Can you install Windows 10 on a USB Thumbdrive?

Can you install Windows 10 on a USB Thumbdrive? Then can you use that thumbdrive and switch from computer to computer with it?

Sorta. It’s called Windows To Go, a feature offered to Enterprise and Education version of Windows since Windows 8. However, this feature was discontinued after Windows 10 version 1903, which lost support in this past December.

So you need a special version of Windows to do it, and it’s no longer supported. So it’s probably not the best idea.

You might think you could just make your own by just installing Windows 10 to your USB stick. But Windows installs special drivers and such for your specific hardware. So this is unlikely to work.

So the only current way to bring your up-to-date OS with you is to use Linux. Many distros have a USB drive version that installs mostly generic drivers, has drivers for multiple configurations, and which is designed to minimize writes to the USB to keep it running fast and avoiding using up its limited writes (avoiding wear and tear on the drive, essentially).

I think you could install win 10 on a Thumb drive.
I do not think it will work very well when you plug it in another computer.

To do what you want to do you could create a VM. (You’d have to install a vm-player on every system you want to use).

My experience with using USB drives as main drive is that it is very slow. (I dual booted with Debian)

It generally works ok, but may require several reboots the first time.

Windows 2000 had three problems: firstly, it required a different kernel for single-processor and multi-processor computers, which wasn’t automatic. Secondly, it didn’t have a good automatic way of installing any device drivers. Thirdly, it had a limited count of the number of devices you could have installed, which could maybe handle 2 typical totally different computers, and was typically too small to allow 3.

Windows 10 doesn’t have any of those problems. You can typically take a drive from one computer and boot in another, if on the first time it’s connected to the internet, unless the network card worn’t work at all with the standard default drivers.

The big problem that Windows has at present is that it refuses to boot from a removable device. So you need a device that says it’s not removable. There have always been a few thumb drives or computers that could do that, but I think it’s very rare now.

Windows-to-Go got around those problems by (1) requiring that you pre-load the correct drivers, (2) always writing the drive in a consistent state, (3) locking out writes when USB drive was removed.

You can sort-of-maybe do 1,2,3 if you know what you are doing, but finding a M/B that reports USB devices as fixed disks, or a thumb drive that installs as a fixed disk, is going to be a problem.

I’ve done this before, and if my experience is typical, you really don’t want to. At least, not with a thumb drive. The problem was that even with a USB3 based stick, it was too slow to be usable.

I did it again with an external SSD drive, attached by USB. That worked acceptably. Windows 10 is reasonably tolerant of being moved from one computer to another, so that part also worked. It wasn’t great, but it worked well enough to do what I wanted, which was to run Windows only firmware update utilities on laptops that natively were Linux.

I used something like Rufus to create the drive. It might have been another utility, I don’t remember.

Thanks guys - just when you think you know everything…