My post last week on ‘Can you run Windows Server 2016 at home?’ prompted another question from a Dave’s Computer customer. He wanted to know if there is any advantage to running a portable version of Windows 10 instead of installing it the usual way. As he travels a lot and installing everything onto a USB drive instead of trying to take a laptop through airport security was appealing. But is it practical?
Airport security is enough to put anyone off travelling with a computer. Even if you’re a US citizen, you can be interrogated and required to unlock your phone or laptop and allow TSA agents to inspect it. So is there a way around that while staying within the rules?
Windows 10 portable
There is an official portable version of Windows 10 you could use in this instance. You or your employer must have a Windows Enterprise license and use specific USB drives certified for Windows To Go, but if you have those, you can use this method. For most other users, it is a real hassle to get Windows 10 working on a USB drive.
There are programs like Rufus that will let you write the OS to USB but it takes time and configuring. Rufus is also not compatible with the newer versions of Windows 10 and may leave you running an outdated version.
If you want to travel while keeping your private data private, you can. You can either use a Linux installation on a USB or factory reset your laptop.
Portable Linux – Linux distributions come in portable formats ready to go. It takes minutes to install and will run a fully working installation onto any USB drive you have with enough space. The upside is that most Linux distros will work and you don’t need to buy a specific, and expensive, compatible USB drive. The downside is that if you don’t know Linux, the learning curve can be steep.
Factory reset your laptop – Many companies who fly in and out of the US use this method and it works. Whether you’re a home or business user, this can save a lot of time. Save all your personal or company data to cloud storage. Wipe your laptop and install your productivity apps. Don’t add any personal or business data to the laptop. When you get to your destination, use your cloud copies to work and save it all to the cloud and not your laptop.
The upside is that you still get to use your laptop and programs you’re familiar with. The downside is that TSA may still want a look at your laptop and delay your onward travel. They just won’t find anything.
I wouldn’t suggest running a portable version of Windows 10. It doesn’t work so well and can be sluggish to use. If the previous two options are not good for your needs, you can always try!