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Security and Data Protection Considerations for Windows To Go

Published: August 15, 2012

Updated: August 21, 2013

Applies To: Windows 8, Windows 8.1

Helping to ensure that the data, content, and resources you are working with in the Windows To Go workspace is protected and secure is one of the most important requirements that you have when planning your Windows To Go deployment.

As long as you are not saving data on the Windows To Go drive, there is no need for a backup and restore solution for Windows To Go. If you are saving data on the drive and are not using folder redirection and offline files, you should backup all of your data to a network location, such as cloud storage or a network share after each work session. Review the new and improved features described in Supporting Information Workers with Reliable File Services and Storage for different solutions you could implement.

If the USB drive fails for any reason, the standard process for restoring the drive to working condition is to reformat and reprovision the drive with Windows To Go, so all data and customization on the drive will be lost. This is another reason why using roaming user profiles, folder redirection and offline files with Windows To Go is strongly recommended. For more information, see Folder Redirection, Offline Files, and Roaming User Profiles overview.

We recommend that you use BitLocker with your Windows To Go drives to protect the drive from being compromised if the drive is lost or stolen. When BitLocker is enabled, the user must provide a password to unlock the drive and boot the Windows To Go workspace, this helps prevent unauthorized users from booting the drive and using it to gain access to your network resources and confidential data. Because Windows To Go drives are meant to be roamed between computers, the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) cannot be used by BitLocker to protect the drive. Instead, you will be specifying a password that BitLocker will use for disk encryption and decryption. By default, this password must be eight characters in length and can enforce more strict requirements depending on the password complexity requirements defined by your organizations domain controller.

You can enable BitLocker while using the Windows To Go Creator wizard as part of the drive provisioning process before first use; or it can be enabled afterward by the user from within the Windows To Go workspace.

TipTip
If the Windows To Go Creator wizard is not able to enable BitLocker, see Why can’t I enable BitLocker from “Windows To Go Creator”?

If you are using a host computer running Windows 7 that has BitLocker enabled, you should suspend BitLocker before changing the BIOS settings to boot from USB and then resume BitLocker protection. If BitLocker is not suspended first, the next time the computer is started it will boot into recovery mode.

We recommend that you use the NoDefaultDriveLetter attribute when provisioning the USB drive to help prevent accidental data leakage. NoDefaultDriveLetter will prevent the host operating system from assigning a drive letter if a user inserts it into a running computer. This means the drive will not appear in Windows Explorer and an AutoPlay prompt will not be displayed to the user. This reduces the likelihood that an end-user will access the offline Windows To Go disk directly from another computer. If you use the Windows To Go Creator to provision a workspace, this attribute will automatically be set for you.

To prevent accidental data leakage between Windows To Go and the host system Windows 8 has a new SAN policy—OFFLINE_INTERNAL - “4” to prevent the operating system from automatically bringing online any internally connected disk. The default configuration for Windows To Go has this policy enabled. It is strongly recommended you do not change this policy to allow mounting of internal hard drives when booted into the Windows To Go workspace. If the internal drive contains a hibernated Windows 8 operating system, mounting the drive will lead to loss of hibernation state and therefor user state or any unsaved user data when the host operating system is booted. If the internal drive contains a hibernated Windows 7 or earlier operating system, mounting the drive will lead to corruption when the host operating system is booted.

For more information, see How to Configure Storage Area Network (SAN) Policy in Windows PE.

Windows to Go is a core capability of Windows when it is deployed on the drive and is configured following the guidance for the applicable security certification. Solutions built using Windows To Go can be submitted for additional certifications by the solution provider that cover the solution provider’s specific hardware environment. For more details about Windows security certifications, see the following topics.

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