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How to run a portable version of Windows from your USB device

How to run a portable version of Windows from your USB device How to run a portable version of Windows from your USB device

There are lots of reasons for having a portable version of Windows OS on a USB drive. For example, if you want to have your Windows OS, along with your all the settings and installed applications ready for use on any desired computer, then making a portable Windows USB drive is the way to go. Even if the enterprise version of Windows OS comes with the feature, called "Windows To Go",  but the option is not available for Windows versions (like Home or Pro).  So, if you want to learn how create a USB drive with a portable version of Windows OS, be sure to read the following guide.

Before starting to explain how to create a portable Windows USB drive, I recommend that you use Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 instead of Windows 7, otherwise, you might encounter some driver and portability issues.

This is what you will need

A USB drive

I recommend using an external USB hard drive with at least 16 GB of storage instead of a flash drive, because of its faster reading speed. For maximum speed, I also suggest using a USB 3.0 flash drive or an external HDD.

Make sure your USB drive drive is formatted using the NTFS filing system.

A Windows 7/8.1/10 ISO disc image or installation disc

You can either use an ISO disk image or an installation disk to create a portable version of Windows. The steps are the same, regardless of the method you choose.

For the demo, I'll be using an ISO disk image of Windows 8.1 Pro x64.

An application to create your portable Windows USB drive

Tools like GImageX or WinToUSB will help you install your copy of Windows OS to a portable drive. For this guide, I have chosen WinToUSB, because it is slightly easier to use.

Tutorial assets

You will need to download the following software to follow along with this tutorial.

Creating the portable drive

Step 1 - Install WinToUSB

Install WinToUSB using administrator privileges. In case you have missed it, you can download the app here.

Step 2 - Load your ISO disc image

After launching WinToUSB, the first thing you will have to do is to load your Windows ISO disc image file (or choose your CD/DVD-ROM drive as the source). Simply click on browse, find your ISO file and click on the "Next" button.

Load ISO ImageLoad ISO Image

Step 3 - Select destination disk, system and boot partition

After loading your ISO image, it is time to select the destination drive where you want to install the portable version of your Windows OS. To do that, click on the small arrow to display the list of available devices and click on the USB drive you have chosen. Next, you need to select the system and boot partitions as you can see in the image below. Simply click on the desired partitions and press the "Next" button to begin the installation.

Select Disk and PartitionsSelect Disk and Partitions

Step 4 - Wait for the installation to finish

After clicking the "Next" button, the installation will automatically start and all you have to do is wait until it is finished (it took me about 40 minutes, but, the duration might change, depending on the speed of portable drive and USB port).


Now that you have installed a portable version of Windows OS on your USB device, you can use it on any computer or laptop (including Mac computers) by simply plugging it into the USB port and selecting it as the first boot method (restart your PC and select the USB drive as the primary boot option).

When you boot from the USB drive for the first time, you might notice that it takes a little longer than usual for Windows to start. This is due to the fact that your portable version is busy installing the required drivers.


As you can see, creating a portable Windows USB drive is not that complicated. However, if your portable copy of Windows boots too slow, try switching a USB 3.0 device or an external SSD hard drive for better experience.

If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave us a comment in the section below.

Alternative downloads

  • GImageX GImageX free windows Graphical user interface for the ImageX tool from the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (Windows ADK). Download
  • WinToUSB WinToUSB free windows Install and run a fully-functional Windows OS on an external hard disk or USB flash drive. Download


D 8 years ago

Will this work on a tablet?