By Paul Siegel
Every good computer nerd has a few live cds in their bag of tricks for emergency triage , virus removal , data recovery , and just plain fun. Some prefer Linux others WinPe. Imagine if you had a full copy of Windows with you that you brought every where you went. Not virtual but real Windows, All your programs, your profile , and your tools all at your disposable. Or better yet have a flash drive to hand to CEO's secretary for him to boot off while you take his hard drive and clean out that pesky virus he keeps finding. In Windows 8 Microsoft has made this a reality. This isn't some future innovation we will never see like Steady State for Windows 7. This is something that we can build right now with our Release Preview DVD's that we've been drooling over for the past month. Still don't believe me? Check out this youtube clip from a developer that was at the Microsoft Build Conference:
Time to Play Along From Home
What we'll Need:
A Machine Windows 7 or Windows 8 with the The Windows Automated Installation Kit (AIK) Installed.
The install.wim image from the Windows 8 Release Preview ISO
A USB flash drive (Preferably 32gb or more , but a 16gb will work, just not very well)Step 1: Gather Our Tools
Install the Windows Automated Installation Kit located at: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=10333
if you do not already have it installed.
Create a folder to use as our working directory for ease of access. I prefer c:\wintoflash.
Insert your Windows 8 Release Preview disc (I've only tested with 32bit) and located in the sources directory on the root of the disc is a file called install.wim. Copy that to your working directory. (c:\wintoflash)
Next navigate to C:\Program Files\Windows AIK\Tools\x86. We'll want to copy the imagex.exe and bcdboot.exe to our working directory (c:\wintoflash) If bcdboot.exe is not located in this folder then it can be copied from C:\windows\system32\
Now we've assembled the tools we'll need to build our bootable flash drive.
Step 2: Prepare The Flash Drive
The Flash drive needs to be partitioned and formatted to make a bootable NTFS drive. So we will have to run diskpart from an administrator level command prompt to prepare the drive.
Navigate to cmd in the start menu and right click and run as administrator to open the properly elevated cmd window.
The prompt will display DISKPART> at the bottom. Type LIST DISK to find the flash drive's disk number.
Type SELECT DISK 3 (or the number you discovered is your flash in the above step)
Type Clean this will erase all existing partitions on the flash drive.
Type CREATE PARTITION PRIMARY to create a new primary partition on the disk. you can verify this step by typing DETAIL DISK
Type format fs=ntfs quick to make the filesystem ntfs
Type ACTIVE to set the partition as Active for booting.
Type DETAIL DISK again to verify actions
Type Exit to leave diskpart utility
Step 3: Image(x) the Flash Drive
Change directory to the working directory we created earlier by typing cd c:\wintoflash
Type imagex.exe /apply c:\wintoflash\install.wim 1 I: (I: is the drive letter of the flash drive yours may be different).
Once the wim imaging is complete it's time setup the boot record by typing c:\wintoflash\bcdboot.exe I:\Windows /s d: /f ALL
Step 4: Reboot and Enjoy
That's it , you've created a portable windows 8 USB stick. On first startup it will prompt you for your windows 8 release preview cd key that came with your download. Each time you boot this flash drive in a new computer it will probe and install device drivers and take a while to boot up. Each boot after on that same hardware will be much faster. I look forward to a world where I can hand the contractors that my boss hires an RSA key fob and a bootable flash drive and let go about their merry way only to replace the two should something go bad. All new operating systems have the good and the ugly but this is one feature I am certainly looking forward too!