How to create your own Windows 8 To Go Developer Preview

[German version]Hey, it’s possible! Microsoft teased people a lot at BUILD 2011 with “Windows 8 To Go”. Build attendees received (beside the Samsung Tablet slate) also a 32 GB USB 3.0 Memory Stick, containing a copy of “Windows 8 To Go”. But what’s with the rest of us, not attending the BUILD 2011? The downloadable Windows 8 Developer Preview doesn’t has a Portable Workspace Creator, to build a “Windows 8 To Go” media. So I thought, it would be a good idea, to create my own “Windows 8 To Go” Developer Preview on a USB medium. After I digged a bit around, I was successful to boot a Windows 8 To Go-Developer Preview from a USB hard disk.


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Poor man’s tale – need to do it yourself!

It’s a bit odd, I have no 32 GB USB 3.0 memory stick nor a slate pc – and my desktop computers doesn’t support USB 3.0. Also Windows 8 Developer Preview doesn’t comes with Portable Workspace Creator. But that won’t prevent me, to dig a bit around …

… somehow I gut an early Windows 8 Build 7989  in my fingers – and I still have had an 300 GB USB 2.0 hard disk. Well, the disk was formatted with 3 partitions – but there was no valuable data stores – so I could risk to use that disk for my experiments.

My first attempt, to copy all Portable Workspace Creator files from a former build to Build 8102 failed. The Portable Workspace Creator did not start (I haven’t played around registering the necessary DLLs).

Therefore I booted an installed Windows 8 Build 7989 in Virtualbox. I also mounted the 32 bit ISO file of Build 8102 (Windows 8 Developer Preview) as a CD drive in Virtualbox. And I mounted my USB hard disk (and also a 16 GB USB memory stick).

After that it was sufficient to open the folder Computer, navigate to folder System32 and double click the file pwcreator.exe.

Then Portable Workspace Creator wizard asked what to do.

I choosed Create a new Portable Workspace and the dialog box shown below listed all USB media found.

Portable Workspace Creator told me, that a 16 GB USB memory stick was to small for use with Portable Workspace Creator (32 GB and USB 3.0 is recommended). Luckily there was still the 300 GB USB hard disk. After selection, Portable Workspace Creator warned me, that the USB 2.0 is to slow for the operation. But I was able to click the Next button.

After 30-60 seconds, the next dialog box shows the mounted CD ISO image of Windows 8 Developer Preview (the Creator searches for Install.wim on all media).

I selected the build and clicked the Next button. The following dialog box warned me, that the hard disk will be reformatted – and all data will be lost. Also I was informed, that the operation would take a while. I clicked the Create Portable Workspace button, to launch the process …

 

Then Portable Workspace Creator began with its work. It took the time to brew the first cup of coffee and then another cup of coffee and then another coup of coffee – till I have had a “coffeine syndrome”  …

… no, I just kidding – I don’t drink coffee. Instead I moved the progress window to the left corner of my desktop. Then I opened my browser and visited some forums, to answer several Windows questions. I also took the opportunity to view a movie …

Are we stalled? Yes, it stalls …

It took a long time and it seems that there was no real progress – the progress bar remains at 25%, Because I recognized VM activities on hard disk an on USB port of my VM, I opened notepad and moved its window edge to the right edge of the progress bar. After 5 minutes, I could clearly see, that the progress bar already has moved forward a bit.

After another ‘long while’ the progress bar was at least nearly 100%. I just thought “hurray, finished!”, but a dialog box informed me about an access problem in Portable Workspace Creator. I got the dialog box informing me, that the program no longer works – ups, it stalled. I terminated the dialog box and shut down the virtual machine. Then I tried to inspect the contend of my hard disk on my host operating system. But the disk wasn’t shown at all in Windows explorer …

That gave me a clue, why Microsoft has removed that feature from the public Developer Preview.

Then I used Computer Management and Disc management to inspect my disks. Disc management showed the drive, containing two NTFS partitions – one was 350 MB in size (marked as primary and active). The other volume’s size was set to the remaining hard disk’s capacity. 

Assigning drive letters to both partitions enables me to inspect the volume content in Windows explorer. The active primary partition contained a boot loader bootmgr and hidden folders Boot, Recovery, System Volume Information (the latter two are not accessible). The 2nd primary partition contains the Windows folders shown below (both screenshots are obtained from my German Windows 7).

The properties shows me, that the Windows partition only contains 8 GB data. So overall, a 16 GB USB thumb drive should be sufficient to install Windows 8 To Go – don’t know, what Microsoft intend to store on the remaining disk space.

And … did it work?

The most important question was: Will my USB 2.0 disk with Windows 8 To Go work? I took my MSI Wind (a 10 Inch Netbook with 1 Gbyte RAM and Atom 1,6 GHz CPU). After connecting the USB hard disk, I pressed F11, selected USB boot and the medium – and voiá, that was the result.

I got a message, that Windows 8 Developer Preview boots. It took a minute, till Windows 8 was configured. Then I got the screen “keep the lawayer happy” … and after confirmation, I got the screen to configure my user account and set up my system. Here is Windows 8 To Go with start screen on my MSI Wind 100 …

… cool, isn’t it? Windows 8 To Go runs like a champ on my netbook (only in some cases, the system tries something to repair during boot process, after I used it on other hardware). So, it’s time, to start my Windows 8 investigation and dig a bit with Visual Studio 2011 and app development …

… and maybe I will found a sponsor to provide me with an Intel based Tablet slate – nevertheless, it seems that I will be able to blog a few additional Windows 8 articles – and I’ll start writing the first Win 8 books (but till now, only for my German readers).

Links:
1: Some findings about Windows To Go feature in Windows 8


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Über Günter Born

IT-Autor, Blogger borncity.de
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11 Antworten auf How to create your own Windows 8 To Go Developer Preview

  1. sanchito75 sagt:

    great article. I am having a small issue. I am not familiar with virtubox, but have it installed. I have everythign created and at the point where i want to run the portable workspace. the thing i can’t figure out is how to get the USB drives to pass into the win8 vm. i can see that they are detected on local win7 laptop, but they don’t pass through into the vm. i see a section for filters on the vm for usb devices, but doesn’t that disable the devices from passing through?

    Appreciate any help :)

  2. Günter Born sagt:

    @sanchito75: USB support is one of the “more problematic” issues in Virtualbox. For my own, I’m using currently portable Virtualbox 4.1.2.

    First of all, you need to take care, that USB 2.0 addition is installed as a Virtualbox extension. Then it is necessary, that USB Virtualbox driver is installed properly. The latter on is sometimes an issue in Windows 7. I have described that topic within my blog (here – but in German).

    If USB 2.0 extension is installed and also the USB VBox driver works properly, the USB devices should be passed to VBox. But there are issues. After assigning a USB device to a runing guest operating system (there is a menu “Devices/removeable media” or similar, where you can select the USB devices recognised by VBox), I receive an error dialog reporting that the USB port is already in use and can’t assigned again. It helps for me to remove the USB device and re-connect it again. Then I mostly get an “USB driver installing” notification in my Guest system and after a few seconds the device is visible in Windows 8 (after that, the USB device is no longer accessible on host operating system, untill the guest os releases the USB port).

    So you have to manage that part, before you can process. Another tipp: I haven’t testet it yet (because VMware ‘press suppor’t is just a “black hole” – so I’m still on a just bought copy of VMware workstation 7). But my experience over several years is, that VMware workstation has a much more reliable USB support. Unfortunately VMware workstation 7 or VMware Player 3.0 doesn’t support Windows 8. If you fail to manage the USB thing in virtualbox, give VMware workstation a try (maybe it is sufficient to install a VMware workstation 8 trial to create your Windows 8 To Go on a USB thumb drive).

  3. Pingback: Windows 8 To Go with Dual-Boot « Borns IT- und Windows-Blog

  4. Günter Born sagt:

    It seems, that pwcreator will be back in pre-beta [1].

    1: http://winunleaked.tk/2011/11/windows-to-go-is-back/

  5. Bates sagt:

    i was wondering if we are able to use the same way to install windows 7 on a usb.

  6. Günter Born sagt:

    @Bates: Afaik, this is not possible (or only with dirthy tricks). The problem: USB drivers are loaded in a verry late state of booting – too late to support USB boot in a regular way. There has been people experimenting with modified usb drivers in Windows XP – and a few was successful to boot (for my own I failed). So I guess, it’s a waste of time.

  7. Ron sagt:

    I have a newly purchased 32GB SanDisk thumb drive, which actually holds 29.8GB of course. pwcreator.exe doesn’t agree to create a workspace on it (using 7989 build). I hoped to use my laptop again, as its hard drive failed. I really hope the beta fixes things like this with the rumoured to be back Windows To Go.

  8. Joshua sagt:

    if windows 8 needs all these special files to be put onto usb… why can’t you compress and upload the whole amount of files that are on your USB so we can put them same ones as is in the finished process on our bootable usb drives…
    That would save all of us the step by step and save you from having to explain and help everyone.
    instead you can open a mega upload acount and upload your files and share the link on your blogs and earn money from our downloads… much smarter idea :)
    Then I can have my bootable windows 8. haha

  9. Günter Born sagt:

    @Joshua: Nice try – but first of all, it would take a few days to upload (with the bandwith I’m having, it take sometimes a day to download even a Win 8 Dev. Prev. & Upload is 64 k to 128 k). And 2nd, I don’t upload MS stuff to mega upload accounts ;-).

    If the step by stepp instructions are to complicated: Just be a little patient – Win 8 Beta will have a portable work space creator wizard, that will solve your hassle …

    … also you can try: Install Win 8 in a VM using Virtualbox. Then shut down the machine, boot the VM with a linux live system (parted magic for instance), go to terminal and use:

    dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/sdb BS=10000

    where sda is the device name of your virtual hard disc and sdb is the device name of your usb thumb drive. Both device names may be obtained from a mount app, shipped with most linux distributions.

    HTH

  10. GS sagt:

    I can’t found pwcreator.exe. I am running on consumer preview build 8250.

    I would like to test pwcreator.exe on this build. Can you share where to download this file?

    Thank you.

  11. Günter Born sagt:

    @GS: It’s not possible, to “download” pwcreator.exe, because it’s integral part of the OS. I was not able to manage it, to copy the necessary files to CP and get things working. I’ve uses an old M3 build to run pwc and create Windows 8 To Go CP.

    But, be also warned – I have described it in several of my German blog articles: Windows To Go based on CP is pretty buggy and restricted (no driver install, wrong graphic card detection, no updates, no PC restore and no PC refresh). So I gave it up to use Win To Go for my CP tests to write my Win 8 book.

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