For many years, we’ve been able to make Linux Live disks that boot and run completely off of a USB Flash drive (or optical disc). These portable OS installs can be useful when you just want to try an operating system without messing with whatever platform you have on your internal hard drive or SSD. And they can be good for when you want to take your OS and programs with you as you move back and forth between computers.
Thanks to Rufus, a popular free app that creates bootable USB drives, you can make a portable install of Windows 11 that runs off of a Flash drive you carry in your pocket. Testing Rufus’ “Windows to Go” feature, we were able to use the same Windows 11 disk on two different computers, with minimal hassle.
The latest version of Rufus not only allows you to create a Windows to Go version of Windows 11, but one that can avoid the TPM and CPU requirements of the new OS. So, if you have a computer that doesn’t have TPM 2.0 or a compatible CPU (Intel 8th Gen or higher, AMD Ryzen 2000 series or higher), you can boot off of this WIndows to Go disk with no problem. If you want to install Microsoft’s OS onto the main SSD or hard drive of a PC with older hardware, see our story on how to bypass Windows 11’s TPM requirements or how to do a clean install of Windows 11.
Below, we’ll show you both how to create a portable Windows 11 installation that runs off a USB flash drive and then how to use it when you switch back and forth between computers.
How to Create a Portable Windows 11 Installation
Having a portable Windows 11 installation installed to a USB drive is useful if we don’t want to nuke our Windows 10 install. The portability is a little limited as when we move to a different machine, we’ll be asked to reset your PIN. But all we need is a fast USB 3 drive and we can enjoy Windows 11 without touching our legacy installs.
1. Download the latest version of Rufus and install it on your machine. At the time of writing the latest version is 3.16 which includes the Extended Windows 11 Image support.
2. Insert a blank 64GB or larger USB stick then open Rufus. The faster the USB drive, the better as this will become your main drive.
3. Select the USB device that you want to install Windows 11 to.
4. Ensure that Boot Selection shows “Disk or ISO image” and click on DOWNLOAD.
5. Select Windows 11 and click Continue.
6. Select the latest release and click Continue.
7. Select the edition and click Continue.
8. Select your preferred language and click Continue.
9. Select the architecture and click Download. A new window will open asking where to save the ISO image. Save it to your Downloads folder. You can also download the image using a browser if you wish.
10. Wait for the download to complete.
11. Click on the Image option drop down and select Windows To Go. This will install Windows 11 directly to the USB drive.
12. Double check that the correct drive has been selected and click on Start to begin the installation.
13. The write process can take some time, depending on the USB drive being used, when done remove the drive and insert it into the machine that you wish to boot from.
14. Power up the machine that you wish to use for Windows 11, press whichever key will trigger a USB boot.
15. Select your Windows 11 boot drive and boot.
16. Follow the standard Windows 11 post install script to set up your computer.
Your USB drive now contains a full Windows 11 installation, ready for use.
Using the Portable Windows 11 Drive Across Machines
Each time the portable Windows 11 drive is inserted into a device, you will be challenged to verify who you are.
1. Insert the Windows 11 USB into a new device and boot.
2. Click on Setup my PIN on the login screen to start the verification process.
3. Enter the account details used when setting up Windows 11, in our case it was a Microsoft account.
4. Click on Email < Email Address > to send a verification email to your account.
5. On another device open your verification email and type the code into the Windows 11 prompt.
6. When asked to reset your pin, click Continue.
7. Create a new pin and click Ok to continue the login process.
You will have to repeat this process every time you move from one PC to another. However, if you are booting the USB disk on the same PC over and over again, you won’t.
More Windows 11 Tutorials: