If you've tried installing/recovering Windows from a usb boot drive before (rather than an optical drive) then you might be aware that, sometimes, the boot drive stops working. Windows refuses to boot from it anymore, and you have to recreate the drive for it to work. Is there a way to bypass this by making the boot drive read-only, since I plan to only use it for maintenance/support purposes ?

On that note, I just installed Windows 8.1 on my external (haven't tried it yet, but everything is set). Is there a way to make the boot partition read-only, to avoid similar issues as described above ? Because if I set up an entire system around my external, it would be a bitch to get locked out of it over a silly little change, probably in some obscure .inf file that I couldn't find if my life depended on it.

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Am not sure if you can do that. But as an advise don't use your external, instead buy 2 flash drives and make them bootable drives for windows 7 and 8. It is much faster and reliable than optical drives and at the same time you will protect your external from problems that can result from excessive reading and writing. In this case the worst that can happen is formatting the flash and re-adding windows to it.

I haven't ran into that problem (using this). Are you erasing any files? It could just be a faulty USB stick.

For your external, you can try something like deep freeze (it's paid software, I am not aware of any free version). Though I'm not sure why you wound want to boot off your external (it will only boot with your computer). A most portable solution might be to install Windows into a VM so you can carry it around with you. That way you can also make a copy of the virtual hdd so you can undo any changes.

If you're worried about recovering, why not make a backup of the partition, and store a compressed copy somewhere? That way you can just recover is something goes wrong?

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