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Primary OS as a Portable Windows / WindowsToGo on VHD – Doing it the right way?

portable windows-to-go vhd dism wtg creator

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#1 crashnburn

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Posted 10 September 2015 - 07:07 PM

Primary OS as a Portable Windows / WindowsToGo on VHD – Doing it the right way?

Background:
For few months now, I’ve native booted sample .VHDs/.VHDX (s) with variations of BIOS/ UEFI & MBR/ GPT.
Gotten comfortable with BCDBOOT variations, converting between MBR <> GPT and so on.
Learnt partition variations that work well inside VHDs; EFI, SYS, \Windows partitions.
Learnt how DISM can be used to Image & Apply standard & custom .WIMs on VHDs / HDDs/ Partitions.

Product Licenses & keys:
Before anyone shouts wolf, here are the license/ keys & ISOs that we have:
Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 8.1 Pro, and Windows 8.1 Enterprise MAK & Servers as well.

I know some of this may not be ‘supported’ paths or how Microsoft says things should be done, so just like many such experimental pathways on forums, please help this one if you can.

Objective: Portable Windows VHD:
People are booting their primary OS from VHDs and that’s what I wish to do.

I’d like to boot my Primary OS from VHD; It to be my single Container for [OS + Apps + Files/ Data]
I intend to boot the VHD off Internal disk, not via USB. Then, changing hardware is a single .VHD file copy away.

One caveat I noticed is that if you move the OS/ VHDs across hardware it needs to do work on Hardware/ Driver profiles (and typically it’s recommended to Sysprep + Generalize before moving them).

On the other hand, W Enterprise based Windows To Go is said to handle this differently, with some secret sauce.

Researching Microsoft’s Windows Enterprise based Windows To Go:
I noticed, the typical & official Microsoft WTG scenario is a paired relationship:
Mother {W Enterprise} – using WTG Creator - Daughter {WTG created on USB } system.
I thought the only way to move forward was this paired way and wanted to avoid it.

Then I noticed that MS specifies a Powershell/ DISM/ BCDBoot way to build this with any custom .wim Windows Image, which is typically how I’ve been creating VHDs. They just add policies to hide the Host System’s OS & disable WinRE; which are things I don’t care much about. 

I guess, my VHD should be good to go. But, I am wondering if there’s something missing? Or something special/ extra is being added/ changed by WTG Creator? If so, do share. 

Found additional Portable Windows/ Windows To Go Creators:
I found the following variations of portable Windows creators/ applying Windows, official and unofficial:

  • WTG - Enterprise
  • DISM – Powershell Scripts
  • WTG Creator – extracted for use in – Pro Volume
  • WinNTSetup - MSFN
  • WinToUSB
  • AOMEI Partition Assistant
  • WiNToBootic
  • Easy2Boot
  • Rufus
  • Maybe some more..

My Portable Windows VHD Concerns:
Is this VHD good to go automatically and Moveable across hardware? 
These are 3 areas of curiosity/ concern for me that I need to answer:

  • Image Application & Creation
    • Is there something else that WTG Creator based MS WTG has that’s missing?
  • Licensing & Activation
    • I can activate it with the Windows Enterprise MAK license and/ or the Pro license
    • Also, the few times it moves it will be running on OEM Hardware with MS licenses in firmware
  • Hardware/ Driver profiles
    • Does MS WTG handle hardware/ driver profiles differently when booting on machines?
    • I found this little insight (quoted below) on a Windows Registry key. http://superuser.com/a/919119/183467
      • Can/ should the opposite be done?
      • Does WTG Creator do this? Or does the Windows instance do this by itself?

 

reg add HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control /v PortableOperatingSystem /t REG_DWORD /d 0
The value PortableOperatingSystem is the flag you want to change. If it is 1, Windows Thinks it is a WindowsToGo.

 



Multiple operations fail if Windows 8 is improperly identified as a Windows To Go installation
https://support.micr...n-us/kb/2778881

Refresh your PC fails reporting: 
Your PC can't be refreshed because it's running Windows To Go

The Windows To Go control panel reports: 
Can't change startup options when you're in a your Windows To Go Workspace

Windows Store fails with error
Windows Store isn't available on Windows To Go Workspaces

 


Edited by crashnburn, 10 September 2015 - 07:17 PM.


#2 life is system32

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Posted 11 September 2015 - 06:18 AM

Primary OS as a Portable Windows / WindowsToGo on VHD – Doing it the right way?

Background:
For few months now, I’ve native booted sample .VHDs/.VHDX (s) with variations of BIOS/ UEFI & MBR/ GPT.
Gotten comfortable with BCDBOOT variations, converting between MBR <> GPT and so on.
Learnt partition variations that work well inside VHDs; EFI, SYS, \Windows partitions.
Learnt how DISM can be used to Image & Apply standard & custom .WIMs on VHDs / HDDs/ Partitions.

Product Licenses & keys:
Before anyone shouts wolf, here are the license/ keys & ISOs that we have:
Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 8.1 Pro, and Windows 8.1 Enterprise MAK & Servers as well.

I know some of this may not be ‘supported’ paths or how Microsoft says things should be done, so just like many such experimental pathways on forums, please help this one if you can.

Objective: Portable Windows VHD:
People are booting their primary OS from VHDs and that’s what I wish to do.

I’d like to boot my Primary OS from VHD; It to be my single Container for [OS + Apps + Files/ Data]
I intend to boot the VHD off Internal disk, not via USB. Then, changing hardware is a single .VHD file copy away.

One caveat I noticed is that if you move the OS/ VHDs across hardware it needs to do work on Hardware/ Driver profiles (and typically it’s recommended to Sysprep + Generalize before moving them).

On the other hand, W Enterprise based Windows To Go is said to handle this differently, with some secret sauce.

Researching Microsoft’s Windows Enterprise based Windows To Go:
I noticed, the typical & official Microsoft WTG scenario is a paired relationship:
Mother {W Enterprise} – using WTG Creator - Daughter {WTG created on USB } system.
I thought the only way to move forward was this paired way and wanted to avoid it.

Then I noticed that MS specifies a Powershell/ DISM/ BCDBoot way to build this with any custom .wim Windows Image, which is typically how I’ve been creating VHDs. They just add policies to hide the Host System’s OS & disable WinRE; which are things I don’t care much about. 

I guess, my VHD should be good to go. But, I am wondering if there’s something missing? Or something special/ extra is being added/ changed by WTG Creator? If so, do share. 

Found additional Portable Windows/ Windows To Go Creators:
I found the following variations of portable Windows creators/ applying Windows, official and unofficial:

  • WTG - Enterprise
  • DISM – Powershell Scripts
  • WTG Creator – extracted for use in – Pro Volume
  • WinNTSetup - MSFN
  • WinToUSB
  • AOMEI Partition Assistant
  • WiNToBootic
  • Easy2Boot
  • Rufus
  • Maybe some more..

My Portable Windows VHD Concerns:
Is this VHD good to go automatically and Moveable across hardware? 
These are 3 areas of curiosity/ concern for me that I need to answer:

  • Image Application & Creation
    • Is there something else that WTG Creator based MS WTG has that’s missing?
  • Licensing & Activation
    • I can activate it with the Windows Enterprise MAK license and/ or the Pro license
    • Also, the few times it moves it will be running on OEM Hardware with MS licenses in firmware
  • Hardware/ Driver profiles
    • Does MS WTG handle hardware/ driver profiles differently when booting on machines?
    • I found this little insight (quoted below) on a Windows Registry key. http://superuser.com/a/919119/183467
      • Can/ should the opposite be done?
      • Does WTG Creator do this? Or does the Windows instance do this by itself?

 



Multiple operations fail if Windows 8 is improperly identified as a Windows To Go installation
https://support.micr...n-us/kb/2778881 goe

 

we won't talk about how many operations fail even without this :) I'd give it a spin and see how it goes.



#3 crashnburn

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Posted 11 September 2015 - 12:31 PM

A number of tools/sites/whatever will mix together a "portable" Windows with the "to go".
 
You won' t AFAIK find HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\PortableOperatingSystem in a Windows 7 (or it will be ineffective).
 
All your doubts/questions seem to me revolving around the same one "Will it work as intended?"
 
The differences between WTG creator and "plain" commands can be derived from here, where the two methods are described :
(this is "direct", no VHD involved)
Create two of them, one with the WTG creator and one with given set of commands, then compare the result to see if you can find any difference between the two.
 
jaclaz
 

 

 

 
Will do the compare on a sample VHD instance. I typically use Beyond Compare for file/ folder structure comparisons, would suggest any other tools for such a compare? 
Something that does a Operating System/ Registry compare /diff beyond files?
 
Just wanted to know if there were any issues that I should be aware of. 
 
PS: I will be going with W 8.1 on this, I just wanted to point out I have licenses for the list above and have read the variation of tutorials for each. 
 
Also I missed on thing: Application - The Local v/s Roaming profiles of Apps.. i.e. the settings that Apps  save into..\AppData\.. 
Local\
LocalLow\
Roaming\
LocalGoogle\
 
I did read a thread/ article about the differences between Local and Roaming, but I'd like to get some insights in the context of this Portable VHD version of Windows. 
 
Do the applications go cuckoo when a VHD moves? 
Can they be "tuned/ tweaked/ prepped" before, during, after installation? 
 
I know that when I did Sysprep on a Win 8.1 instance, the SID changed. 
 
I am guessing that the SID does not change when such a VHD moves between machines? - Which is what Apps sometime tie into.. Especially noticed some stuff like this with Google Chrome. 
Chrome disavowed up my User Profile Data {It apparently uses Windows Crypto API for some stuff} and Bluebeam PDF Revu hasnt worked at all - which I can live with and redo install etc. 
 
Do some Apps generally tie into Hardware? or typically just into the SIDs? 


#4 sbaeder

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 01:33 AM

Do some Apps generally tie into Hardware? or typically just into the SIDs? 

 

Yes - for example, any application that uses commercial licensing enforcement (like a FLEXlm based system).  Afterall, that is the whole point of doing "machine" based licensing vs. user based licensing. You need some sort of "unique" ID that is based on the HW, and is often tied to the host machine.  This may even be limited so that a VM running on a different host is counted as a different "instance".

 

While it may not matter in some countries (or parts of the world), you need to carefully understand the licensing restrictions placed not only in the software, but in the EULA and other legal agreements.  And just because you can make the OS work doesn't mean that the applications are licensed "ToGo"...

 

I have no idea what your specific volume license covers ...Of course, if it is a proper "ToGo" creation, it is tied to the "mother" (as you mentioned), and tied to the user by the MS agreements that are applicable.  But as I mentioned above, that doesn't cover the applications.

 

But even with all of that, it is an interesting exercise in how far you can push the technology - even if it is beyond what is "allowed" by the license agreements...







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: portable, windows-to-go, vhd, dism, wtg, creator

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