Solved Installing to an external SSD without "installing"

Mystere

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Ok, I need to install windows to an SSD for a headless pc, and I don't want to have to "reboot" and do the install.. i'd like some way to do the install so I can just move it to the other computer and boot from that.

I thought about using a VM to do this, but I don't see a way in Hyper-V to use a physical drive (there used to be a way to do this, but don't see it anymore).

I was thinking about doing the first stage install that loads the files onto the drive, and completing it on the other machine, but there are steps that would need a keyboard and monitor to complete, also Windows puts the boot configuration on the system drive when doing this... so you'd have to boot and install the boot files.

Anyone have any suggestions?
 

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Mystere

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Never mind, I think i figured it out. You have to create the VM without adding a drive, then you can go to the SCSI controller and add a physical hard disk there. But it has to be marked offline in disk manager.
 

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Mystere

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Ugh.. turns out, if you have a physical disk connected, it won't boot. Says it can't create a restore point.

So the work around is disconnect the drive, boot to the CD installation, reconnect the passthrough drive, and it works... pain in the butt.
 

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NavyLCDR

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The way I do it is to create an EFI system partition on the USB drive (FAT32), followed by a partition for the OS (NTFS). Then I use the dism /apply-image command to apply the Windows 11 image from an ISO file or USB flash drive to the partition on the USB drive I created for it. Use the bcdboot command to write boot files to the EFI system partition. Done.

Another way is to create the EFI system partition on the USB drive. Then create a VM with the VHDX virtual hard drive located on the USB drive. Once you get done setting up the system in the VM, then stop the VM and mount the VHDX file in your normal Windows and use the bcdboot command to write boot files to the EFI system partition on the USB drive to boot from the VHDX file on the USB drive.
 

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spapakons

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I would do it with gimagex. It is a utility that can read install.wim and extract the setup files to a partition. If you have install.esd you have to convert it to install.wim. So you connect the target disk on your computer, you create a single NTFS partition, extract Windows 11 setup with gimagex. Then install Windows boot loader and make the partition bootable. I don't have exact instructions right now, sorry, but you get the idea. Booting the hard disk in the target computer will be like Setup has finished copying files and computer restarts for the first time. Setup will resume, install drivers and then proceed to the account creation etc. This actually is yet another method to bypass compatibility check. Depending on how you install the Windows boot loader and the command line parameters you use to make the partition bootable, you can even create a Windows-to-go installation. This can also boot from USB, so it is great for testing compatibility with other computers. You can also add diagnostic utilities and use it for troubleshooting. The only drawback is that Windows-to-go cannot normally be upgraded to a newer build, so I would not use it as my main system, but is great for troubleshooting and for testing compatibility on other computers without having to install Windows every time. You just wait on first boot to install the drivers.
 

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System One

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    Windows 11 Pro 21H2 64-bit (build 22000.282)
    Computer type
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    Acer Extensa 5630EZ
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    Mobile DualCore Intel Core 2 Duo T7250, 2000 MHz
    Motherboard
    Acer Extensa 5630
    Memory
    4GB
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    Mobile Intel(R) GMA 4500M (Mobile 4 series)
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NavyLCDR

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Dism is right in the Windows iso file or on the Windows installation USB flash drive in the sources folder. It will extract images from either install.wim or install.esd. Just seems a bit more convenient.
 

My Computers

System One System Two

  • Operating System
    Windows 11
    Computer type
    PC/Desktop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Homebuilt
    CPU
    AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT
    Motherboard
    ASUS ROG Crosshair VII Hero (WiFi)
    Memory
    32GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
  • Operating System
    Windows 11 Education
    Computer type
    Laptop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Dell Inspiron 7773
    CPU
    Intel i7-8550U
    Memory
    32GB
    Graphics card(s)
    Nvidia Geforce MX150
    Sound Card
    Realtek
    Monitor(s) Displays
    17"
    Screen Resolution
    1920 x 1080
    Hard Drives
    Toshiba 512GB NVMe SSD
    SK Hynix 512GB SATA SSD
    Internet Speed
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jimbo45

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Hi there

@Mystere

sysprep customised image with automatic answer file. Link says WIN10 but works for W11.


BTW ADK and Winpe creation are freely downloadable from Ms.

Dism /ApplyImage etc is an easy way to apply an install,wim as well

Rufus V3.16 can also install to a USB -- careful though otherwise you'll have a WintoGo system which you don't really want if the system is running from a fixed HDD. Using the BCDBOOT command correctly should ensure target device is bootable.

Cheers
jimbo
 

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spapakons

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You are right, but to me seems more complicated to use the command prompt than use a GUI utility such as gimagex. Of course to install the Windows Boot Loader and mark the partition active you still need to use the command prompt.

As said before, a Windows-To-Go installation is convenient if you want to boot from USB, but cannot upgrade to a newer version. So if you plan to have the disk fixed (permanently installed inside the PC) avoid that and create a standard installation instead. It is all a matter of which parameters you will use in bcdboot. I don't remember exactly, I was following a guide.
 

My Computer

System One

  • Operating System
    Windows 11 Pro 21H2 64-bit (build 22000.282)
    Computer type
    Laptop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Acer Extensa 5630EZ
    CPU
    Mobile DualCore Intel Core 2 Duo T7250, 2000 MHz
    Motherboard
    Acer Extensa 5630
    Memory
    4GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    Mobile Intel(R) GMA 4500M (Mobile 4 series)
    Sound Card
    Realtek ALC268 @ Intel 82801IB ICH9 - High Definition Audio Controller
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    1
    Screen Resolution
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    Hard Drives
    Samsung SSD 850 EVO 250GB SATA Device (250 GB, SATA-III)
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Mystere

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I managed to do it using the method i outlined, create a VM, start it, and boot from iso, then add the physical disk and do the install, worked like a charm.
 

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cereberus

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I managed to do it using the method i outlined, create a VM, start it, and boot from iso, then add the physical disk and do the install, worked like a charm.
The trick of using a VM basically works because the vm contains all the required partitions.

I would have probably done it slightly differently i.e. install W11 in a HyperV vhdx file, and then cloned the vhdx to the physical disk using Macrium Reflect, as you could have the SSD temporarily in a usb enclosure to save hassle of putting in one pc and then removing it etc.

Going one stage further you can fully configure new install on SSD inside VM as well. Then you can add drive to headless pc fully configured.

Of course, it is roundabouts and swings which is best approach as either works.
 

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Mystere

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I didn't want to reboot my system, and disconnect my primary drive to do the install. And i don't have a keyboard and mouse on the system i'm installing to, much less a display. Could i have used a response file? Sure, but in my experience it's easy to miss something, and have it sit there waiting for an input that will never come. So this was the best solution for me.
 

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cereberus

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I didn't want to reboot my system, and disconnect my primary drive to do the install. And i don't have a keyboard and mouse on the system i'm installing to, much less a display. Could i have used a response file? Sure, but in my experience it's easy to miss something, and have it sit there waiting for an input that will never come. So this was the best solution for me.
If you do want to run a true headless system, you need to install a server version of Window. Normal versions will need rebooting periodically.
 

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  • Operating System
    Windows 10 Pro + others in VHDs
    Computer type
    Laptop
    Manufacturer/Model
    ASUS Vivobook 14
    CPU
    I7
    Motherboard
    Yep, Laptop has one.
    Memory
    16 GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    Integrated Intel Iris XE
    Sound Card
    Realtek built in
    Monitor(s) Displays
    N/A
    Screen Resolution
    1920x1080
    Hard Drives
    1 TB Optane NVME SSD, 1 TB NVME SSD
    PSU
    Yep, got one
    Case
    Yep, got one
    Cooling
    Stella Artois
    Keyboard
    Built in
    Mouse
    Bluetooth , wired
    Internet Speed
    72 Mb/s :-(
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    Edge mostly
    Antivirus
    Defender
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Mystere

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remote desktop works just fine to reboot. You can even do a remote shutdown via cmd line. But that's beside the point, it's not a server. It doesn't run services, it's just a desktop computer that i access remotely and use to monitor devices connected to it.
 

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spapakons

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You can also install TeamViewer or AnyDesk, set a fixed password and control the computer remotely from another computer or your mobile.
 

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  • Operating System
    Windows 11 Pro 21H2 64-bit (build 22000.282)
    Computer type
    Laptop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Acer Extensa 5630EZ
    CPU
    Mobile DualCore Intel Core 2 Duo T7250, 2000 MHz
    Motherboard
    Acer Extensa 5630
    Memory
    4GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    Mobile Intel(R) GMA 4500M (Mobile 4 series)
    Sound Card
    Realtek ALC268 @ Intel 82801IB ICH9 - High Definition Audio Controller
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    1
    Screen Resolution
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    Hard Drives
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    VDSL 50 Mbps
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    MICROSOFT EDGE
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    WINDOWS DEFENDER

cereberus

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remote desktop works just fine to reboot. You can even do a remote shutdown via cmd line. But that's beside the point, it's not a server. It doesn't run services, it's just a desktop computer that i access remotely and use to monitor devices connected to it.
Fair enough but bear in mind RDP is not that secure if you wish to access over internet.
 

My Computer

System One

  • Operating System
    Windows 10 Pro + others in VHDs
    Computer type
    Laptop
    Manufacturer/Model
    ASUS Vivobook 14
    CPU
    I7
    Motherboard
    Yep, Laptop has one.
    Memory
    16 GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    Integrated Intel Iris XE
    Sound Card
    Realtek built in
    Monitor(s) Displays
    N/A
    Screen Resolution
    1920x1080
    Hard Drives
    1 TB Optane NVME SSD, 1 TB NVME SSD
    PSU
    Yep, got one
    Case
    Yep, got one
    Cooling
    Stella Artois
    Keyboard
    Built in
    Mouse
    Bluetooth , wired
    Internet Speed
    72 Mb/s :-(
    Browser
    Edge mostly
    Antivirus
    Defender
    Other Info
    TPM 2.0

Mystere

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RDP is very secure, yes there have been some vulnerabilities discovered in the past that were fixed (last one was several years ago), but in general RDP uses an encrypted connection using TLS, the same as used in SSH, or https, etc.. It's not "insecure". But regardless, i don't use it over the internet.
 

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spapakons

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The problem with RDP and VNC is that you must know your target computer IP and configure your router to accept the connection. While with TeamViewer and AnyDesk you don't have these issues as they assign an ID independent of your IP and they do not need to open any ports on your router. Before I knew TeamViewer I used VNC a lot to control my home PC from office, but I had to install DynDNS to bypass the IP requirement. Too much hassle for a simple task.
 

My Computer

System One

  • Operating System
    Windows 11 Pro 21H2 64-bit (build 22000.282)
    Computer type
    Laptop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Acer Extensa 5630EZ
    CPU
    Mobile DualCore Intel Core 2 Duo T7250, 2000 MHz
    Motherboard
    Acer Extensa 5630
    Memory
    4GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    Mobile Intel(R) GMA 4500M (Mobile 4 series)
    Sound Card
    Realtek ALC268 @ Intel 82801IB ICH9 - High Definition Audio Controller
    Monitor(s) Displays
    1
    Screen Resolution
    1280x800
    Hard Drives
    Samsung SSD 850 EVO 250GB SATA Device (250 GB, SATA-III)
    Internet Speed
    VDSL 50 Mbps
    Browser
    MICROSOFT EDGE
    Antivirus
    WINDOWS DEFENDER
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