Windows on external drives

Hello everyone

So here is the scenario

I need to understand the possibility/limitations/ability to ignore and save the internal hard drive on a laptop and use a second hard drive to run windows and apps and maybe games fully (without opening and disconnecting hard drive inside)

If possible please let me know what tools
(Hdd/usb2/usb3 etc) do i need and what eould be the limitations

Is it available for any kind ir type

There are 2 people want to share a laptop but with absolute separation hdd wise

Thank you

No experience with doing it but it looks like it’s possible.

If I was going to do it I’d use a USB 3.1 Gen 2 SSD and connect it directly to a USB 3.1 Gen 2 port on the laptop.


You might look into Windows to go for Windows 10, That should answer a lot of your questions. Though I will say that you need the fastest USB available along with a comparable drive. Even then they do tend to have hiccups.


So i could successfully try it but have a couple of concerns

So I installed it on a 64 GB microsd u1 via a usbc card reader
Windows boors up and all drivers installs and works fine
Just pagefile virtual memory set to none and no matter how i change it goes back to disable after each restart ( i get virtual memiry error lease change pagefile sys size error sometimes)

Im not sure if i nay get a better result by using a usb3/c flash drive or a usb3 hdd instead


Windows to go is designed for a flash drive. It needs a particular setup because things like page file don’t like to work on something that is removeable. To much room for corruption.


Running Windows off of a U1 uSD card is a recipe for disaster. Ux rated uSd and SD cards are not intended to be used for applications. Use an Ax rated card, the A rating is for applications, although even they are not guaranteed to be reliable when used for an operating system.

With the exception of eMMC and SSD, running any operating system off of flash memory will kill the flash memory far sooner than most people can tolerate. eMMC and SSD have special firmware in the controller to enhnace the life of flash memory when used for an operating system.

If you create frequent backups you’ll at least be able to recover when the flash memory dies.


FYI, Windows ToGo is not available for consumer versions of Windows (Enterprise & Education only). The article I linked in my first reply has instructions for using a third party utility to get the functionality in consumer versions of windows.

Also note, from: Windows To Go feature overview (Windows 10) - Windows Deployment | Microsoft Learn

Windows To Go is no longer being developed. The feature does not support feature updates and therefore does not enable you to stay current. It also requires a specific type of USB that is no longer supported by many OEMs.

From: Windows To Go - Wikipedia

After the release of Windows 10 May 2019 Update Version 1903, Microsoft announced that Windows To Go was no longer being developed


Though that is mostly true I still make the USB’s today for Windows 10 Pro its really not that difficult. And I was assuming by the way the OP was talking that it was for a company so I was also assuming that they would have access to the appropriate Windows versions and technical know how to look it up and get around the limitations. You also don’t need a specific type of USB if you can format or reconfigure the USB to appear to be the correct type. I was just trying to provide some information for a possible direction that could help the OP find what they were looking for.

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Thank you for the detailed replies
Allow me to simplify the question and options now

So my Resource:

Dell xps with usbC(possibly thunderbolt)
A 64GB micro sd A10/U1 with a usbC
A64GB sandisk flash drive usb3 & usbC connnector rated for 150Mbs
A usb 2 enclosure IDE 80GB hdd
A 1TB usb3 HDD ( i use this as my 2nd physical photo backup device so have to wipe it out if i want to use this)
I dont wanna but another external hard drive but i could afford something small and handy if something interesting is really better
( i have a bunch of flash drives for my bootable and repairal stuff from old days to present)

My need:

Need to provide a temporary portable windows for myself for future use incase of need
For now but for now i need to make this laptop to run completely independent from the internal hard drive and be able to work for at most a few hours a day to run full windows and can orun games as well

What i did so far:

Installed windows on the A10/U1 sd
Could install all drivers and works fast enough
Was able to run rdd2 from another usb3 external hard drive
So far it seems to work fine
Only 2 issues, sometimes it shuts the game saying it is running out of virtual memory please change the pagefile.sys ( i do but it requires resart and when it comes back again it is set to (no pagefile)
Laptop has 16 GB ram and 31GB od free disk space
And the internal hdd is not initialized and an not be accessed

Please let me know how to improve this and is it gonna burn my sd card fast
It is not intended to be used as an everyday machine (at most 3 hours a day for gaming for now and for me only if necessary for repair another pc in future)
Should i buy another specific SD? Soecialflash drive? Any kind of micro ssd ?
What about the usb2 IDE hdd? It it usable? Should i buy a USB3 enclosures for That?

Thank you

I would not attempt to use the IDE drive. it was slow when it was installed internally and would be even slower installed externally. In my opinion an SD card is not a good choice either they are intended to be used as storage as the more your write to them the faster they ware out. They are essentially the first iteration of SSD’s but an SSD has ware leveling that makes them last a lot longer the SD card does not. In my opinion the best option with what you have would be to install a fresh OS on an external with at least USB 3.0 a better option would be on a external SDD with USB 3.1. Ultimately there really is no “good” way of doing what you want to do because Windows was never really designed to run on a removeable drive because if it was ever accidentally disconnected it could corrupt the installation and/or drive. But this is all just my opinion if someone has a better idea or knows something I don’t please chime in.

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So flash drive would be basically the same as SD for this matter
So as you suggest i either need to eipe the usb3 hdd
Or buy a new dedicated to this project( not a good idea)
Is there any low profile storage device that would be suitable for this matter?
I mean external ssd or hdds are chunky enough that i wont choose them as a portable media
Nowadays i only bring my flashdrives with me in case i need yo fix a friends computer ( there was a time i had a cd pack togo)

Flash drives are a little more dependable but not much, they are considered throw away storage. There are a lot of 2.5 inch USB 3 drives out there. That’s about the smallest that I know if, there might be some M.2 adapters that can adapt a M.2 hard drive to USB I’m not sure I haven’t really looked into that. I know you can adapt them to make them work like a normal SSD. Here is something I found with a quick search but I have never used it so I don’t know how good they are.

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I found a few external ssd that are smaller than 2.5”
Now i have to justify if i need to buy that or upgrade my 2nd backup device to a better one (probably ssd) and use the usb 3 hdd 1TB for this matter

Found some 500GB and 1TB around $60-$100

That would be your choice to make. I hope you get what you are looking for. Good luck.

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I think you need to buy the pro version to get it but their is an option called Windows to go that will do just that. But now that’s gone I can’t say if it work. So if download Rufus and try to do that your doing it at your own risk, since Microsoft will not help you.

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I was able to get it work on a usb 3 typr c nvme ssd and worked like a charm