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:

Press “Enter” after each command you type.

2. Now type:

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:

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

4. Type:

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

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

7. Just type:

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:

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

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.

9 comments

  1. A beautifull article which I tried out immediatly …..
    Goin” into the city to get myself a 32GB memstick, I followed step by step youre instructions.
    Preparing the stick goes right, but copying Windows 8 on my drive F: (memstick) nothing happens. I tried the given commands exactly as here in the article, but nothing happens.
    Please help me, because this is what I’m dreaming for.

    Thanks !!

    • Do you mean that copying install.wim from the Windows 8 directory to the USB drive doesn’t work? Please elaborate.

  2. Hey, I love ur Article

    I finish the first step – Preparing USB
    on 2nd step: using Automated Installation Kit…… I have problem
    + I copy the “Install.Wim” to D:\
    + then I run the WAIK …. type the command: Imagex.exe /mount D:\install.wim 2 K:\
    (K is my USB drive)
    And I have the mess:

    [ 0% ] mounting progress.
    Error mounting image.
    The user attempted to mount to the root of a volume. This is unsupported.

    What should I do now ????

    • Try formatting from right-clicking the drive on “Computer.” If you “NTFS” doesn’t appear, give “FAT32” a try.

  3. I am trying to install Windows 8 on a system that has UEFI and I want the GPT partition type because I have an SSD as my primary HDD. The problem being that NTSF is not a valid format for the USB key if I want UEFI + GPT, I need to use fat32, but it has a file-size limit of 2GB, how do I get install.wim on the USB key? It is 4.3GB in size!

  4. Hi

    I got it, though I also needed to use Easybcd to be able to boot from the external disk.

    But I have a question:
    The way you explain we install Windows to a primary partition.
    But we don’t get the 100MB boot/recovery partition (that is automatically created when you install windows on a internal blank disk, and it’s usually hidden).
    How can I get that “recovery” partition created?
    I cannot find the option with easeus, diskpart, nor other applications I’ve tried.
    Nor can I get it created whit imagex, bcdboot or after rebooting.

    PS: You don’t need to download the whole Automated Installation Kit KB3AIK_EN.iso file, just the GetWaiktools.

    regards

Comments are closed.

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