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

Here you can find the complete solution about how to install Windows 11/10 on external hard drive. And this guide is also available for other Windows versions.

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Updated by Oliver on Apr 09, 2024
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 OS2GO
# 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.

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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:

Way 1. Use 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.

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Step 1. Launch EaseUS Partition Master, and click "Partition Manager".

Make sure that you've backed up the important data before deleting any partition on your disk.

Step 2. Select to delete partition or delete all partitions on hard drive.

  • Delete single partition: right-click on a partition that you want to delete and choose "Delete".
  • Delete all partitions: right-click a hard drive that you want to delete all partitions, and select "Delete All".

Step 3. Click "Yes" to confirm the deletion.

Step 4. Click "Execute xx Task" and then click "Apply" to save the change.

0:00 - 0:26 Delete single volumes; 0:27 - 0:53 Delete all partitions.

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.

Further Reading:

# 2. Install Windows 10 On External Hard Drive

Basically, EaseUS OS2GO makes it easier to install the Windows system on an external hard drive than using Windows To Go. Then, refer to this guide to clone system with EaseUS Todo Backup below:

Preparation:

  1. 1. Check how much disk space is used for the system C drive. Then prepare a qualified USB drive which is larger than the used space.
  2. 2. Make sure you use an empty USB, because the system clone will overwrite the USB data completely.
  3. 3. Connect the USB drive to your machine and make sure it can be detected.

Follow the overall process to create a portable Windows USB drive and boot from it:

Step 1. On the main page, find and click "Tools", choose "system clone".

system clone step1

Step 2. The boot and system partition will be selected automatically, you just need to choose the target disk and click "Next."

system clone step1

*System clone does not support cloning MBR disk to GPT or vice versa. Make sure that the partition style of the source disk and the target disk are the same.

system clone step3

Step 3. Click "Advanced Options", and choose "Create a portable Windows USB drive".

Optimize for SSD

Step 4. Click "Proceed". EaseUS Todo Backup will start to create portable USB.

clone system step4

Step 5. How to boot from the portable USB drive.

  • Connect your portable USB to the computer
  • Restart the computer and press "Del/F2/F12/F10" to enter BIOS
  • Set the PC to boot from the portable USB by changing the boot order in BIOS under the "Boot" tab
  • Save changes and you'll see your system booting up from the USB drive

After the connection, wait for the computer to configure 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.

📖Further Reading: Install Windows 10 from USB

Way 2. Use Windows To Go

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.

Read Also: Windows 10 Won't Install on SSD

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. Both two ways can help you install Windows 10/11 on an external hard drive. Share this article to help more users in need now.

 

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. With these solutions, you can also install Windows 10 without product key.

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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About the Author

Updated by Oliver

Oliver is an EaseUS professional writer who dares explore new areas. With a passion for solving tech issues with straightforward guides for common users, Oliver keeps honing his writing craft by developing in-depth solutions for disk and partition management, computer boot-up issues, file transfer, etc.

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Written by Jean

Jean is recognized as one of the most professional writers in EaseUS. She has kept improving her writing skills over the past 10 years and helped millions of her readers solve their tech problems on PC, Mac, and iOS devices.

Read full bio

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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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