Windows 8.1/10 to go – on non-certified USB device

One of the disappointing things about windows 8 to go is its disappointingly small number of certified USB devices that the wizard interface lets you use…. so, lets circumvent the rubbish that Microsoft put in to ensure decent performance… then we can abuse them for the poor performance of our non certified devices!

If you have the option, run this process from a Windows 8 or Windows 10 box rather than windows 7, it’s slightly easier.

  • Grab a 32GB USB key and plug it in
  • Open a command prompt
  • Diskpart
    • List disk (record the disk number of the USB key)
    • select disk x (where x is the disk number)
    • clean
    • Create partition primary
    • format fs=ntfs quick
    • active
    • exit
  • Mount your Windows 8.1u1 enterprise iso…. or if you have an already extracted source, all the better
  • If you are running these commands from a windows 7 box
    • use GImageX from https://www.autoitscript.com/site/autoit-tools/gimagex/ (Easier if you don’t have imageX already available)
      • Run GImageX.exe
      • Go to the “apply tab”
      • Select Z:\sources\install.wim as the source
      • Select E:\ as the destination
      • Apply
    • Or use , use imagex (from the Windows AIK)
    • Imagex /apply Z:\sources\install.wim 1 E:
  • If you are running on Windows 8 or above
    • dism /Apply-Image /imagefile:Z:\sources\install.wim /index:1 /ApplyDir:E:\
  • Substitute Z: for the DVD drive (or your extracted source)
  • Substitute E: for the drive letter of the USB key
  • Copy the boot files using the command E:\Windows\system32\bcdboot.exe E:\windows /s E:\ /f ALL

You’re all done.

Plug the USB key into a machine, use the boot selection menu to boot from it, and then, depending on the speed of your USB key, wait a while.

 

Utilising a USB 3 port with a fast USB 3 key will obviously improve your performance and if your machine only has USB 2 ports, don’t even bother trying. Quite a few machines have a mix of USB 2 and USB 3 ports. The USB 3 ports can be identified by the “SS” logo such as

SSUSB

However it is also common for no identification to be present, in these cases this application can help identify which ports are which – http://www.uwe-sieber.de/usbtreeview_e.html

 

Realistically, there is a reason (outside of charging ludicrous amounts of cash) that only certain drives are certified. Some of the drives I did this with just were not worth the effort, others performed OK, but still were not great. Unfortunately, finding a certified device from a local supplier, for me at least, isn’t possible – and unless you are buying them en-masse for a corporate rollout, purchasing certified devices from online retailers becomes an expensive exercise.

The commoditisation of USB 3.1 and USB 3.1 devices will assist in making this less of an issue – and USB 3.1 motherboards are just starting to pop up now.

If I find, or anyone else has found a non-certified device that performs well – please let us all know in the comments! (and I will continue to look for one)