Install WXP from HDD
Quick Start:- Copy the i386 folder from the WinXP installation CD to a FAT32 partition (at least 600MB in size for WinXP SP2). Then run winnt.exe from inside that i386 folder on the Hard Drive from a DOS boot floppy diskette.
1. The same process can be used for Windows 2000.
2. For Windows 98 and ME see Appendix 1 at the bottom of this page.
3. If you want to be able to run DOS from a self-made CD then see Appendix 2.
4. For general help with DOS commands see Appendix 3.
5. For what to do if you have neither a floppy nor a cdrom drive see Appendix 4.
Why install from the Hard Drive
- Sometimes it just seems to be impossible to even boot to the installation CD in order to run the WinXP setup. Such problems are addressed at our Booting Bootable CDs page.
- At other times one can start setup from the CD but the installation fails at some point and often for no apparent or obvious reason. It can be that there are corrupt files on the CD or that it is scratched or otherwise damaged or simply not being properly accessed during the install.
- To some extent, largely dependent on the hardware, it may just be a very slow process to keep reading from the CD and so an install from the Hard Drive can proceed much more rapidly.
Ways of initiating an installation
- The most common method is to run setup from the installation CD. This is generally the preferred method and can be done from within windows by inserting the CD (which usually autoruns) or by booting to the installation CD.
- Another method is to boot to six specially-prepared floppy diskettes and initiate setup that way.
- Seemingly much less well know is that winnt.exe from DOS (or winnt32.exe from Windows) can also kick-off an installation from setup files on a CD, on a Hard Drive or on a Network Share. DOS can be running from any bootable media but often the most straightforward is to just boot to DOS on a floppy diskette.
Preparing the Hard Drive for the installation files
- The WinXP installation files are contained in the CD's i386 folder so the first thing is to copy these files to an appropriate place on the hard drive. An appropriate place means a FAT32 partition big enough to hold the files and accessible from DOS. If you have a working OS you could copy these files in advance directly from within that Operating System.
- Apart from anything else, copying the files from the CD to the HD can often uncover which files are problematic; something that is not always apparent when trying to run a setup from the CD itself. If they copy across OK then they are probably not corrupt copies.
- We suggest, say a 1GB, FAT32 partition at the start of the Hard Drive. Such a partition could be created using BootIt-NG or any other partitioning tools of your choice including fdisk and format from your DOS boot floppy. However any partition accessible from DOS will do.
Copying the Files using a DOS Boot Floppy
- You will need a boot floppy diskette that has CDROM support and preferably also has the disk-caching program "Smart Drive" (smartdrv.exe) on it. The Win98SE link under Non-Windows Based Image Files - W/ImageApp (and which contains a a win98sc.zip file) will do just admirably. Many other files from the same bootdisk.com page would do the job as well.
- Boot to your boot floppy and then navigate to the first FAT partition by just entering C: at its command prompt.
- Make a directory on the C: partition; we suggest i386.
C:\> md i386
- As long as your boot floppy has smartdrv.exe on it we highly recommend running it to speed up all file i/o.
- Assuming R: is the CDROM's drive letter (but edit the line appropriately for your actual CDROM's drive letter) you would next copy all the files in the CD's i386 folder to the hard drive.
C:\> copy R:\i386\*.* C:\i386
NOTE: It has been pointed out to us that using copy and the *.* wildcard notation, as above, just copies the files and not the folders inside the i386 folder. We ourselves have never needed these sub-folders for the installation to succeed but others have needed, for example, the contents of the ASMS subfolder. In order to copy all files and sub-folders of the i386 folder then xcopy.exe needs to be on the floppy and a different command used in place of the copy R:\i386\*.* C:\i386 one. The /s and /e switches at the end of the command line enable this. If the command prompt is showing C: return to the A: prompt by entering A: To see all options for xcopy.exe (and most other DOS programs) use the /? switch. Thus xcopy /? should show you all its options.
A:\> xcopy R:\i386 C:\i386 /s /e
Initiating the Installation
- Enter the winnt command to initiate a DOS install (or double-click winnt32 if done from within Windows).
C:\> cd i386
C:\i386> winnt /s:C:\i386
- The /s:C:\i386 switch can be omitted and just winnt entered in which case you should then be presented with another prompt as to where setup should find the installation files - even though that is where winnt has just been run from. In such a case you would then need to enter C:\i386 in the box that is displayed to you.
- Thereafter just follow the installation prompts.
Installing Windows 98 or Millenium (which are both DOS-based) from the hard drive.
The process if very similar to above and somewhat simpler. The folder to copy from the installation CD is the Win98 folder for Windows 98 or the Win9x folder for Windows Millenium. It's up to you if you rename it to something of your own choosing. Many OEMs store these files on the hard drive in a folder called C:\Windows\Options\Cabs. One advantage of this is that if installation files are needed later-on, then the CD is not prompted-for because the installation files always exist on the hard drive and during installation the path to these installation files is stored in the registry.
Instead of winnt as in the above example, one just navigates into the Win9x folder (or whatever else you have called it) and then run setup from the DOS command prompt.
Double-check, before running setup, that the partition is big enough for your purposes, that it is a primary partition and that it has been marked as the active partition. You can do this with a number of partition utilities such as BootIt-NG or FDisk from a DOS boot floppy.
Running DOS from a CD
More and more systems nowadays ship without a floppy drive. There are however still times when DOS and its utilities, such as FDisk, are needed. To that end we have compiled a Win98se-based Start-up Floppy Diskette as a bootable ISO which you are welcome to download and use to create a bootable CD. A CD which emulates the floppy template used in its making. It should function just fine as long as there is no attempt made to write to its A: drive (which actually, being part of a CD disk, is read only - regardless of whether it is CDR or CDRW format).
We also have provided a utility called zmakeiso which can be used to transform any 1.4MB bootable floppy image into a bootable CD.
Help with DOS Commands
There are overviews and examples of the DOS commands at THIS SITE and its mirrors.
PC with no Floppy nor CDROM Drive
Many modern systems do support booting from a USB floppy or CD drive so obtaining one could solve the problem of a PC with no fixed floppy or CD drive. When the only available drive is a hard drive then, unless it has an existing functional operating system, the drive will need to be removed and prepared on another PC (preferably one with a floppy or CD drive).
The first thing to do while installed in the other PC is to create a handy bootable DOS partition on it big enough to hold all your installation and other utility or installer files (and, of course, any drivers that the new installation will eventually need). A 1GB FAT32 partition should be more than sufficient. It is best if this is all on its own at the start of the hard drive. As long as the created partition has been (a) sysed and (b) marked as active then it should be bootable on the other PC. First check that you can boot to it there and then copy the installation files to a folder of your choice in the partition. Ensure you have added the smartdrv file to it and any other DOS utilities, such as format and fdisk, that you might feel the need to have access to later on. Then return the hard drive to your PC. Unless there is some problem with your BIOS dealing with the drive it should now boot to a C: prompt from which you can run whatever DOS programs (eg winnt.exe) that take your fancy.
If the PC is a laptop then its hard drive can either be prepared temporarily swapped into another laptop or by slaving it inside a desktop using a 2.5"-to-IDE adapter. An alternative, less testable way, would be to prepare the partition using a USB converter or enclosure; less testable because you wont be able to check if it is bootable until transfered back to the original PC.