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Tutorial: Installing XP Home/Professional from a Flash Drive

Last response: in Mobile Computing
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March 5, 2010 12:53:22 AM

Hey all,

I recently had an issue trying to install XP on a netbook, and after about a month of research I discovered the simple answer. I learned that a rather large number of people who have no idea how to do it. So I decided to whip up a tutorial based on about twenty different webpages in case anyone else needs to install XP by using a flash drive. So happy trails, and if you have any questions, feel free to post and contribute!



INSTALLING XP FROM A FLASH DRIVE



Note: Although this is especially useful for netbooks, this applies to laptops, notebooks and desktops as well.


Windows XP has been the preferred operating system for Windows users for about half a decade. Although Windows 7 showed improvements from its counterpart, Vista, many windows users still prefer XP, especially on portable systems like netbooks, which many tests proved gave netbooks a solid half hour to an hour more battery life than any Windwos 7 version. However, netbooks lack a cd drive and most people do without buying an external one. Installing XP, then, involves more time, but there are benefits including faster installation time and the convenience of a thumb drive.


Installing XP from a thumb drive includes three main phases:

I. Setting up a bootable flash drive
II. Tweaking BIOS
III. Installing XP
IV. (recommended) Reverting to AHCI


If you are using an optical drive and stuck at the "Windows did not detect a hard drive" error, proceed to the second phase. Otherwise, proceed to the first.



I. Preparing a Bootable Flash Drive


Materials:

-32 bit operating system/XP in some cases (this includes a Virtual Console)
-Windows XP installation disc with a software key
-1 GB or greater flash drive, or an external HDD
-One of the three programs mentioned below
-XP-compliable drivers for your hardware (usually found from the manufacturer's support page)
-AHCI/SATA driver, which is usually found under the Windows Vista/7 driver list if not XP's

Before we start, I'll note that Windows 7 includes very different steps to prepping a flash drive. While those steps are easier, in my opinion, they do not work for Windows XP.

In addition, I cannot stress enough to mind the operating system you are using to prepare this flash drive. Many errors result, for example, from using a 64-bit edition of Windows 7.

There are about three ways to do this to my knowledge:


USB_multiboot 10
USB Prep8
WinSetupFromUSB
WinToFlash


USB_Prep8 and WinToFlash require only a 32-bit operating system, not XP specifically. I tried WinSetupFromUSB on Windows 7 32-bit and it gave me many errors, but I haven't tried using it to prep a flash drive from an XP environment, so if you get it to work let everyone know. WinToFlash and USB Prep 8 have very simple GUI's and are easy to use. While USB_multiboot_10 is very similar to USB_prep8, it requires an xp environment and slightly different procedures.

For the sake of this tutorial, we'll go through the steps for USB_Prep8 because its instructions are simple and don't necessarily require XP, so any current Windows 7 Starter users can go right into it from their netbooks. These steps may be done from another computer if necessary.

To start off: download this, which contains both USB_Prep8 and bootsect.exe (this is the second alternate link download on the Liliputing page mentioned below) and then follow the guide below.


Procedures courtesy of liliputing's Brad Linder:

Quote:
1. Download and unzip this file, which should contain 2 folders: 1 titled Bootsect, and the other USB_prep8.

2. Navigate to the USB_prep8 folder and click on usb_prep8.cmd. This will bring up a Windows console window.

3. Press any key to continue and a PeToUSB window will open.

4. Make sure your flash drive is selected, and click start to format your flash drive.

5. When the format is complete, click OK, but do not close the PeToUSB window or the Windows Console.

6. Open a new console window by typing “cmd” into the run box in the Windows Start Menu.

7. Find your Bootsect folder (if you’re not used to DOS commands, you can type “dir” to list directories and files, type “cd foldername” to navigate to a folder name – called foldername in this example, and if there’s a long folder name you can save time by typing the “cd” and just the first few letters and then hitting the Tab key to fill in the rest of the name).

8. Once you’re in the Bootsect folder, type “bootsect.exe /nt52 g:” if “g” is the letter assigned to your flash drive. If it’s E, then change the letter to e. If it’s Z, make it z. Get it?

9. When this is done, you should see a message letting you know that the bootcode was updated, and you can close this console window (but not the other console window).

10. Close the PeToUSb Window, but make sure not to close the remaining console window yet

11. You should now see a list of 8 options in the console.

12. Select one and find the drive with your Windows installation disc. Either use a physical disc or mount a disc image using Daemon tools (I recommend Virtual Clonedrive, which is freeware).

13. Select 2 and pick a random drive letter, but not one that’s already on your PC, since this will be a virtual drive used for copying your files (note: this is a separate kind of virtual drive than the one mentioned above).

14. Select 3 and enter the drive letter for your USB flash drive.

15. Select 4 and follow the rest of the on-screen directions and you should be all set.



After you prep your flash drive, insert it in the destination computer and reboot that system.


II. Configuring BIOS


After the computer which you are installing XP on reboots, a screen will appear for anywhere from ten seconds to one second. If you do not know what button you need to press to enter BIOS setup, then pay attention to that screen and figure it out (which may require a reboot or two). If you know, then gently but repeatedly hit that button and enter BIOS.

There are two main things to look for and tweak if necessary.

A) AHCI to IDE

(Note: if you have an IDE hard drive, skip to the next step)

Many systems with Vista or 7 installed automatically set the HDD mode to AHCI, which is the SATA support. Navigate through your bios and find this. When you do, change it to IDE mode (emulation). You must do this because without the IDE compatibility, XP WILL NOT recognize your hard drive. We will change this later.

B) Boot Order or Boot Options

You may choose to either bump up the boot order so that your flash drive has priority over the hard drive, or leave that order alone and set another option on the BIOS splash page to hit a button that opens up multiple drives to boot from. The choice is yours. I always prefer to bump up the installation device to top priority when installing an operating system, but if you do so, remember to bump it back after XP totally completes.


III. Installing XP


There are essentially two very easy steps to this phase. The first is formatting your hard drive (I always use NTFS, not NTFS quick) and inputting various information during the GUI portion of setup.

When your flash drive boots, you'll see a Command Prompt/DOS gui and a few options. The order of these varies depending on what program you use to prep your drive, but setup basically proceeds like this:

text-based setup first
(installer restarts)
then the GUI-based setup
(installer restarts)
then the GUI based setup

From the flash drive boot menu, choose the appropriate choice for the initial install and after every reboot. The choices are obvious.

After the third, installation will be complete.


IV. Reverting to AHCI


If you are using an IDE hard drive, installation is finished. Pat yourself on the back.

If your computer was originally configured to SATA, I recommend continuing with this last phase.

Extract the SATA drivers mentioned in the materials phase. For my Acer Aspire One, they were in a .zip folder. If you are only given the choice of an exe - in some cases, a program that makes a floppy image - you'll need to extract the exe using a program such as WinRAR (which I recommend if you don't have already). You'll need to make sure the .ini files are there. Open up the Device Manager. Expand "IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers". Right click on the option that appears and click "update drivers". In some cases, people saw two instances of their driver but reported that only doing this one one worked fine.

Do not allow Windows Update > install from a specific location > "Don't Search, I will choose the driver to install." Browse to the folder where you extracted the AHCI SATA drivers. Choose a .ini file. In some cases, you will find two of these, but you only need to select one. Windows will advise against using the driver, but ignore any of its warnings and proceed until it tells you to reboot, in which case, you should.

Now enter your BIOS menu. Find your hard drive configuration, which should still be set to IDE. Set it back to AHCI. Save and exit and log in to Windows. XP will detect new hard ware and install automatically. It will then either prompt you to reboot or say that your device may not work properly until you reboot. Either way, reboot once more and everything will be good to go.


Well, there you have it, a month's worth of information compiled into a single post. If you have any questions, post them or email me. Thanks for reading.
September 19, 2010 11:20:04 AM

This topic has been sticky in top of the forum by Buwish
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Anonymous
September 27, 2010 7:11:56 PM

All I can say is after hours and hours of formatting and reformatting with failure, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!

To all those browsing for solutions to this problem... THIS IS IT!

Thanks again,

rustycage
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November 9, 2010 1:49:50 PM

Hey, i have little problem with this program. WHen its time to decide where my windows files are, i show it the proper folder (Not regular WinXP, edited x64 edition,aka SXP64) it tells me that it isnt proper windows source. Any hints how to get that there? Did everything before that. Will regular copy/paste be good as well?
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November 12, 2010 9:16:44 AM

Awesome guide man, I am grateful beyond measure. Very powerful tool!
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January 21, 2011 1:13:27 PM

Thank you so much for the very detailed tutorial.

I am attempting to install my registered version of XP on a new ASUS eee PC netbook, that has Windows 7 Starter on it. I'd like to create a dual boot machine, with the plan to use XP primarily but retain the Win7 OS just in case I want to play with it.

I feel I followed your instructions precisely and appear to have sucessfuly formatted my 2-gig USB flash drive.

Next rebooted the netbook, tapped F2 to enter the BIOS and made the following changes:

1) Changed the boot device priority so that the "removable Dev." was first in order.

2) Changed the ATA/IDE config to "configure SATA as IDE".

Saved and restarted, with the USB flash drive in the port.

Pressed "esc" during reboot, expecting to boot from USB. Instead, the machine rendered a "Windows Error Recovery" screen and complained that windows files may have been damaged. It wants to run some kinda of repair program. If I pull ut the USB drive and restart, everything's fine, no "dmage".

No joy.

Any suggestions?

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April 5, 2011 11:08:17 AM

Am using windows7 Pro to do all the work before installing XP on a Toshiba netbook.
Section I.7 says 'find your Bootsect folder'. I cant find it !
Where is it in Windows 7 or within XP for that matter ?
Thanks.
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June 13, 2011 9:49:35 PM

I am trying this and it is slick. But when I went to install on the netbook, it says a system file is missing: system34\hal.dll. I'm going to try creating the bootable USB again, maybe my computer has the hiccups. :pt1cable: 
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June 13, 2011 10:14:10 PM

Still no go. Netbook is looking for system34\hal.dll after I boot from the (now-bootable) USB and select the first option, install XP. Any suggestions? It seems that I am so close!
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March 24, 2012 4:06:01 AM

Hey everyone, Apolyonn here. I'm not surprised at the love for XP here, but I am glad to see that people read over my humble tutorial :D  I see there are some loose threads, so I'll try to wrap them up to the best of my abilities. This netbook just broke not too long ago, but I'll give it a whirl.

nessmarie21 said:
Hi,
There's useful tool for this task - FlashBoot.
http://www.prime-expert.com/flashboot/

For the longest time, this was the only response I saw here. I'm gonna do like I've done for the past year-and-a-half and continue to ignore it. Well played, sir.

Quote:
Hey, i have little problem with this program. WHen its time to decide where my windows files are, i show it the proper folder (Not regular WinXP, edited x64 edition,aka SXP64) it tells me that it isnt proper windows source. Any hints how to get that there? Did everything before that. Will regular copy/paste be good as well?

XP 64-bit has been known to be incredibly buggy. In addition to being of no use on a netbook, I wouldn't advise using it. I can't really vouch for this operating system at all; sorry man :\

Quote:
Pressed "esc" during reboot, expecting to boot from USB. Instead, the machine rendered a "Windows Error Recovery" screen and complained that windows files may have been damaged. It wants to run some kinda of repair program. If I pull ut the USB drive and restart, everything's fine, no "dmage".

I was thrown off by this error at first; once my friend skimmed over it with me, I remembered that this error would show up if you try switching SATA mode before installing your SATA drivers in XP. In this case, it sounds like a partition error. However, your disk should boot to the "Press any key to install..." screen, followed by the blue installer screen. The only thing I can think of is, make sure you created the disk in a 32-BIT operating system, otherwise you will run into a lot of walls during the installation attempts.

I'd be interested to hear, if you decide to get it to work, if the MBR accepts both XP and W7 :D 

Quote:
Section I.7 says 'find your Bootsect folder'. I cant find it !

It appears that the original download link is down. You can find both bootsect.exe and USBPrep8 in this link (Alternate Link 2 on the Liliputing main page).

Quote:
Still no go. Netbook is looking for system34\hal.dll after I boot from the (now-bootable) USB and select the first option, install XP. Any suggestions? It seems that I am so close!

I haven't ran across this error. Can you elaborate on the issue a little bit more? At which part of the installation does it appear?

Hopefully this can clear up some of this issues. Thanks for reading, and best of luck to you all :D 
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