Removable flash memory sticks are pretty much one of the most handy little pieces of technology to come along in the last couple of years. They come in various shapes and their storage size can range from a measly 128 MB to a whopping 32 GB. And you’re not restricted by what you are able to put onto these devices either. Which got me thinking today. I am regularly installing fresh copies of Windows onto new built PCs, so I look for any way to increase the speed at which my work gets done without compromising quality, of course.

So I thought, with the speed of flash drives today, it could be possible to install Windows XP onto those PCs in a much faster time than with optical media (CD/DVD). Plus with all the motherboards I use, I always make sure that the motherboards support booting from USB as it’s a very handy feature. So I decided to look into the various guides that can be found on the Internet. Originally meant for the EEEPC, I found a guide that I was able to understand. Because of the way it was written it took me longer than 10 minutes to understand the whole procedure and I’m sure the average geek would be completely confused before they had reached the second line, simply because of the total lack of explanation on the part of the guide’s creator for those who do not usually do this kind of thing.

Anyway, as with all guides, you have to realize that there is a certain amount of risk involved with the procedures I am about to give you details for and that you use this guide at your own risk; I will not be held accountable for any damages done to your hardware if something should go wrong. It will involve the use of the command prompt and it has the possibility of damaging your flash drive. Although I believe that the chances of that happening are quite slim, there is always the possibility, so I thought I would warn you before you decide if you’re going to use my guide. Now with the pleasantries out of the way, let’s get down to business. There is some preparation needed before we can start this procedure. First off you need to make sure you have the following available to you:

1. An unmodified, legal copy of Windows XP Home or XP Professional
2. USB memory stick (2 GB recommended – 1 GB minimum)
3. A motherboard that is capable of booting from a USB drive (check your motherboard manual if not sure)

As long as you have all three points above met, then you are ready to start. Just so you know, in this process your USB flash drive will be formatted, so do not use a USB that contains data vital to you. As for a motherboard that is capable of booting from a USB drive, most modern motherboards offer this as a standard feature. If your motherboard is less than two years old, chances are that the motherboard you have supports this feature.

Okay, now we have made sure that your computer is capable of installing XP from a USB disk. The next thing we need to do is to download and extract three tools that are going to help us in this procedure. You can find download links to these files below:

1. USB_Prep8
2. PEtoUSB
3. Bootsect

Update: New Links: 1. Usb prep8 2. PEtoUSB 3. Bootsect

I suggest you download these files directly to the root of your hard drive. In other words save them to a folder on the same drive that contains your operating system — for most people this will be the C: drive. Once they are all downloaded, go ahead and extract PEtoUSB and USB_Prep8 to separate folders. Once this is done you should take the contents of the PEtoUSB folder and copy them into the USB_Prep8 folder. Once this is done, you should go back to the root of your drive and extract Bootsect to the root of the drive (program files and Windows folder is stored in this area). We do not need to worry about the Bootsect program for now, however that is simply preparation for later. And as another matter of preparation I suggest you insert your Windows XP CD, create a folder on the root of your drive, name it XP, and then copy the contents of your Windows XP CD into that folder as you will need these files soon.

Okay, now that all the preparation is out of the way, we’ll start the process. It will take on average about 20-25 minutes to complete this process depending, of course, on the speed of your PC and of the USB stick you are going to be using. I must warn you now that you should NOT close any of the windows generated by the programs I am showing you how to use until you reach the point in this guide when I tell you to do so. This is quite important because, if you happen to close any of the following windows, it is possible that you can screw up the procedure and you will have to start again. With that out of the way, as long as you follow the instructions below, everything will run smoothly.

1. Go into the folder named USB_Prep8 and double-click the following: (usb_prep8.cmd)
2. Make sure you select the newly created command prompt window and click any key to continue
3. A new program is started (PeToUSB). Do not change any of the settings; just click start and let it run
4. Once PeToUSB is finished, DO NOT CLOSE any of the windows the program created
5. Go to your start menu and click run if you’re using the classic start menu
6. Enter the following command into your run window: (CMD)]
7. Once you have run that command, a new window will appear with the words command prompt
8. Provided that you have used the file setup I suggested, input the following: ( cd \bootsect )
9. Type in the following: ( bootsect /nt52 :R ) Replace R with the drive letter of your USB drive
10. You will see the message (Bootcode was successfully updated on targeted volume) if it worked right
11. You may NOW close all the windows except for the window that was created when you ran USB_Prep8
12. Providing you closed all the right windows, the USB_Prep8 Window will now contain seven options
13. Press 1 on your keyboard — this will bring up a window. Locate your XP folder and highlight it. Click OK
14. Press 2 on your keyboard — the program will ask for a unused drive letter (example: T or Z)
15. Press 3 on your keyboard — the program will ask for your USB Stick drive letter; enter it now.
16. Press 4 on your keyboard to start the USB_Prep8 process
17. The program will ask you if it is OK to format a drive contained in the letter you gave in #14; click yes
18. The program will start to copy the needed files; be patient
19. The program will then ask you if you wish to copy these files to the USB stick; click yes.
20. Finally, once it has finished copying the files, it will ask you if you want to make the stick the preferred boot drive. Click yes, after which it will ask if you wish to un-mount the USB stick. Click yes

And that’s all there is to it. The USB flash drive is now ready to install XP to any hardware that is supported by the Windows XP CD. However there are some minor differences to installing Windows XP this way than if you would with an optical drive, which I am going to go into. Of course, as I have said before, the speed at which Windows XP installs is MUCH faster when installing using a USB stick than if you were using an optical drive (CD/DVD). But the speed comes at the price of you needing to pay a little more attention to the install itself. Now from this point on, I am going to assume that your motherboard does in fact support booting from USB and that you have gone into your BIOS and have set the USB flash drive as the first drive to be booted from (make sure the flash drive is connected before you turn power on — it helps). I cannot give a generic answer to where that option is in your BIOS; I suggest you look up in your motherboard’s documentation.

Providing it boots from the USB flash drive, you will now be shown two options. One with the words GUI and one with the words Text Mode. Choose the Text Mode option first. Now you will see what you normally would see during a CD install of XP. Just follow the on-screen instructions as always. One note is that, if you need to create a new partition for your new Windows XP installation, once the partition is fully formatted, instantly turn off the PC as the install will need to be restarted so the flash drive can recognize the layout of your partitions correctly. Follow the instructions below:

1. Create a new partition and format it as normal
2. Once the partition is formatted, restart your PC and when the options come up again choose Text Mode
3. Highlight the newly formatted partition, press enter, move down to make no changes, and press enter

Okay, now after that all goes through and the PC restarts, simply chose the GUI option on the menu and let the Windows XP install go along as it would normally do. I must advise that you DO NOT REMOVE the USB stick until you’re actually past the setup stage. Once you have just booted into Windows XP for the first time, you can go ahead and remove the USB stick. Congratulations! You have just installed Windows XP without the need for a CD/DVD drive.

The benefits of installing from USB are plentiful and, providing you take the time to follow the instructions above, you need never worry about scratching your Windows XP CD again. I hope that the time I spent writing this guide will help you all to decrease the amount of time you spend having to install Windows XP when you have to. Peace!

199 Comments

  1. Sheena says:

    okay i understand all steps to do this it is not hard but on the computer i am on when i load theusb_prep8 it says acces denid at the top and then the PeToUSB does not detect my flash drive for the destination so that i can continue with the process…HELP PLEASE….

  2. MadMax says:

    This method failed at the :
    “bootsect.exe /nt52 g:” command
    I ran the CMD prompt as admin, navigated to the “bootsect” folder which I put in my C: drive, so I opened the CMD prompt as admin then: cd c:/bootsect, then ran the above command but did not get the ” successful ” message and there is no instruction for what to do next.

  3. REY says:

    MAKE SURE YOU ADD THE ( : ) FOR EXAMPLE bootsect.exe /nt52 g:

  4. DILIP says:

    Hi ! think u for help but i have a problem this masage display when i m tring to do. plz this me solution.

    Failed to open file ‘tempimage.img’.
    The sysem cannot find the file specified.
    Input correct path:

  5. Chirag says:

    Invalid links to bootsect and USBPrep8 :(

  6. here i am getting one error massage while installing windows xp from usb pen drive to laptop ,error
    File\ $WIN_NT$.~BT\biosinfo.inf could not be loaded
    The error code is 18
    Setup cannot continue.Press any key to exit

  7. Bihung Brahma says:

    Hi its a great and interesting to be work with within a couple of times comparing to XP CD. Thanks to help and great job…..

  8. mxp says:

    so how long does it take to do a clean install from USB drive? what’s the time savings compared to installing from usual CD/DVD which normally takes between 45 min and 1.5 hours?

  9. Richie says:

    PeToUSB says that NO usb disks where found, though it is plugged in. Why doesn’t anything like this work for me?!?!

  10. Astro says:

    Richie, the instructions say to copy PeToUSB to the C:\USBprep folder

    but there is a usbprep folder inside the usbprep

    C:\USBprep\usb_prep8

  11. Hess says:

    Mine dies at this step:

    “16. Press 4 on your keyboard to start the USB_Prep8 process”

    I hit 4, it flashes something on the screen about a virtual drive not being installed then crashes.

  12. Tim says:

    Your instructions here are written like a fourth grader, they are unchecked, incorrect, frustratingly confusing due to mistakes and ultimately do not work. Good job at cluttering the internet with useless shit. Thank you sir.

  13. mike says:

    ok i have a computer that stoped working and a pro told me that a ddl file and/or a dll file that is need to boot fully is missing and im wondering if i can do this maybee without the flash drive as the boot place… what happens with my computer: when you turn it on it looks like any other boot but when you get to the black screen with the xp logo on it it loads a little then it restarts and goes over and over again ive tried safemode but it just does the same thing if you have any info please email me at thecolumna@gmail.com thank you, Mike

  14. Brian says:

    step 9. use R: not :R , There is a space. In step 8 type cd.. until you get to c:\> then type cd\bootsect You should probably be logged on as admin to avoid permissions errors. Only errors I found, works perfectly for me. THANKS!!!!!!

  15. cat says:

    hey.. i did all the steps by why is it that the computer hangs up after choosing either TXT or GUI mode? is this really working?

  16. As instructed in step no 13. Press 1 on your keyboard — this will bring up a window. Locate your XP folder and highlight it. Click OK… it is not bringing up any window to locate xp folder. else all is working fine… please help me…

  17. Mo says:

    This actually works. I can confirm its working as ive just installed Win XP Pro on my netbook. If any1 needs help feel free to ask because this method definitely works.
    Thank you for the guide.

  18. adam says:

    hi and thanks this worked on the everex cloudbook but when i try to start the computer i cant enles i use the usb i would like if i could get some help and when i do start the compter with out the usb it says windows cantstart because theres a proble with the hardware config my usb always comes up as the c drive and my computer comes up as the e drive please help

  19. barkat says:

    google winsetupusp lot easier

  20. Ratul says:

    hey watch this tutorial on preparing usb disk for xp setup http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQ3nEooQhJc

  21. saikat says:

    The command is like….

    “bootsect.exe /nt52 g:” not

    “bootsect.exe /nt52 g:”

  22. Huh says:

    If I only want to format drive c?

  23. Jatin says:

    Really Sir by reading this I think so now i can reinstall winXP using a flash drive……..thanks for your help Sir…..

  24. nick says:

    absolutely great…works like a perfect charm..:D..but for all you non geeky people there’s a teeny tiny mistake–

    9. Type in the following: ( bootsect /nt52 :R ) Replace R with the drive letter of your USB drive

    it should actually be (bootsect/nt52 R:)….

    not a big mistake but it might bother some people..
    thanks again

  25. niket says:

    hey everyone ….this method works fine but this IS NOT A UNIVERSAL METHOD!!….configurations of individual computers play a big part in this..there IS better method…go download win2flash from here–

    http://www.fiberdownload.com/Download/20294/WinToFlash

    it works great and it isnt as complicated as this tutorial…but whoever did this kudos to you..lol

  26. balram saini says:

    hello sir……..
    thanking you

  27. Genocide says:

    It took me 3 days to get this thing sorted out.. I had 80% of all the problems mentioned here from the hal.dll to the Blue Screen Of Death.. anyway im on my final problem now.. and that is getting windows to start without using the USB to boot.. but for those of you having a problem installing Microsoft Office.. on your Original XP CD, go to I386\FP40EXT.CAB and get hold of the file fpault.dll, take it and paste it into c:\program files\common files\microsoft shared\web server extensions\40\bin and then try and install Microsoft Office.. im running XP SP2, i couldn’t find that bloody file but i used fp4autl.dll instead as a fluke and it worked :-| good luck.. thanks for the article, IT WORKS! just make sure you follow every instruction.. even if you think you smart and want to store a file in a different location other than the location mentioned.. don’t do it.. you have so much to live for

  28. N79KL says:

    It didnt work for me – says “No USB Drive Found”
    in the end, i downloaded wintoflash and got it all done without all these fuss.

  29. daniel says:

    It worked for me, i was making a boot disk out of a xp pro sp2 installation cd i couldnt find, i had previously copied all the files to a folder on my pc, and managed to get sp3 added on the package and run this without the boot img that i was unable to creat since i didnt have the cd.

  30. John says:

    Can I use this method if I have built myself a nLite slipstreamed XP SP3 (with all those silent installation options being incorporated?)

  31. one says:

    changing “sata” mode in BIOS to “ide” solved the bluescreen problem for me…thnx

  32. madhukar says:

    its good

  33. Jon says:

    Hi all,

    I was able to get things installed, but I get the BSOD after the 2nd reboot. I see the XP logon screen and then I suddenly get BSOD and a reboot. I see that user “Genocide” apparently figured it out. Any thoughts?

  34. GeekRuc says:

    It did not work even for me..:(
    after follwing all the steps i got stucked on Step # 13.
    I was unable to locate my XP and got’Script terminated ….’ error…

    Please help me to resolve this issue..:(

  35. timi says:

    why I cant insatall my bootsect.exe and when i write it on the window my computer can not find it bootsect.exe/nt52:F

    THANKS

  36. mav says:

    hello,

    I just got stuck at step 15 with the error message:
    “***** D: is not a valid Drive *****”

    Please help.

    Thanks.

  37. Will says:

    Timi,

    make sure to add spaces to this. Type in the following: ( bootsect*/nt52*r: ) Replace R with the drive letter of your USB drive.

    Where there is an * remove it add a space. Also make sure to put the : after the drive letter. Hope that helps.

  38. Fzee says:

    good job friend….but i have a small problem.
    after i am all through the procedures before actually booting from pendrive…everything goes well untill i select text mode..and then it loads all the windows files and the setup starts…but then after the instant at bottom message appears setp is starting windows…..it stops showing ..”unknown hard error…rootdrive\system32\ntdll.dll”
    how to get id of this….thanks in advance for helping.

  39. Ruchi says:

    Hi All..
    I was able to create the Bootabel USB successfully but when i tried to bbot my laptop with it , it encountered the error saying that:

    “(some files) could not be loaded

    Error code 14″…bla bla bla…

    Please help me out…:(:(

  40. Dale says:

    Wow, thanks for this, just got me out of a hole big time, one of our users HDD went on his laptop, which has no CD Drive.

    Thanks to this I’ve got Windows installed from my pen drive, worked perfectly for me, thankfully. Phew.

  41. prem says:

    hi thanks for this usfull post
    and i try it and its nice but when i done partation and when its saw that copy file list and after it i get an error that can not copy bootvid.dll insert xp cd in cd drive

    so please give me some solution for it

    thanks

  42. ALAN says:

    Hi,
    Just a quick note to say thanks for the excellent article.
    I followed the instructions and got a tad confused after downloading :-
    A1. USB_Prep8.Zip ( unpack/UNZIP to c:\USB_Prep8 )
    B2. PEtoUSB.exe DONT RUN. PUT IN C:\USB_Prep8 FOLDER .
    C3. Bootsect.EXE DONT RUN, CREATE A FOLDER CALLED ‘Bootsect’ ON THE C:\ DRIVE AND PUT Bootsect.EXE INTO IT, THAT’S IT.
    I did not have to unpack them all as 2 were .EXE files (PEtoUSB.exe & Bootsect.exe) and the 3rd a .ZIP file (USB_Prep8.zip).
    I unpacked the .Zip file to a folder of that name on the c:\ drive only to see that it had created its own internal folder of that name ( c:\USB_Prep8\USB_Prep8 )so I altered the name of USB_Prep8 Folder and copied the unzipped 2nd USB_Prep8 folder with all the unzipped files in it to the C:\ Drive thereby creating c:\USB_Prep8 and then deleted the previous folders with that name leaving me with just one c:\USB_Prep8 folder with all the unzipped files in it.
    I then created a folder on the C:\ Drive called Bootsect and copied Bootsect.exe into it and finally I copied PEtoUSB.exe into my previously created c:\USB_Prep8 folder.
    This is how the files and folders look on the ROOT drive which in my case is c:\
    C:\Folder:USB_Prep8\File:PeToUSB.exe amongst other files and sub folders from the unzipped USB_Prep8.Zip FILE SHOWN BELOW.
    \Sub Folder:$OEM$
    \ Sub Folder :Help_Info\ Sub Folder :rdummy
    \ Sub Folder :u_script
    —————————————————————–
    C:\Folder:Bootsect\File: Bootsect.EXE NO OTHER FILES OR SUB FOLDERS IN HERE.

    All went well until I realised I had to hit enter/return when following the instructions in the command box.
    It took some time to get the computer to accept my USB DRIVE FORMATTING, IT KEPT FAILING; SO CARRIED ON TO NEXT STEP, IN THE END IT FORMATTED AS FAT32 NOT FAT16 LATER ON…!!
    It took some time to get the computer to accept my XP SOURCE / BOOT FILES WERE IN C:\XP.
    I GAVE UP IN THE END AND DIRECTED IT TO MY CD ROM DRIVE. Z:\WINXP ( MY ORIGENAL Microsoft WINDOWS XP PROFESSIONAL CD INC Pack3 version 2002.
    It took some time to get the computer to accept my usb Chosen drive Letter as ‘P’ I had to keep changing the name from ‘removable drive P’ to ‘usb drive ‘ the (P:) bit came automatically.
    It then began to copy the required files to my virtual disk (Q:) After 15 minuets I decided to make a pot of tea…BIG MISTAKE…when I returned to the office some 10 minuets later with said cup of tea, my computer/Laptop had crashed…!!!
    I rebooted and started the whole process again, this time I sat and watched all the files being transferred.
    2.5 hours later…YES…TWO AND A HALF HOURS LATER…this completed, but not without a few scary moments!
    First I got 2 virus warnings from Avira free ante virus software.
    File: P:\\$WIN_NT$.~LS\i386\SVCPACK\UPDATE.EXE had W32.Trojan.4672.
    I later ran CLAM AV Anti virus to confirm this, and sure enough P:\\$WIN_NT$.~LS\i386\SVCPACK\UPDATE.EXE was infected along with another file, also I had a File not found warning for BOOTFONT.BIN.
    Anyway 4 hours later and I am trying to sort out the infected files and am hunting for BOOTFONT.BIN so I can paste them to my usb stick and test the whole thing.
    I will keep you posted…
    Warmest regards and bye for now.

  43. jozeff says:

    hello,tried it but got hung at the 9th step
    you said:
    Type in the following: ( bootsect /nt52 :R ) Replace R with the drive letter of your USB drive

    i had to do it like this bootsect/nt52R: and no problem there cause it was just fine after that,
    then, at step 11. You may NOW close all the windows except for the window that was created when you ran USB_Prep8
    12. Providing you closed all the right windows, the USB_Prep8 Window will now contain seven options

    the screen PeToUSB created never opened???
    yes i see the same screen of PeToUSB but no other screen,thus no seven options,no screen to close except for the one i made to do bootsect
    tried to push any button but nothing happened,
    now i’m trying touse PeToUSB to format the drive and copy the files on my root directory onto the usb drive,lets see what happens,the pc wil not explode i surpose??? :-)
    any info for corrections would be helpful,sorry for the bad english but i’m from belgium,i know i make mistakes in spelling :-(
    regards thanks in advance jozef

  44. Uğur Akgöz says:

    Thanks for the good info.
    Now i can carry my XP boot “CD” with me everywhere… ;0)

  45. Nathan says:

    if my computer administrator won’t allow me to do the “1” option in the CMD prompt thingy and select the XP folder… can I skip this step and put it on there myself some how?

  46. Yosef says:

    I have done correctly the steps 1 to 7 according to the instruction. But I have a problem with steps 8 and 9. If I execute cd \bootsect and then type (bootsect /nt52 I:), I will see the message from the C prompt: “bootsect is not recognized as an internal or external command, operable program or batch file.”
    How can I fix this problem?
    Please help me.
    Thanks

  47. Ammar says:

    Hello,\
    the installtion went ok but for a couple of issues I ran into.
    the first thing is I encountered the hal.dll error and I got around it by keeping the rdisk value 1 instead of the recommended 0 because booting from my flash drive was second in order. It came to my awareness that the rdisk represents the boot order menu. For example, if you got into bios setting and changed the order of the hard drive that contains the operating system,say, to the second, then you have to change the value of rdisk of the boot.ini;Otherwise, you would face the problem of not founding hal.dll.
    The other issue is when I restart my computer, there was several operating systems options to choose from while actually I have installed only one. I solve this problem by modifying and saving the boot.ini. That is it guys.
    Other than that everything went pretty smoothly.
    Good Luck

  48. abhii says:

    hi all
    i have win7 installed on laptop with cd rom not working

    i want to install xp through pen drive . i have made it bootable with following all above steps including downloading zip and extracting it then ….all procedure i have done.

    also changed bios to boot from usb

    but when i poweron laptop and attach pen drive it shows message

    Microsoft windows xp
    2.text mode…..(something like that)
    when i select any of them it gives error

    /system32/hal.dll is missing or currupted

    i have tried with two different xp setups but same error

    i dont have option to go in recovery console or editing boot.ini

    But i can boot into windows7 os.

    please help me

  49. AL says:

    All the links to the download files appear to be down.

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