How to Run Windows 8 on Your USB Drive

Windows 8 is a pretty feature-packed operating system, yet it manages to consume a conservative amount of resources and install itself in a small amount of space despite the addition of the Metro UI. This advantage makes it possible to run Windows 8 from a USB stick like you have been able to do with Windows until now. This tutorial is for those of you who would like to run the operating system independently on any computer that doesn’t currently have it installed, kind of like how a Linux LiveCD works. This is not a tutorial on how to install Windows 8 onto a computer via USB. Now that we’ve got that straight, let’s get down to the tutorial!

The things you’ll need for this tutorial are:

  • USB drive with 32 GB memory or more
  • A Windows 8 ISO or any other valid copy (at x86)
  • The Windows Automated Installation Kit (AIK) – Do not install it yet!
  • Windows 7 installed on your computer

After you’ve got all these materials ready, go ahead and plug in your USB drive.

Note: Following this tutorial will erase everything from the drive. Make sure nothing important is on it!

1. Open up your command prompt as an administrator (right-click and click “Run as Administrator”) and type:

DISKPART

Press “Enter” after each command you type.

2. Now type:

LIST DISK

This should show you a numbered list of drives on your computer. Look for the USB stick in that list. This is how the list should look:

win8usb-disk-part

3. Type:

SELECT DISK X

replacing “X” with the number at the far left of the listing of your USB stick.

4. Type:

CLEAN
CREATE PARTITION PRIMARY

5. Now, let’s do a quick format of the drive. Type:

format fs=ntfs quick

6. Once the partition is created and formatted, you need to set it as the active partition with

ACTIVE

7. Just type:

EXIT

We’re done preparing our disk.

Now that you’ve prepared your USB stick for a Windows 8 installation, let’s get that OS on!

Here are the steps to the installation. Follow them very carefully and to the letter!

1. Mount the image for Windows 8 that you have or insert your Windows 8 disc into the drive. Whatever you have, just put it in!

2. Browse through the DVD or image and find “install.wim“. This is easier if you search via the search bar on the upper right corner. This is a compressed file.

win8usb-install-wim

3. Copy the file from the DVD or image to a place on your drive.

4. Install the .NET Framework first. You’d have to preferably install the latest version. Get it here.

5. Now, install the Automated Installation Kit we talked about earlier. It can be found here.

6. In the command line, type the following command:

imagex.exe /mount path x:\

Replace “path” with the path you copied “install.wim” to and replace “x” with the USB drive letter. From now on, just replace any “x:\” in that fashion, OK?

7. Now, just type

imagex.exe /apply install.wim 1 x:\
bcdboot.exe x:\windows /s x: /f ALL

This tells the computer to create a boot configuration for the USB drive.

8. OK. Now, set your USB stick in BIOS as the primary boot device and start the rig up!

On first boot, your USB drive might ask you for a product key. Just type it in and enjoy.

If you feel you’re just not getting this right, hit us up in the comments section. We’ll help you out! If you want to give suggestions to newbies, go ahead and put those in the comments section, too! We all are here to learn how to make tech easier. Well, at least most of us are.