Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Guide: Install Windows without a CD-ROM or floppy drive

Guide: Install Windows without a CD-ROM or floppy drive

There are many times where I have run across a system (mainly laptops) that I need to install Windows XP or Windows 2000, and the system doesn't have a CD-ROM (or functioning CD-ROM). This is a method I have divised using another computer, that will help you install Windows on a system with no CD-ROM available.

Items you'll need...

- Windows 98 or equivilant CD
- A floppy bootable with Windows 98 (you can get one at bootdisk.com)
- A seperate system with Windows XP (that has a CD-ROM and floppy)
- Working knowledge of Windows and some DOS (including fdisk)
- Adapter to convert a laptop 2.5 inch to a 5.25 inch IDE Adapter (if you are trying to install to a laptop)

1) So you're ready to install Windows XP (or 2000) on a system with no working CD-ROM or floppy. The first thing you are going to want to do is make a bootable floppy with Windows 98. On this floppy, you need to format it so that it's system bootable. If you go to http://www.bootdisk.com, you can download various bootdisk's from various Windows OS'.

2) So you have your floppy that is bootable now. Using the windows 98 CD, you need to extract some files from the cabinet files on the CD (.cab files). Using the extract command in the CD, you need to extract the following files and put them on the bootable floppy. "himem.sys", "smartdrv.exe" "format.com" "fdisk.exe".



3) Next you will need to write an 'autoexec.bat' and 'config.sys' for the floppy. This will be relativily easy. With the floppy still in the drive, open notepad (or whatever editor you want) and write this in...

device=himem.sys

Then you can save it as 'a:\config.sys'.

After you save your config.sys file to the floppy, next you want to write an 'autoexec.bat' file for the floppy. Open notepad again and write this in...

smartdrv.exe

...then save it as 'a:\autoexec.bat'.



Your floppy is locked and loaded. It's ready to prep your hard drive for installation.

4) You will need to take the hard drive that you want to install Windows to and install it to your working XP system. When you do this, you will need to boot to the floppy disk that you created. At the DOS prompt type in...

'a:\fdisk.exe'

In FDISK, you will need to partition the hard drive and prep it so you can format it with FAT32.

MAKE SURE THAT YOU DO NOT PARTITION THE WRONG HARD DRIVE! IT WOULD SUCK IF YOU PARTITIONED YOUR MAIN DRIVE AND LOST YOUR DATA!

When the disk is partitioned, get out of fdisk. You will have to reboot. Go ahead and boot back into the floppy disk.

5) Now you're ready to format the hard drive. Let's check to make sure you can access the drive. At the prompt, type in 'dir C:'. You should see a message stating that the media is 'invalid'. At this point, you know you are ready to format it. Type in...

'a:\format c: /s'

It will take some time but when it's finished, it should say 'system transfered'. This message indicates that your hard drive is now bootable.

If you receive an "Invalid drive specification" at any point, then the drive was either...
a) not partitioned correctly or
b) the drive is not hooked up.


Next type in the prompt...

'copy a:\*.* c:\'

It will ask if you want to copy over the command.com and a few other system files. Just say no to everything it asks. Everything else will copy over.

6) Next you need to remove the floppy from the drive, and reboot the computer back into Windows with the drive attached as a secondary drive. When you boot into windows, you should see the attached drive (drive D or something equivilant) Create a folder in this drive called 'WinXP'. Next you want to put in the Windows XP disk into the CD-ROM. Copy the complete contents of the CD into the 'WinXP' folder you just created.

7) After the Windows XP CD contents are copied over, turn off the computer and remove the drive. Put the drive back into the system that you need to install Windows and boot it up. The system should automatically boot into a DOS prompt. Type in...

'c:\WINXP\I386\WINNT.EXE'.

The next window you will see is Windows asking for the directory of the Install files. It should say

'C:\WINXP\I386'. Continue the installation and you are set.

Most of this write up is from memory. If I misdirected a piece somewhere, please let me know so I can correct it.

44 comments:

Drew said...

Great post and I've been looking for a way to do a clean install on an old Vaio laptop that doesn't like booting from it's CD-rom drive.

Doug said...

Why not use Windows Disk Mangagement to partition the drive, and I believe you can format it with the system files to make it bootable. If not, use a command prompt to format with the /s switch. Then you can copy the i386 folder over without any reboot and switching drives more than neccessary.

IWantMyOldLappy said...

Can this work with Win98?

Anonymous said...

Very nice guide! It even made it on Digg ;) .

I never knew you could that with Windows.

Sincerely,
Drew
http://www.quickgreen.net

Anonymous said...

i'd suggest using the free ntfs file system driver from sysinternals. That way you don't have to go through the painstaking process of converting your file system later. (fat32 sucks)

get the utility here:
http://www.sysinternals.com/Utilities/NtfsDos.html

smart said...

Nice tips. Thanks for the info.

Kevin said...

Nice write up ... I did this same thing to create quick installation ghost images at work ... 1 thing to note ... if you boot off of a floppy with himem and smart drive and launch the winnt installer on the C drive the computer will copy all its required info and reboot ... you can then take out the floppy and the installation will finish ...

Charlie said...

This post is mainly to address really old laptops that you may want to use as a file server, ftp server.. whatever. It's aimed as a workaround and as sort of a pet project. If you want to buy a new computer.. be my guest. Go buy a new computer. Those people who want to use existing obsolete laptops/systems that are just sitting around, this is a guide to help get those machines up and doing something productive. This work around also addresses the notion that the laptop is too old to run off a flash drive and you can't boot off one. And yes..you do need an adapter to move the laptop drive to the main system. Read the article and you will see that I mention if you are working with a laptop, you will need the adapter. No need to be offensive.

QuienEs said...

Great information !! I got an old laptop at a garage sale last summer for $10 - never found a CD ROM drive for it and my old brain couldn't contrive what you have presented. When I was younger.....

You have defined my next techie project.

Many thanks,

QE in NJ

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say, you could connect the two computers with a serial or parallel cable (null modem cables) and use intersvr and interlink to copy that way....
cheaper than a HD adapapter if I'm not mistaken
(i've done this many a times with my old IBM thinkpad 380 dx)

Charlie said...

Wow Interlnk and intersvr. I haven't used those tools in eons. Yah..that would work as well now that I think about it. Didn't they stop using those utilities after DOS 6.22? I don't remember.

Charlie said...

(Yes to iwantmyoldlappy), it will work with Win98. Thats where this idea was devised in the first place.. just used with WinXP for more modern times.

DrWiggs said...

Has anyone tried this?
It seems to me I remember that a bunch of files get created that have incorrect file names when you use the technique described.
Since you are working in DOS you get some "fullfi~1.dll" instead of "fullfilename.dll" files. You have to manually go in and rename about 20 files.

WindowsVistaUserGuide said...

do it with pxe
-
Windows vista User Guide

Anonymous said...

Problem with doing it with the null modem cable, is at max you have 115kbs transfer rate, you will be waiting many an hour for the data to transfer from the XP cd.

Anonymous said...

I have done all these steps, however when I get to the last point of loading the files
I have to manualy type location of directory c:\winxp\i386 folder

It loades the files, but when I hit continue to reboot it says ntldr is missing press any key to restart. Any ideas?

fidelia said...

what if no cd-rom n floppy drv both not functioning, and winxp broke down. how do you restart or fix windows?

Anonymous said...

Did you ever figure out how to get around the ntldr is missing? I am having the same problem and think it might be because I have the dell c400. PLEASE let me know. Thanks

Charlie said...

NTLDR problems after an install like that usually result from the following...

1) Bad HDD
2) Bad IDE Cable / Hookup
3) Improper installation (reinstall again)

At least from my experience of this anyway..

Anonymous said...

I find about this for a long time.
Thank you so much for your technics.

Anonymous said...

Very nice guide thank you. I spent hours before trying to do the same thing but did not know I need to rewrite autoexec.bat and configsys

Gualtiero said...

Thanks for the guide.
I wonder why you (and nobody who wrote guides similar to this one) don't suggest the possibility of using an external usb 2,5 hdd box for doing the all preparation (partitioning, formatting, copying the installation files, etc..) without the need of rebooting or using a floppy?
Is there any possible problem I don't think about??

Ghodul said...

I really didn't have a floppy and optical drive and I want to install it on dektop. Do you know how? and I only have an external hard disk.

Dan said...

NTLDR missing:
just copy one from any PC with xp istalled.
It should work (I've done it hundreds time before).

Cheers

Anonymous said...

Can you do this if you have it pluged in a USB Port. with out buying a IDE Converter? I have a external hard drive enclosed and use that to access the hard drive.

Anonymous said...

This pisses me off, I can't believe this was Digged. Not convenient.

Charlie said...

Convenient...no Does it work?...yes

Anonymous said...

Thankyou! I needed a way to install xp on an ancient laptop with no cd drive!

Harley said...

Using an IDE adapter I was able to attach the laptop hard drive to an old computer and using the Windows XP CD delete/recreate the partition then format (full format) the drive. Then with an IDE to USB converter I attached the laptop hard drive to another computer and create the WinXP directory then copied the Windows XP CD to that directory. When I put the hard drive back in the laptop I get an "NTLDR is missing" message and no DOS prompt. The only two items on the drive are the System Volume Information and WinXP folder. What am I missing that is preventing me from getting the DOS prompt?

Charlie said...

If you are getting the missing NTLDR error, it means one of the following...
1) You forgot to make a bootable floppy on step 1
2) the NTLDR didn't copy of during the format (which happens from time to time), so you need to SYS the drive
3) Bad IDE cable

Christoff said...

This is an awesome post but what if you have an PC running XP and a laptop running XP and you want to install server2003 on the PC but the PC CDROM doesn't work??

Charlie said...

This guide was not meant for Server 2003.

Anonymous said...

does it work if you use sd card

Charlie said...

It could work if you have DOS drivers for the SD Card.

Anonymous said...

Great Post thanks for the info
worked like a charm
Clayton

Anonymous said...

wow really good info i have been trying installing in different way without a cd rom and i am sure this will help me to do what u want

Bennett said...

I just installed XP on a Dell Cpt S w/o a CD ROM. I had to make 2 bootdisks. 1) for Windows and 2) for puppyLinux. I had to have the Linux bootdisk so I could first boot to a USB drive on a hub and then the Win disk to fdisk and format the drive. Then booted back to Linux copied the XP CD to the wiped drive because I didn't have an adapter to put it in my computer.

The only caveat was that I had to wait until the Linux boot disk to scan the USB stack before I could plug it in, since if it was plugged in at POST it wouldn't boot into Linux.

If any of you have questions, I'll be happy to answer what I know.

Twila said...

Great work.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a W98 cd can I get a couple from ME and a couple from XP. I noticed the 4 files are not on one cd? Also do I have to extract or can I just cut and paste?

Anonymous said...

Great instructions. In my case I had a spare notebook with a working CD Drive, so I didn't need a special adapter. Also, it occurred to me that Windows 98 install CD's are bootable, so I skipped the steps for making a boot floppy.

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. Finally got it working, I think there is something important to note.

When using Fdisk and the instructions tell you to partition and prep the hdd, you must make a partition active or the hdd won't be bootable.

If you are connecting a hdd from another computer to a computer with an existing hdd then you must disconnect the orginal hdd since you can only have one active partition. Fdisk won't allow you to have 2 active partitions.

I got stuck using Fdisk, if you aren't familiar with it, look for some instructions first, there's not much to it.

Anonymous said...

You can do it with a USB stick.

http://blogs.oreilly.com/digitalmedia/2004/10/utility-to-make-usb-flash-driv.html

Dick said...

I'm looking at an old laptop,
having W95 and only floppy drive.
How could I use my XP desktop
to copy a W98SE disk to 5 floppy
disks for install in the laptop?
Hold shift key while playing the
W98SE disk? Then right click send
to floppy drive? Then keep adding
more disks until copied?
Probably, I would have to use
the complete disk and not break
it up into 5 separate floppys.
Thanks, D

J-SoN™ said...

I thought you said without Cd-ROM AND FLOPPY DRIVE?