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How to Install Windows 11/10 on External Hard Drive [2 Ways]

Updated by Roxanne on Aug 27, 2021
Written by Jean

Have you ever imagined that to use your own Windows 11/10 OS wherever you go? If yes, follow this page and you will uncover two practical ways to help you install Windows 11/10 on an external hard drive:

# 1. Install Windows 10/8/7 on External Hard Drive using EaseUS Todo Backup
# 2. Install Windows 10 (Enterprise/Education Edition) on External Hard Drive

By doing so, you can take your Windows to anywhere and boot Windows 11/10 on any computer via the external hard drive.

Is It Possible to Install Windows 11/10 on an External Hard Drive

"I have a Seagate 2TB Expansion Desktop External HDD. Thinking that it will be cool to have an OS on the External. So I want to install the Windows 10 OS on this external HDD. But whenever I tried to install Windows 10 straight onto the external disk, I get an error message saying that windows cannot be installed on a USB drive or IEE 1394.

I was just wondering if it is possible to install Windows on an external hard drive. If so how can I get the Windows 10 OS installed?"

Windows cannot install on USB error

As you might know, although one can install Windows on an external hard drive, you can't install the same to an external hard drive with default settings. Installing Windows 10 on an external hard drive is not an easy task for average users.

Usually, Windows recognizes and displays the USB hard drive on the installation screen but it doesn't allow you to install Windows on it. If you attempt to so, you will get "Windows cannot be installed to this disk" error.

Don't worry! Here you can find two complete solutions to install Windows 10 on an external hard drive and take Windows anywhere as you want.

How to Install Windows 11/10 on An External Hard Drive (Two Ways)

It only takes two stages to install Windows 10 on an external hard drive. First, preparations - back up the external hard drive data and delete all the partitions on the external hard drive. Then, install Windows 10 on the external hard drive .

To install Windows 10 on the external hard drive, you have two options here: 1. Using system clone feature with EaseUS Todo Backup; 2. Use Windows To Go. Both two options allow you to execute the operation and make sure is bootable on the external hard drive.

Follow through the guidance here to install Windows 10 on the external hard drive and make it bootable on your own:

Preparations - Back-Up the External Hard Drive in Advance

You can simply copy the data to another disk or just use data backup software to do it. If you prefer a one-click backup solution, you may consider third-party backup software. 

EaseUS Todo Backup provides professional and steady service to back up your external hard drive easily. 

Way 1. Install Windows 11/10 On External Hard Drive with EaseUS Todo Backup

Applies to: all Windows operating OS, like Windows 11/10/8/7, etc.

Pros: The created Windows USB drive is bootable on any computer.

# 1. Delete All Partitions on the External Hard Drive

Make sure the capacity of your target external hard drive is larger than the total size of your boot and system partition. 

You may use Disk Management to delete the external hard drive partition. If you have difficulty in deleting partitions, you can ask free partition manager for help.

Step 1. Click This PC -> Manage -> Disk Management.

Step 2. Locate and right-click the external hard drive in the Disk Management, select "Delete Volume...".

delete partitions

Step 3. Click "Yes" to permit Windows 10 to delete the selected partition in the external hard drive.

After the operation, the external hard drive will turn to an unallocated space without a drive letter on it. By now, the external hard drive is ready to install Windows 10.

# 2. Install Windows 10 On External Hard Drive using EaseUS System Clone Feature

Basically, EaseUS Todo Backup with its system clone feature makes it easier to install the Windows system on an external hard drive than using Windows To Go. Download and run EaseUS system cloning software - Todo Backup on your computer. Then, refer to this guide to clone system with EaseUS Todo Backup or watch the video below.

Step 1. Launch EaseUS Todo Backup. Expand the menu and click "System Clone" in the lower position.

click system clone

Step 2. On the "System clone" window, the software will choose the system partition and boot partition by default. Just Choose the USB drive as the destination disk. 

Click on "Advanced options" and then "Create Portable Windows USB drive". Click "OK".

choose the usb drive to create a portable windows usb drive

Click "Proceed". The software will start immediately cloning the default partitions of your desktop/laptop to the USB drive. After the cloning process is over, you can safely plug the USB drive out.

start to create portable windows usb drive

Step 3. To boot the cloned system from the USB drive on other Windows devices, just connect the drive to the device.

After the connection, wait for the computer configuring system settings and you will finally arrive at the desktop screen that's exactly the same with that of the cloned system.
Put the "username" and "password" of the cloned system.
Done. You should now successfully enter the cloned system.

Way 2. Use Windows To Go to Install Windows 10 on External Hard Drive

Applies to: Windows 10 Enterprise Edition and Education Edition. 

Pros: Makes Windows 10 bootable on the external hard drive. (Only works on the host computer.)

Note that Windows To Go is only available in Windows Enterprise Edition and Education Edition. It means that if your current system is not one of these two editions, you won't be able to use Windows To Go to execute this task. Also, you need a certified USB drive to use Windows to Go.

Here are the steps:

Step 1. Check if your external hard drive is one of the certified USB drives for use as Windows to Go drives:

  • IronKey Workspace W700 
  • IronKey Workspace W500
  • IronKey Workspace W300
  • Kingston DataTraveler Workspace for Windows To Go
  • Spyrus Portable Workplace
  • Spyrus Secure Portable Workplace
  • Spyrus Worksafe
  • Super Talent Express RC4/RC8 for Windows To Go
  • Western Digital My Passport Enterprise

Step 2. Connect your external hard drive to the computer, back up the external hard drive to another device, and format the drive to NTFS.

Step 3. Download Windows 10 Enterprise ISO file.

Step 4. Right-click the Windows icon and click "Search", type Windows to Go, and hit Enter.

Step 5. Choose your external hard drive and click "Next".

Create Windows to Go USB drive

Step 6. Click "Add search location" to browse the Windows 10 ISO image that you downloaded in advance on your computer.

Click "Next" to continue.

Create Windows to GO on external hard drive with Windows 10 ISO image

Step 7. Enable BitLocker Encryption on the external hard drive. (It's an optional choice.)

Step 8. Click "Create" and wait for Windows to Go to transfer the Windows 10 image to the USB drive.

wait for the creation process to complete. It will take 20-30 minutes. When a completion page appears, it means that your Windows to Go workspace is ready to use. 

You can now prepare a host computer using the Windows To Go startup options and boot from your Windows To Go drive.

Conclusion

This page includes two ways of helping Windows users to install Windows 10 on an external hard drive, making Windows bootable from the drive.

If you prefer to create a Windows to GO USB drive on any Windows operating system, EaseUS Todo Backup with its system clone feature as recommended in Way 1 is the best choice.

If you only want to create an emergency disk to make your own Windows 10 bootable on an external hard drive and use it on the host computer, Windows to Go feature in Way 2 is worth a try. 

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Updated by Roxanne

Roxanne is one of the main contributors to EaseUS and has created multiple posts on digital devices like PCs, Mobile phones, tablets, Mac, etc. She loves to share ideas with people of the same interest.

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Written by Jean

Author Jean has been writing tech articles since she was graduated from university. She has been part of the EaseUS team for over 5 years. Her special focuses are data recovery, disk partitioning, data space optimization, data backup and Mac OS. By the way, she's an aviation fan!

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  • I love that the changes you make with EaseUS Partition Master Free aren't immediately applied to the disks. It makes it way easier to play out what will happen after you've made all the changes. I also think the overall look and feel of EaseUS Partition Master Free makes whatever you're doing with your computer's partitions easy.

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  • Partition Master Free can Resize, Move, Merge, Migrate, and Copy disks or partitions; convert to local, change label, defragment, check and explore partition; and much more. A premium upgrade adds free tech support and the ability to resize dynamic volumes.

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  • It won't hot image your drives or align them, but since it's coupled with a partition manager, it allows you do perform many tasks at once, instead of just cloning drives. You can move partitions around, resize them, defragment, and more, along with the other tools you'd expect from a cloning tool.

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