Should I go for 64 GB? I feel it would be much more useful over the long run.
I already installed To Go on a 16GB usb 2.0 stick and I can tell you the facts. It's up to you to decide if it's worth a shot or not.
Ok, the usb stick it's pretty standard. I posted the speed specs some time ago: Windows 8 to go - on a USB stick
I used CP x86 (32bit) following Wolfgang's procedure here Windows 8 To Go - Setup on a USB Flash Drive or USB Disk more or less.
Then I formatted the stick and used RP x64 (64bit) following the same steps. Because 64bit programs should execute by a few percent faster, BUT the 64bit version has more files to copy and the imagex fase (copying all system to usb) took almost 120 minutes instead of the 32bit 90 minutes.
After copying files, it was bootloader time: I had a Win7 x64 base pc and the needed bcdboot command doesn't work here (usb not bootable). You need to run the command from within Win8 with the To Go stick inserted. So I set up a VM in VirtualBox /VMware where you install the needed Win8 version just for running the bcdboot command here with the usb stick inserted.
That went pretty well and it was testing time: you should boot the pc from the stick to see it run. Note that the best (fastest) computer in house is recommended because hardware has to be installed and the process takes a long time.
CP x86 (32bit) first boot: pretty slow the first boot time, about 50 minutes seriously.
The RP x64 was something similar but didn't measured the time, just left the room for an hour (that boring install screen took ages)
But was ready in about an hour. Yes it's usb 2.0. Be warned.
After the first boot I was impressed: the second boot was 2 minutes and later on almost 1 minute!
So if you got a spare usb stick give To Go a try.
The first boot on a second computer with the same stick goes fast: in less than 3 minutes you are on the desktop.
Installing apps, progs and stuff also goes slow. To speed thing up use offline installers already copied to a local HDD in the pc (if available) and run setup(s) from there. I did this with some programs and the nVidia installer: when the installer suggests extraction to C:, you pick your own desired HDD / sdd drive (not the To Go stick which is call drive C: here).
After some use and when your needed programs are installed, you can run them (still slow in comparison with a HDD or SSD but worth it for usb 2.0 stick)
Some users here used usb 3.0 sticks for To Go with better (or worse than expected) performances.
To Go works also on HDD's and SSD drives but for the cheapest solution, I leave To Go on my usb 2.0 stick.
I use it sometimes for the show or testing programs and apps on different pc's without the need of installing Win8 everywhere. It's a pretty mobile and flexible solution.
I now use the RP x64 To Go: the install took longer to complete but that's over and the benefit of x64 should be present. The disadvantage of x64 To Go is that older (32bit) processors and pc are not supported but that doesn't worry me since 90% of what I use here daily are 64bit capable pc's (pretty basic dual cores and a i5, not much) not a problem for the mobile usb stick here.
That's the story of a usb 2.0 To Go setup.
I really appreciate your input. Based on what you said, I might go a different route. I have an external 3 TB drive (eSATA and USB) that already has 2TB of data on it.
Can I install Win 8 on that without disturbing the data that's already there?
If so, what's the best way (normal vs. W2G?) and (same partition, new partition, or VHD?)
Can I do it in such a way that this drive has its own bootloader that only is accessed when I want to be accessed (doesn't disturb boot loader on internal drive)?
There are many solutions on this one. Pick one that doesn't involve formatting or messing with too many bootloaders if you still use that drive for data. I'm talking about a NTFS partition in the best scenario.
I read that the drive is external: To Go is still the best solution because the bootloader stays (independent) on the external drive.
Drivers are installed on every pc you boot with that drive.
You can go through the To Go process but don't format if you need your data. Make sure the drive's partition is primary and active.
You already know Wolfgang's great tutorial here on the forums: Windows 8 To Go - Setup on a USB Flash Drive or USB Disk and before he posted it, I looked here: Ordering “Windows to Go”: how to create a bootable Windows 8 USB thumb drive | Ars Technica
and the procedure is the same, but keep in mind over what we discussed here on the forums: mainly that you need to run bcdboot from another Win8 installation when the time comes to make the drive bootable.
Windows 8 to go - on a USB stick
(In my opinion, VHD is best for an internal drive: a bootloader is created on one of the drives available or the bootloader goes besides an already present Vista or Win7 if one of those are already installed on the pc. If the HDD is removed, it can't boot without it's OS bootloader that's on another drive)
I'd also give To Go a try on a external hard drive but i'm honest to say I only tested it on usb sticks but I'm confident it works as long as you can boot from the eSata drive from the BIOS menu.
Hopachi--I was not able to install because I am using a 3TB hard drive formatted GPT, which apparently cannot be an active partition. Any solutions?
No solid solution that I know for this one for the moment. Sorry.
I didn't had time to test this out:
- convert my usb stick to GPT
- format NTFS
- no ACTIVE partition just copy (imagex) the files there and try to boot
...and see if I get errors or warnings, then reboot on my HP laptop (has "HP diagnostics UEFI" only in F11 mode but it's a BIOS laptop)
I don't think it's going to work either but I'm not sure until I test it out or after someone confirms this.
In your case:
You can try a VHD install but it has some limitations also (no more portability between more pc's). And you need UEFI pc to boot from GPT partitions with Windows from what I know.
If I search some connections between UEFI and mbr, I get this:
but didn't found the right project yet (to emulate uefi or boot on a BIOS machine) and something called "bootduet"
If your machine has UEFI, ignore the previous 1-2-3 lines of text.
Converting the drive from GPT to MBR will wipe all the data: this not a solution. And the MBR partition can be maximum 2TB in size.
It is possible to make after a backup but I really wouldn't recommend it (just to boot the drive). Stay with the current GPT 3TB partition and it's safer for you and your files. The thing that concerns me is the possibility to lose some files during backup and conversion to MBR because it's a large drive.
To boot from GPT you need UEFI support.
I never tried booting from a GPT drive (actually I never used GPT drives because they are all smaller than 2TB) on a standard BIOS pc and I don't think is going to work.