PC Advisor

Install Windows on an external hard drive

USB 3.1 can make it almost as fast as an internal drive. Samuel Axon shows how


Thanks to the speed of USB 3.1 and USB-C connection­s, it’s now possible for an external hard drive to match the read and write speeds of an internal drive. Combine that with a proliferat­ion of external SSDs, and for the first time running Windows off an external drive is viable.

Before we start, let’s get the bad news out of the way: Windows will refuse to install on an external drive if it knows that’s what you’re doing. But there are a few ways around this, including emulation via tools such as VMware. The easiest workaround is an applicatio­n called WinToUSB (tinyurl.com/oaqx29q).

WinToUSB serves the same function as Windows To Go, an enterprise-only tool from Microsoft that doesn’t work with most consumer versions of Windows. It’s intended for use with USB sticks, but it will work for other external drives too.

If you already have a DVD, an image file or an installati­on USB stick for Windows, you’re set on this one. If not, it’s easy to download a Windows 10 installer ISO image file directly from Microsoft. Just make sure you pick the image for the edition and language of Windows for which you own a license. If you’re just cloning your current Windows installati­on, skip this step.

Once you’ve done that, you may see some options under the ‘Operating system’ column in the main window. Pick the one that matches the license you have. For example, if you’re installing from the official image file, you’ll be able to choose between Home and Pro. Click Next.

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