoft is only for users. Windows Enterprise and requires a certified USB key (which are expensive). We have detailed a method around thisbut it's complicated and involves working in the command line. You can use VirtualBox Portable, but this requires the installation of the VM software and the operating system.

If you want an alternative with less overhead, Rufus and WinToUSB are free in most cases and easy to use with a plug. With WinToUSB, you will have to pay if you want to install Windows 10 1809, this is the Updated October 2018. Rufus does not offer the possibility to install 1809 at all. Alternatively, you can download Windows 1803 using the Microsoft Windows and Office ISO Download Tool. Just download and run the program, choose Windows 10, and then choose the appropriate Windows 10 1803 option.

Of the two, Rufus is the best option because you do not have to pay for compatibility with both UEFI and legacy computers. You will want this to work with both WinToUSB taxes for this feature.

What you will need to get started

For this process to work, you will need some elements:

Option 1: Install Windows on a USB drive with Rufus

To begin, you must download Rufus and throw it. Rufus is a portable application, so it does not need to be installed.

In Rufus, select the USB device on which you want to install Windows in the "Device" box. Click "Select" and point Rufus to the Windows ISO from which you are going to install it.

Rufus dialog with Device drop-down list and selection button

Once you have chosen your ISO, click on the "Image option" box and select "Windows To Go".

The Rufus dialog box with image option has been replaced by Windows To Go.

Click on "Partition Diagram" and select "MBR". Finally, click on "Target System" and select "BIOS or UEFI".

Click the "Start" button when you are done. Rufus will format your drive and install Windows.

Rufus dialog with MBR, Bios or UEFI and call start button

Wait until the end of the process, remove safely the USB key of your PC and you can now boot it on any PC.

Once you are on a computer on which you want to launch your copy of Windows, you must restart, access the BIOS and choose the following option: start USB devices.

RELATED: How to start your computer from a disk or USB stick

Option 2: Create a Windows Player with WinToUSB

The first step is to download and install WinToUSB. It has a free version and, if you are installing Windows 10 version 1803 (the Updated April 2018), that's all you need. Once you have installed it, launch it (you will find its shortcut named "Hasleo WinToUSB" in your Start menu) and accept the UAC (User Account Control) prompt that appears.

Once WinToUSB open, you have two choices. You can clone your current system to USB (which will give you a copy of your settings, preferences, etc.), or you can choose to create a new copy of Windows from an iso. To clone however, you will need a larger USB drive (at least equal to the current space), so we will focus on creating a new copy of Windows.

Click the icon that looks like a file with a magnifying glass in the upper right corner of the window, to the right of the Image File box.

WinToUSB program with an arrow pointing to the navigation button

Access your Windows ISO file and open it. On the next screen, select the version of Windows for which you have a key (probably Home or Pro) and click "Next".

WinToUSB dialog box, choice of an operating system

Click the down arrow to the right of the path box and select your USB key. If you do not see it, try clicking the Refresh button to the right of the down arrow.

WinToUSB dialog box selecting a USB drive

A warning and formatting dialog box will appear. Do not worry: Official WinToUSB documentation says that you can ignore the warning about slow speeds if you see it. If you are using a fast USB 3.0 drive or a Windows To Go certified drive, you can not even see the warning.

Choose the "MBR for BIOS" option and click "Yes". If you have paid for the advanced features, you can use "MBR for bios and UEFI", which will be compatible with UEFI and old systems.

WinToUSB will suggest partitions according to your choices. Choose the option "Legacy" and click "Next."

That's all. WinToUSB will execute the installation process and will prompt you at the end. Safely remove the USB drive and take it with you.

Once you are on a computer where you want to launch your copy of Windows, you must reboot, access the BIOS, and choose the option to boot USB devices.

Use a calculation key when only one monitor is available

Intel Compute StickIntel

Here is the disadvantage: you will need a computer wherever you go. And this computer must allow you to boot from USB devices, which is not always possible. If you know it's not an option but a TV or monitor with HDMI input and a keyboard and mouse input is available, you can use Intel Compute Stick.

The Intel Compute Stick plugs into an HDMI port and runs a full copy of 32-bit Windows. They have USB ports and a power port. They use a weak processor (usually Atom or Core M3) and usually only have 32 or 64 GB of built-in storage. They are limited and you will want to keep that in mind. But they are not much bigger than a USB key, and you just need the monitor, the keyboard and the mouse.

Whichever method you choose, plan accordingly. Make sure the material is available wherever you are. Be aware that in the end, Windows will not run as fast from a USB drive as from a normal internal drive. But at least you will have the programs and settings you want.

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