03 - How to install Windows XP from a bootable USB drive

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This tutorial describes how you can boot to WinPE v2 or v3 from a USB drive on your 'target' system, then partition and format the hard disk and then install XP onto that hard disk. This method is slow as you have to run the complete Win XP Setup process, both the text mode part and the GUI part, which takes about 20-30 minutes.

You can choose from several different XP installations by placing each i386 XP CD source folder into a separate folder on the USB drive and installing the one that you want onto the target hard drive.

For a similar single-boot method that uses Windows XP ISO files, see Tutorial #82.

Recommended: You can also make an Easy2Boot MultiBoot USB drive and just copy all your Windows XP Install ISO files (and 100's of others!) to it and install Windows. If you use the DPMS version of Easy2Boot you can install to a SATA or SCSI system directly from the XP Install ISO file without needing to modify it.

Installing to an IDE (XP compatible) system

Outline of the this Method
  1. Create a bootable WinPE USB drive
  2. Copy any Microsoft Windows XP CD (or XP ISO contents) to a folder on the USB drive
  3. Boot using the USB drive on the target system and wipe, partition and format the hard disk
  4. Copy the XP (32-bit version) files to the hard disk from the USB drive
  5. Run winnt32.exe (the file will be on the hard disk after copying from the USB drive)
  6. Reboot and allow XP Setup to continue

1. Download and install the Windows 7 WAIK to obtain the ImageX utility and WinPE files
For instructions on how to do this, please refer to the first part of my tutorial here or follow the Make_PE3 tutorial.
Follow the instruction up to the point where a WinPE folder has been created (Step 1)
You can create either an x86 version (recommended) or an amd64 (64-bit) version.
Create a new folder C:\MYXP on your office computer.
Copy the c:\pe86\ISO folder contents to C:\MYXP (C:\MYXP should now contain bootmgr, folders \boot, \sources, \efi, etc.)

2. Obtain a Microsoft Windows XP installation CD or ISO or set of NLited files that you wish to install
Create a new folder on your Windows (office computer) hard disk called C:\MYXP\XPPRO\i386 (assuming you have XP Professional)
Copy all the files in the CD's i386 folder to C:\MYXP\XPPRO\i386 folder
Ensure that the file C:\MYXP\XPPRO\i386\unattend.txt is present and has been correctly modified by you (see end of this page for an example)

Note: XP does not contain AHCI or some SCSI/SATA drivers - either you must set your BIOS menu for Hard Disk mode to 'compatible/legacy' hard disk mode or you must use a specially modified version of XP (e.g. use nLite).

Now prepare a WinPE v3 (bootmgr) bootable USB drive using RMPrepUSB and copy over the C:\MYXP folder to the USB drive - please refer to the part 2 of my tutorial here. Note: NTFS formatting is recommended for speed.

The USB drive should now contain an \XPPRO folder as well as the winpe folders: \sources, \boot, etc.

3. Boot from the WinPE USB drive using the target system that you wish to install Windows XP onto.

Now run DISKPART and type the following commands (assuming you want a two partitions on the hard disk) - only type the commands in red:

DISKPART run diskpart utility
LIS DIS lists the disks present
SEL DIS 0 select disk zero (usually the first hard disk)
CLEAN wipes the selected disk
CRE PAR PRI SIZE=30000 ALIGN=16065 create a 30GB primary partition for XP (change as required) - if this gives an error use 64260 instead of 16065.
FOR QUICK LABEL=SYSTEM format it as NTFS (add FS=FAT32 if you don't want an NTFS partition)
ASSIGN LETTER=J assign it the drive letter J:
ACT make it the boot partition
CRE PAR PRI create another NTFS partition of remaining size (optional)
FOR QUICK format it (optional)
ASSIGN assign it a drive letter (optional)