How to Boot XP From USB Flash

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Windows XP is manufactured by Microsoft and distributed on a CD for convenient installation to your computer's hard disk drive. Thanks to recent technological advances, users wishing to boot and run the XP operating system from a portable medium such as a USB flash drive can do so. This is especially advantageous for users on the go and those who run a netbook, which does not have a built-in optical drive.

Things You'll Need

  • Microsoft Windows XP installation disc (with Service Pack 2 or higher)

Set Up Your USB Flash Drive

  • Plug a USB flash drive into your computer. Click on the Window "Start" menu and then select My Computer. Find your USB drive letter, right-click on it and select "Format." Choose "FAT32" from the File System menu and then click "Start."

  • Press the "Windows logo + E" key combination together to launch Windows Explorer. Click on the "Tools" menu and select "Folder Options." Click on the "View" tab and choose "Show Hidden Files and Folders." Click "OK."

  • Locate the following three files in the root directory on your primary hard drive: boot.ini, ntldr and ntdetect.com. Copy these three files to your USB flash drive. Then, shut down your computer.

  • Restart your computer and access the BIOS setup page by repeatedly pressing "F1," "F2" or "Delete," depending on your computer's configuration, as soon as the boot cycle begins. Once the BIOS page comes up, use the arrow keys to navigate to the "Boot Devices" section and locate your USB flash drive. Change its priority to "1" and click "Save." Exit the BIOS setup page.

Make Your Flash Drive Bootable

  • Download and install Bart PE Builder using the link provided in the Resources section of this article. This free utility will create a smaller build of the XP installation disc that will fit on your USB drive. Insert the Windows XP installation CD in your optical drive.

  • Launch the Bart PE utility. On the "Source" field, indicate the CD drive that contains your Windows Installation CD. Be sure to uncheck the boxes for "Create ISO Image" and "Burn to CD," then click "Build."

  • Click the Windows "Start" menu and then "Run" to open a command prompt. Type "c:\pebuilder313\plugin\peinst" (without quotes) in the command prompt. Verify that your USB drive is connected to the computer and type "PEINST.CMD" (again, without quotes).

  • Press "1" and then type "c:\pebuilder313\BartPE". Press "2" and enter the drive letter of your USB drive. Press "5" and then press "Enter" to begin installing Windows to the flash drive.

  • Reboot your computer with the flash drive still connected. Your computer will now boot to Windows from the USB flash drive.

References

  • Photo Credit ballyscanlon/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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