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COMMENT: Windows in my pocket, finally

Rave: Giving the people what they want

Rejoice: Microsoft is finally taking steps to make your life easier

In the past, Microsoft has often been slow to make its customers’ lives easier. Luckily, amateur Windows fans have always been there to plug the gap. With the release of netbooks, suddenly you had a range of computers without optical drives, giving you no way to install the optical disc-bound Windows. Step forward the online community with complicated guides involving BartPE and DiskPart showing you how to install Windows from a USB flash drive. Realising that such guides are too terrifying for many users, enterprising programmers entered the fray with automatic utilities such as WinToFlash, which creates a Windows installation USB flash drive from an ISO disc image in just a few clicks.

Finally, with the advent of Windows 7 Microsoft has got in on the act, with an official program to create a bootable Windows 7 USB installation flash drive. It’s still hidden away in the Microsoft Store (search for Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool) but at least it’s finally there.

It’s now up to Ballmer & Co to plug another long-standing Windows hole – the lack of a Linux-style Live USB flash drive option, so you can boot into an operating system without modifying anything on the host computer’s hard disk and even save your files or settings directly to the flash drive you booted from. There are ways to make a simplified live Windows environment for file recovery and system repair, but it’s hardly the real deal.

Now, finally, Windows 8 brings a real, 100 per cent complete live environment. Windows to Go creates a fully-functional Windows 8 boot disk, which runs from a 32GB or larger USB stick or external hard disk. It runs just like a normal Windows installation; you can install drivers and programs and save files to disk, all without modifying the host computer in any way. It may have taken it a while, but it seems Microsoft is finally starting to give the people what they want.

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