Goal: MBA with External HDD booting Windows

Discussion in 'Windows, Linux & Others on the Mac' started by Dcschwartz, Nov 10, 2013.

  1. Dcschwartz macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2013
    #1
    Hello - I know this question has been asked in some form or another before, but I wanted to get some fresh insight on this, especially considering the release of Mavericks.

    I have a 2013 MBA (128GB) and I would like to play the occasional Windows-only Steam game from time to time. I'm moderately-tech savvy, but I don't have an entire day to dedicate to figuring out Wine, so its either Bootcamp or nothing for me. I have about 75 free GB's on my internal HDD, so doing a bootcamp partition on the internal HDD is possible, but it doesn't seem like I should if I want to keep sufficient room available in both the OSX and Windows partitions.

    So, it comes down to this: Can I use an external HDD in any way to run Windows?

    I have plenty of HDDs lying around, access to a 2010 MBP (relevant since my MBA doesn't have a disc drive) and I should be able to get a copy of Windows XP from work (or I just buy a new license).

    If the answer is no, and I am forced to partition my internal drive to do this, is it possible to run the windows files (in this case, Steam and the Windows-only game) from the HDD? What would be the minimum that I can partition?

    And if the answer is still no, any other ideas?

    I guess in retrospect I should have just dropped the extra $ 200 and upgraded to 256 GB. It seemed too expensive at the time and I wasn't into computer games until I got the MBA. I'll live!

    Thanks for your help!
     
  2. Livewings macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2012
    #2
    Yes it is possible.
    I've used this tutorial since I got my MBA in June.

    Now I'm running Windows 8.1 on my E-HDD.

    You need a Windows PC to begin with this tutorial

    http://blog.exchange-addict.com/2013/02/windows-to-go-uefi-only_19.html
     
  3. Dcschwartz thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2013
    #3
    I didn't understand a thing that blog said, so I think I need something simpler. Thanks anyways.
     
  4. skallal macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2012
    #4
    The above link requires Windows 8.1 Enterprise, which is only available for volume licenses. It also requires a separate PC to setup.

    You might look at http://hints.macworld.com/article.php?story=20130205013401393. I haven't tried it myself, but it's the only solution I've seen. Hope this helps...

    I personally use Parallels Desktop running Windows 8.1 Pro in a VM. Some time I'd like to try it with Bootcamp, but don't want to buy another license.
     
  5. biohead macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2010
    Location:
    West Drayton, UK
    #5
    It is possible to boot ANY version of Windows from an external drive (not just Pro/Enterprise). You need to use a thunderbolt drive though, not USB.
     
  6. Dcschwartz thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2013
    #6
    Sounds good - can you provide me with a link to instructions?

    Thank you, I appreciate it.
     
  7. biohead macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2010
    Location:
    West Drayton, UK
    #7
    Here's a link to what I used: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1414769 (It does say it's for the rMBP - but it worked on my cMBP and there's no reason it's not the same for your MBA).

    The basic gist of it is that a small FAT partition is required on your internal drive (5GB is more than enough. 1GB will probably do it!) and then install Windows as normal with your Thunderbolt drive attached. Use the bootcamp assistant to create your USB install key with the drivers, but don't let it bother partitioning your internal drive.

    I specifically bought a thunderbolt drive to do this - they're expensive but I'm quite glad I did to get this functionality.
     
  8. skallal, Nov 21, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2013

    skallal macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2012
    #8
    Can you explain what is different about thunderbolt? Does the Mac or Windows see it as an internal drive?

    I've been using USB 3 for my external drives, seagate backup plus drives. I've booted off of them but they're certainly made more for archiving them for running OS X.

    Edit: The reason I mentioned Windows 8 enterprise was because of Windows To Go, which requires enterprise to boot from a USB drive. But that was an assumption on my part because I have no real experience with Windows To Go. I use Windows 8.1 professional on all my installations: two Windows tablets and one on Parallels Desktop.
     
  9. Livewings macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2012
    #9
    Not true. I'm using a USB based HDD to bootcamp Windows 8.1 using Windows to Go.
     
  10. biohead macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2010
    Location:
    West Drayton, UK
    #10
    This is MY understanding of it: Thunderbolt is essentially an extension of the PCIe bus - think a PCIe SSD found in some laptops as the only drive. It is seen as an internal drive. Windows doesn't reenumerate the PCIe bus during the booting process hence it stays uninterrupted, whereas with FW and USB these busses get reset as Windows starts up. This is a fundamental design of Windows and why you can't boot Windows from USB (with the exception of To Go in 8/8.1).

    The issue with "To Go" is that it's limited to Windows 8/8.1 and only Enterprise editions (may be Pro too, but I'm not certain). In order to get the Enterprise edition, you need to work for an organisation that licenses it and then it has to connect to the KMS server every so often. It's intended to be an extension of your workplace - it's a shame it doesn't work with the home versions.



    What about my statement isn't true? You CAN boot ANY version of Windows via thunderbolt. I never said anything about NOT being able to boot "To Go" USB drives now did I? :rolleyes: I even specifically highlighted the fact that this doesn't rely on the Ent version.

    Of course a "To Go" USB drive works - that's the whole purpose of "To Go". It's not much use if you want Win 7 or don't have access to Enterprise is it though?
     

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