How to boot Windows on a Thunderbolt external drive

in Mac Software edited June 2015
OK … How to boot Windows 8.1 (I assume 10 will work the same way) from a Mac Pro on a Thunderbolt external drive. By Digitalclips for fellow AI members' fun. I take no responsibility for any loss of data or hair. Back up your Mac first.

First let me say this isn’t the cheapest method as you do need Parallels 10, Thunderbolt external drive and Windows 8.1 Enterprise Edition plus a Mac with Thunderbolt. Microsoft offer a free trial of the software for 90 days, plenty of time to play. That all said this method it is ‘silly simple’. I already had all the above lying around, I am sure many of you do too.

Let me also say there is another method that has a million variations posted all over the web, I also tried that but it is a pain to put it mildly. It involves using the Windows CMD interface and going through every step manually to set up the Fat32 and NTFS partitions converting to mbr and then using a gutted WAIK via imagex.exe to access the wim file … need I go on? … I will add it fails 9 times out of 10 anyway. It’s like a form of mental torture and reminds me of the 1980’s.

Ok, back to the easy way … :)

What is required:

1. An external Thunderbolt drive. I use dual docks from High Point. That way I can have an endless supply of bare HDs and SSDs to experiment with.

2. Parallels 10. Yes I tried VMWare Fusions latest version, (I use both Parallels and VMWare) and only Parallels 10 worked for me at this for some reason.

[S]3. Obtain the Bootcamp Drivers for YOUR Mac. I did this using Boot Camp and attaching a small bare drive on a USB3 dock as per usual Boot Camp set up (select only first radio button). Just get the drivers no need to create a Bootcamp partition. Be careful ... if you select other options too, your Mac’s boot drive will get partitioned. If you do this by accident rerun Boot Camp and use restore.[/S]

EDIT: I have found it works better without Bootcamp drivers on my MacPro. I was able to start AMD utilities and use their video control panel no problem and start Crossfire to drive both AMD GPUs in parallel.

[INDENT][B]The Procedure[/B]

a) Launch Parallels 10 and in Windows 8.1….

b) Copy your Windows 8.1 ISO to the Parallels Desk top and Mount (right click)

c) Open search and type Windows to Go and launch. Its Icon is a wee USB plugin. (*if issues see below)

d) Follow the instructions to install Windows to Go on the attached external Thunderbolt Drive.[I] Ignore all the crap about needing a Microsoft certified USB drive. I tested several bare drives via Thunderbolt, all worked .... a Samsung 830 series SSD was 10 x faster.[/I] Strangely Win2Go referred to the Thunderbolt drive as a 'USB drive' throughout but this was not an issue.

e) When finished restart Mac and hold down option during restart. Select the Windows disk (you may see two as Windows has two partitions, select the first one).

f) Go through all the standard set up procedures.

[S]g) Once at the Windows 8.1 desktop access the USB drive from 3 above and install the Boot Camp drivers. (I seriously doubt Windows 7 drivers will have good enough drivers for a new Mac, hence not mentioning a 7 install).[/S]

h) Reboot …option held, now select ‘Windows".[/INDENT]

[INDENT][B]That's it! You now have a bootable external Windows 8.1 Thunderbolt drive.[/B][/INDENT]

[INDENT]Possible Issues[/INDENT]
[INDENT]* If you don’t see W2GO you are not using the Windows 8.1 [I]Enterprise[/I] Edition. You can download a free 90 day trial from Microsoft. [/INDENT]

[INDENT]**You can make an ISO from the DVD if that's what you have, on a Mac with Disk Utilities. Save a new image as a .cdr (not .dmg) and simply change .cdr to .iso with the Finder. Then copy to Parallels. Make sure it really copies, curtail Parallels 'sharing', else it will be an alias and you need it to really be there.[/INDENT]

[B][I]And there’s one more thing … [/I][/B] (In theory) You can attach this drive to another modern Mac or Windows machine and boot it. (It will need to go through a set up on each machine.) Hence … ‘Windows to Go’ :) Caveat ... I have not tried attaching the drive to a USB3 dock and attaching to a Windows machine. It may fail. I don't own a Windows PC so no way to test.

[B]UPDATE: Booting the Windows disk using a USB3 dock damaged the drivers. To fix this select advanced options on booting the Windows drive and select the option to 'Disable Driver Signature Enforcement', once back at desk top select the Boot Camp drivers on the on your USB drive and reinstall. Once done reboot, it make take a couple of reboots but this repaired my drive . This set up is Thunderbolt only it seems[/B]

That’s all folks. It takes about 15 minutes start to finish (assuming Parallels is already set up lol). I have run X-Plane and T.ANE (3D graphics sims) so far and both get excellent frame rates. I still say using Windows (and I also have beta 10) is like a form of self torture. I only did this ‘because it was there’. :)

p.s. You cannot clone this new drive with Carbon Copy Cloner and similar. You require Windows Savvy cloning tools. I'm looking for a Mac side utility but so far only Windows side found.

p.p.s. I believe a techie Windows guy can access W2GO via the CMD and use it to turn tricks but I haven’t even bothered trying. I don’t know if W2GO can be extracted and used against its will to install non Enterprise Editions. That’s above my pay grade.

Have fun.

EDITED for better layout.
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