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Warning: those guides are mostly obsolete, please have a look at the new documentation.


Automated Windows XP (32-bit) installation with WinPE on USB
- A 2GB (maximum for FAT16) USB key,
- A good old WinPE (1.5) or BartPE (note that Windows XP 64-bit won’t work with that WinPE),
- Windows XP SP2 or SP3,
- PeToUsb (
Preparing the USB memstick
Install the WinPE environment on the USB memstick with PeToUSB,
Format Options / Enable disk format
Format Options / Drive Label: xp_install
Source Path / path/to/WinPE CD root directory
File Copy Options / Enable file copy: Overwrite Always
Create a folder on the memstick,
so you can put the installation media and batch files in it,
WINDOWSXP-KB936929-SP3-X86-FRA.EXE (this is the SP3)
Note. Some examples are available at
Note. I am only creating one partition for “C:”. The second partition will be assigned and formatted later on. It’s impossible do it right away, I don’t know why but it seems to be a known bug – says a colleague of mine.
Ready to go
You can now boot the target machine with the memory stick and launch the installation,
Additional notes
Note. Windows NT 4 and Windows 2000's winnt32 executables behave differently (
How to Customize a WinPE Startup Process for Windows XP Deployments with the Diskpart Utility (
The old method for Windows XP USB installation
No CD/DVD nor floppy drive ? Let's proceed by USB !
Note. the machine needs to be able to boot with USB (Vaio laptops don't, for example)
Both USB keys and USB harddrives may be used either as floppy or harddrive. You can determine that by checking its partition table on Linux,
fdisk -l /dev/sdb
fdisk -l /dev/sdc
Note. if there's a warning and lots of weired partitions, the lack of a partition table means it's a Windows style USB key or a floppy-like USB boot key
Note. if there is a partition table, it's an harddrive or a Linux style USB key
The 'winnt' installer needs a C drive to write to (page file, installation files and Windows XP itself). Make sure you have a formated NTFS or FAT32 partition otherwise the 'winnt' installer won't work.
Note. to permit the win98sc USB boot key to see the harddrive and formated partition on it, configure your BIOS with the SATA or SATAII ports with legacy IDE mode, not native AHCI. You may then switch back to AHCI once windows is installed if you got the relevant drivers
Note. the FAT32 partition may be converted to NTFS once Windows XP is installed
Note. the ~9GB or ~21GB partition's size (or whatever you got as maximum disk size with fdisk) may be extended once Windows XP is installed, e.g. with Partition Magic
Note. each time you boot with the USB boot key, activate disk caching and check its status,
Note. after first reboot, if you got a blinking cursor instead of windows starting, make sure you cleared the MBR,
fdisk /mbr
In brief
- Prepare the DOS USB boot key
- Prepare the Windows XP partition
- Format the partition
- Prepare the installation media
- Launch the installer
- Post-installation
Prepare the DOS USB boot key
We're going to make a win98sc USB boot key.
Install Virtual Floppy Drive (, configure it,
Driver tab > Install
Driver tab > Start
and create a virtual floppy within a file,
Drive0 tab > Open/Create
Image file : path/to/win98sc.img
Disk Type : FILE
Media Type : 3.5" 1.44MB
enable the A drive,
Drive0 tab > Drive letter : A
Note. image file needs to be named with the ".img" extention, for use with HP Drive Key Boot Utility.
Note. we tried to use the 3.5" 2.88MB media type but the boot98sc.exe utility expects te 1.44 one
Note. as an alternative, you could also use DD for Windows ( to create the images
Use the Windows 98 SE Custom floppy image ( executable to write to the A virtual drive,
and make sure the floppy has "smartdrv" for disk caching. Check for,
Back to VFD, close the virtual floppy and keep the resulting image,
Drive0 tab > Close
Note. if asked to save the modified Data RAM, eventually answer No
Get "HP Drive Key Boot Utility" and use to to write the image to the USB key.
Prepare the Windows XP partition
1/ The classic way
Boot with the DOS USB boot key, create a single primary FAT32 partition, clear the MBR and reboot,
fdisk /mbr
Note. max size varies, just use all the space, it will prevent fdisk from verifying the disk integrity a second time. You'll eventually fix the partition sizes later on.
2/ The fastest way
Boot with e.g. Slackware usbboot.img to do the same, but faster,
cfdisk /dev/sda
New : Primary
Type : Win 95 LBA
#fdisk /dev/sda
Note. make the first partition active/bootable
Format the partition
1/ The classic way
Boot with the DOS USB boot key and format the Windows XP partition,
format c:
note. you can try with /q but if it's a fresh partition, that option may not be accepted
2/ The fastest way
Boot (or keep using) with e.g. Slackware usbboot.img to do the same, but faster,
mkdosfs /dev/sda1
mkdosfs /dev/sda2
Prepare the installation media
We want the i386 directory to be available from the DOS USB boot.
1/ The classic way
Prepare another USB key or harddrive and put Windows XP's i386 directory in it.
2/ The fastest way
Boot (or keep using) with e.g. Slackware usbboot.img to copy the i386 directory from the USB key or harddrive to the second FAT32 partition.
Note. eventually, you can take the chance to make sure that USB key or harddrive is configured as harddrive, with a partition table having one partition.
3/ NFS way
Same as 2/ but use an NFS share instead of an USB key or harddrive.
Launch the installer
Boot (or keep using) the DOS USB boot key and launch the Windows XP installation,
cd i386
After the first reboot, the installer asks to convert the FAT32 partition to NTFS. Proceed with it ! Otherwise the "convert" command permits to do that, but it's win32 only (hence not from the USB DOS boot key) and only against an amounted filesystem.
Official Windows XP install floppies :
Need F6 drivers for XP Pro install. Damn SATA controllers... :
Virtual Floppy :
How To Boot From A USB Flash Drive :
MKBT, Make Bootable :
Gilles Vollant Software :
NTRawrite Home Page :
(FR) Créer une clé USB de boot et avoir accès à la partition NTFS sous DOS :
USB with DOS :
UBCD4WIN ou UltimateBootCD4Win :
Pack USB SoSWindows :
(FR) Booter sur une clé USB :
DriveRescue :
Drive Image :
Drive Image XML :

(obsolete, see the new doc)