Portable Workspace puts Windows 8 on a thumb drive

USB thumb drives have become ubiquitous. They’re handy for quick backups and file transfers, and most of us have at least one bootable drive with a fully funtional operating system onboard. That OS is probably based on Linux, but it might not be for long. Winrumors is reporting that Windows 8 will offer a Portable Workspace Creator that allows users to run the OS from a USB device.

Details on this new feature are still scarce. However, it’s said to require at least 16GB of storage capacity. Let’s hope that requirement isn’t a reflection of Windows 8’s install footprint. I suspect USB devices will also need to meet minimum performance specifications to house a personal workspace.

Interestingly, this new feature is supposed to be geared toward enterprise customers. If Windows 8 comes out in multiple flavors, which seems likely, you might have to pony up for a Professional or Ultimate edition to create portable Windows installs. Microsoft would do well to offer this functionality with all versions of the upcoming OS, though. What better way to advertise a shiny new OS than to let users carry a portable version to run on any system? Thanks to Engadget for the tip.

Comments closed
    • BlackStar
    • 12 years ago

    Fail troll is fail.

    • shank15217
    • 12 years ago

    Looks like you don’t have much to worry about if 8GB is all you need.

    • BlackStar
    • 12 years ago

    Nice to see Windows catching up to what Linux has always been able to do.

    I have a 8GB USB2 flash with an encrypted Ubuntu installation that I always bring with me. It hosts my development environment, messengers, browsers, emails, games, recovery tools and everything else I need in case I need to work on a system not my own. I’ve used it in dozens of systems over two years without issue. And if a system cannot boot from USB, I can always mount the drive in VirtualBox/VMWare and run it through that.

    (In case you are wondering, this started when I had to use a Vista machine with 1GB RAM and a slow hard drive. It was so painful, that I created the USB stick – and stuck with that!)

    • d0g_p00p
    • 12 years ago


    • My Johnson
    • 12 years ago

    USB drives are a no no on our enterprise network. My boss had a violation on his desktop HDD and IT took it and he lost all files that were not on a network share. Don’t even think about plugging a laptop into our network. Fastest way to lose that too.

    • demani
    • 12 years ago

    I always thought a flash enabled mouse (Sony had something like that) would be perfect, since that’s the one thing I often hate when sitting down to another person’s machine.

    OSX 10.6 lets you plug in a drive with a user profile on it, and it will let you select that from the user list. Similar idea, but obviously Mac centric (though putting the whole OS on a USB key has been doable for quite a while as long as the OS was newer than what was installed on the machine when it shipped-hell, using floppy SCSI drives thats been doable nearly since the beginning-limited hardware helps). And you can install some applications into your user directory so they travel with you.

    Would be really interesting if there were coordinated user directories: every OS would leave an identifier (maybe a whole XML file with all the mappings) and you could plug in via USB key. The OS would just read the identifier and know where to go for your bookmarks, passwords, window setting preferences etc. Things that were OS or machine specific would stay with the user, but only be accessed in the correct location.

    • HisDivineOrder
    • 12 years ago

    A world where storage is universal and the OS is carried with the user. Instead of taking your login info with you, you take your login, your install, your programs, your everything in your USB key. Any time you load it up on a computer you have designated as your homebase, it could back it up to a secondary location that also allows you to duplicate it. Of course, you’d still have your login info to access the USB key or any information contained on it.

    I imagine a flash drive with USB3/Thunderpants (or w/e) would be a great way to do this because an appropriately swift USB3 flash drive could be as fast as most 5400RPM drives of today are. You’d suffer no ill effects and have the ability carry your programs, settings, your files, etc with you whereever you go. And have the contents encrypted just in case it gets lost. Of course, there are added security concerns as well, but then there always are every time accessibility goes up.

    Easy to imagine having a flash drive that gets smaller and smaller that connects to your computer merely by being flashed in front of a Kinect-tech-based webcam that uses a Surface-like detection scheme to sense the presence of the flash drive being run in front of the camera. Perhaps you hold a button on the “key” and the webcam detects a light or acknowledgement signal. The computer then reads the info off the short range wireless and starts a login “the slow way” or you can plug it in and go “the fast way.” Either way, you enter your login info and have your entire working environment whereever you go.

    Meanwhile, your files, etc, would be available via an online connection feature in case you need to access the larger parts of your files while away from home. It’ll be slower an require you have an active online connection, but boom, available. Of course, this does not work in MS’s favor because if the files and libraries were universal, then any OS could be the glue that connects you to your files via the USB key. I doubt MS wants that to happen…

    • maxxcool
    • 12 years ago

    I already do this. if the pc has a external e-sata i plug in the dock at location. if not i’ll boot the recovery OS from the dual channel 64gb usb stick.

    sure it takes 7 minutes to be usable… but its awesome for me to just drop by, plug in a thumb drive and start running diagnostics, virus scans, ghosting etc… effin love the fact that maybe in a tear or so we will see usb3 or thunderbolt more widespread.

    • indeego
    • 12 years ago

    “Let’s hope that requirement isn’t a reflection of Windows 8’s install footprint. ”

    You mean less that 7’s?

    • FakeAlGore
    • 12 years ago

    This isn’t targeted to gamers at all. As a systems administrator, I have been wanting something like this for years. WinPE was a nice start. This will let people like me do pre-installation testing of hardware, malware cleanup, and non-virtual application testing with relative ease.

    • FakeAlGore
    • 12 years ago

    You may be interested in the [url=http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/MIX/MIX11/DVC19<]Windows Phone Architecture: Deep Dive[/url<] session from MIX11. Long Zheng has one of the relevant slides to SD card performance up on [url=http://www.istartedsomething.com/20110415/mix11-wp7-sd-card-io-performance-discrepancy-battery-and-agents-tidbits/<]his blog[/url<].

    • mcnabney
    • 12 years ago

    Not really sure what the benefit to this is.

    To be useful as anything more than a dumb-terminal (in which case, why are you using Windows?) you also have to have all applications as well. Maybe a 64GB USB3 drive could work, but not for me. My Steam directory is way too big for that.

    As time passes it seems more and more likely that the PC age is coming to a close. Hell, when I give up on PC gaming and buy a console the last reason to own Microsoft ANYTHING will go away.

    • 5150
    • 12 years ago

    If there are performance requirements, I hope they handle it better than the Windows 7 Phone MicroSD fiasco.

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