Windows 8 will run from USB thumb drive

New feature targets enterprises that want workers to run secure systems while away from the office

Windows 8 will include a new feature that lets IT administrators provide workers with a portable Windows environment on a USB thumb drive.

Called "Windows To Go," the feature seems aimed at enterprises that want to equip employees with "complete managed Windows images" that they can use to turn a PC into a doppelganger of a secured in-house machine.

It's not known whether individuals will be able to use Windows To Go for the same purpose, or if the feature is enterprise-only. It's also unclear whether Windows to Go comes with a price tag: One report, based on a briefing with reporters at BUILD on Monday, said that the feature will cost about $50 per seat.

Microsoft declined to provide more information about the feature, which was among those demonstrated to analysts earlier this week, according to Michael Silver of Gartner. Instead, a spokeswoman referred to the short summary of a session at the BUILD Windows conference, which kicked off Tuesday in Anaheim, Calif. with a two-and-a-half-hour demonstration of some of the operating system's key components and changes.

"Windows To Go is a new feature in Windows 8 that enables enterprise administrators to create USB drives containing complete, managed Windows images that users can use to boot and run Windows on any Windows 7 or Windows 8 capable computer," the session summary stated. "Windows To Go makes it possible for employees to use a managed device whether they work from home, a client office or in a free seating environment."

The session will be held Thursday, and will be led by the feature's development lead, Arvind Padole, and its lead program manager, Steve Silverberg.

Padole holds several patents on software licensing technologies. His participation makes sense: Microsoft's emphasis on fighting piracy and its practice of locking a copy of Windows to a specific piece of hardware means the last thing it would want is for the feature to be abused by counterfeiters.

While BUILD attendees get first crack at learning about Windows To Go, others will be able to view a video recording of the session on Microsoft's Channel 9 website , probably by Friday.

Microsoft unveiled the most information so far about Windows 8 during a keynote presentation yesterday by Steven Sinofsky, the president of the Windows division. BUILD will also host more than 270 individual sessions for developers on various aspects of the new operating system.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)

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