People have been figuring out ways to run operating systems from portable USB flash drives for pretty much as they’ve been available. But while installing a Linux distribution on a USB key is often pretty simple, Windows is another story. Sure, you can run Windows from a flash drive, but it’s kind of a pain.

It looks like that could change when Windows 8 hits the scene. The folks at MyDigitalLife got their hands on a leaked pre-release copy of Windows 8 and spotted a new feature called Portable Workspaces.

The Portable Workspace Creator utility will let  Windows users load a portable Windows installation onto a USB flash drive with 16GB of storage or more.

You’ll need Windows 8 Enterprise Edition to get this working, suggesting the feature is designed for business users who may need to frequently switch physical computers or IT folks who may find the feature useful for PC maintenance tasks.

It seems likely that a Portable Workspace will be linked to your full blown Windows 8 license, so it’s not clear how many workspaces you’ll be able to create, how many machines you’ll be able to run a workspace on, or whether there may be any other restrictions. But it certainly seems like it could be a nifty new feature for enterprise customers — and probably to a fair number of consumers as well.

via WinRumors and Engadget


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8 replies on “You’ll be able to install Windows 8 “Portable Workspace” on a USB flash drive”

  1. i want to use live window 8 without hard disk….is it possible?? if yes then plz help me

  2. You need at least a 32gb flashdrive. But it works great on my usb hard drive.

  3. Wow, Windows8 “may” be able to run from a USB key.

    Graphical, full-fledged Linux distros have been doing this for AGES.

  4. Er, is this about installing a full Windows setup on a flash drive, or just about installing user settings, applications, etc.? The 16 GB requirement makes it sound like the former, though “Guest 2” suggests even that might not be enough. I’m coming from a Mac perspective, where for decades I’ve been able to install an operating system on an external drive and to boot multiple machines from it; I gather that activation requirements (absent from the Mac OS and Mac OS X, not to mention Linux) make this a less trivial exercise for Windows — is that correct? If so, then the Enterprise Edition requirement might be due to a server-based management of activations, licensing, and the like.

    If, on the other hand, this is about carrying around your user data and settings on a thumb drive and maybe some applications, then isn’t it just a generalization of U3, StartKey, etc.? For that, you’d need a compatible version of Windows on the computer itself, but I wouldn’t think it’d need any “Enterprise”-specific functionality, which makes that requirement peculiar. After all, U3 drives worked on consumer versions of Windows, right? Actually, _that_ is functionality I’d like to see built into Mac OS X — it’s possible to put a user’s home directory on a portable drive and carry it between machines, but the last time I looked, it required some fairly grievous haXXing. (Of course, cloud-focused OSs let you get at your user data over the network onto any machine running the OS, just by logging into your Google account or Jolicloud or whatever, thus avoiding the flash-drive route.)

    1. [“Er, is this about installing a full Windows setup on a flash drive, or just about installing user settings, applications, etc.?”]

      Since it requires installation files and formating of the drive, I’d say the former… Especially since you would boot off this USB drive once created.

      Simple U3 type setup wouldn’t require all of those steps…

      [“I gather that activation requirements (absent from the Mac OS and Mac OS X, not to mention Linux) make this a less trivial exercise for Windows — is that correct?”]

      In part, yes… Windows also defaults to run from C partition and has to be modified to run from a different drive.

      So presently it is easier to just create a VM of Windows to run on another Windows system.

      The large install size is another issue but we’ve yet to see how large Win 8 will be and Flash Memory is getting cheaper and higher capacities are starting to be offered.

      Especially once USB 3.0 becomes more standard and systems can offer the performance needed to properly run an OS from an external drive.

  5. This capabiliy won’t come cheap. You’ll probably need at least a 32 GB
    USB 3.0 flash drive or Class 10 SDHC SD card (or similar) to fit
    a barebones version of Windows. Reminds me of the attempts to
    shoehorn Windows versions later than XP onto UMPCs with SSDs
    these past few years.

    And that doesn’t include the space required by applications you’ll need
    to install on the removable media.

    1. Guessing by the sentence next to the red X that it’ll require at least 16gb.=p

      “The selected device is too small for use with Portable Workspace. Select a device that is at least 16GB in size.”

      Unless you meant 32GB to include useful programs then that is a possibility. A lot of programs for windows tend to be oversized. Sorry if so.

  6. Looks interesting, but then again, this is probably knee jerk to Chrome OS and WebOS making big inroads in innovation. Microsoft knows this and are trying to preserve the laptops, desktops and netbooks out there.

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