Booting Windows XP from an external hard disk?

I just finished building my first computer and the last thing I need to do is install the operating system. Problem is, my optical drive isn't working, for reasons I'll figure out later.

I do, however, have an external USB hard disk. Is it possible to transfer the Windows XP files (which I have) to my external hard disk and then instruct my new computer to boot from the external, preferably without erasing the files I already have on the external? I have no idea how to go about doing this if it's even feasible.
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More about booting windows external hard disk
  1. you can do it if you have another computer handy and acronis or some other imaging software but its not for the faint of heart. on another computer make an 2nd partition on external with the free space. then make an image file of the full partition and save it on the new partition or better yet that 2nd pc. the image file should be a lot smaller that the used space on the external. then you can format the external to be bootable, there are guides online for doing it with flash drives. dont forget to make the motherboard boot to usb in bios too. also if you make an image of an installed xp build and load it onto your new computer you will probably get driver issues and windows genuine popups. probably easier to just borrow an optical drive for the windows instal ;)
  2. Sorry, I'm a little confused. Where in that process do the Windows XP files come in?

    Also, I'm supposed to make an image file of the partition and then save that image file on the same partition?
  3. probably easier to work on your optical drive, have you checked the jumpers on it next to the ide cable port?
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