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Installing Windows XP Efficiently from a USB Drive

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Ok, so when I install Windows XP (Yes, people still want it installed…) I always do it quickly from a USB drive. People keep asking me “David, how the heck did you install XP that quickly?” So today I will write out my steps for efficiently installing Windows XP. This is by no means the ONLY way to install Windows XP from a USB drive, but in my experience this is the FASTEST and most RELIABLE.


  • USB Drive (At least 4 Gigs, more is better!)
  • Windows XP install disk/iso/exe (I use Professional, but whatever you have should work)
  • A 32-bit (x86) Windows 7 install disk/iso/exe (Yes, Windows 7, no you won’t be using it to install windows… but you could… if you use a 64-bit version, you will encounter problems…)
  • A Windows XP+ machine to work on (Sorry mac users, this has to be done from windows)
  • 7-Zip file manager portable (download from the googles or from here)

Prep Procedure:

  1. Prepare the XP installation files. If you have an iso/exe… well you’re done! yay! If you have a disk…
    1. Select the contents of the disk and compress them into a single file such as a .zip or .iso or .7z
  2. Insert your USB Drive… make sure you don’t have any data you want to keep on it.
  3. Open an administrative command prompt (if on Windows XP just make sure you’re in an administrator account)
    1. type: diskpart [Enter]
      1. type: list disk [Enter]
      2. Find your USB drive in the list, I will refer to it’s disk number as ‘#’ from here on out
      3. type: select disk # [Enter]
      4. type: clean [Enter] (This will remove all partition information from the drive)
      5. type: create partition primary [Enter]
      6. type: format quick fs=ntfs [Enter]
    2. LEAVE THIS WINDOW OPEN but leave it for now…
  4. Copy the contents of the Windows 7 Install media to the root of the USB Drive. (There should be a bunch of folder… boot, sources, etc… setup.exe should be at the root of the drive)
  5. Once that’s complete, go back to the command prompt that you left open
    1. type: active [Enter]
    2. type: exit [Enter]
    3. Ok, you can close the prompt now 🙂
  6. Ok, congratulations, you now have a bootable Windows 7 Install USB Drive!
  7. Wait… wasn’t this post about Windows XP?… yea… ok, so a few more steps then…
  8. Copy your Windows XP iso/zip/exe to the USB Drive
  9. Install 7-Zip Portable to the USB Drive
  10. Create a new file on the root of the USB Drive called “installXP.bat” with the following line: “C:\winxp\i386\winnt32.exe /makelocalsource /tempdrive:c: /syspart:c:” (no quotes of course)
  11. Ok, you now have a Windows XP/Windows 7 Install USB… yay!

Install Procedure:

  1. Boot off of your shiny new Windows Install USB
  2. Once you’ve selected your keyboard layout use the keyboard combo “shift+f10” to open a command prompt
    1. type: diskpart [Enter]
      1. type: list volume [Enter]
      2. Note which volume is your USB Drive… I’ll be referring to it as the “E” drive
      3. type: list disk [Enter]
      4. Note which disk is your destination drive (the one you want XP on). I’ll be calling it “disk #”… sounds familiar…
      5. type: select disk # [Enter]
      6. type: clean [Enter]
      7. type: create partition primary [Enter]
      8. type: format quick fs=ntfs [Enter]
      9. All this really sounds familiar…
      10. type: assign letter=c [Enter] (It’s important that this succeeds, we need it to be the “C” drive…)
      11. type: active [Enter]
      12. type: exit [Enter]
    2. type: E: [Enter] (or whatever letter your USB stick happens to be)
    3. type: 7-ZipPortable\7-ZipPortable.exe [Enter] (Don’t forget to use the tab key to auto-complete!)
      1. Use 7-zip to navigate to your XP install zip/win/7z/exe/tar/gz and double-click on it, you should have a listing of all the files that make up the windows XP disk.
      2. Select all the files (ctrl+a), right-click, choose “copy to” and in the dialogue put “C:\winxp” and choose OK
      3. Ok, you can quit 7-Zip… head back to the open command prompt…
    4. type: installXP.bat [Enter] (This will start the Windows XP installer assuming you copied everything in the right place…)
      1. Follow the instructions to begin the Windows XP install.
      2. Once it’s done it’s thing, the Windows XP installer will simply quit/disappear with no errors/popups/warnings
    5. Go back to the command prompt and type: wpeutil shutdown [Enter] This will shut down the machine.
  3. Remove the USB drive and boot the computer, it will boot into a Windows XP setup environment
  4. Just hit Enter whenever it asks you something and it will complete the final stages of setup then reboot into the usual XP installer
  5. You’re on your own from here… but don’t forget to delete the “C:\winxp” folder once you’ve got everything installed…
  6. You’re Done! congrats on an XP install… takes a bit of setup, but is much faster than other methods… enjoy.

If you have any questions or encounter problems with this method, feel free to leave a comment or email me (as always 🙂

Written by David

February 5th, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Windows

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