Installing and booting Windows XP from USB drive

8 minutes Read

When i was started to build a carPC, i was wondering how to put a Windows partition somewhere to protect the HDD from road's vibrations and holes.I thought it was a good idea to run Windows XP off a USB stick that i just plug in when i need it, and boot from it. Thanks to the fantastic research of the people i credited below, finally i made it possible. I wanted an easy guide that allows creating a modified version of the Windows XP CD, for painless and transparent installation to as many systems as you want.

Needed

  • A USB2-compliant Hard disk drive (or a big USB2 stick. In this guide, i used this)
  • An original Windows XP CD
  • WinISO or UltraISO. In this guide, i use the UltraISO
  • The Microsoft CAB SDK
  • A CD-burning software that can handle ISO files.I burn the image with Nero.

Your computer must support booting from USB (view below) To see if your PC supports booting from USB, connect your USB drive to your computer, directly, without a Hub. Then, shut down your computer, disconnect any other hard disk drives from it, and insert your Windows XP CD into the drive.

Start the installation, and proceed to the section where you are allowed to pick a hard drive. If it goes beyond the partition selection, your drive is already fine for booting Windows XP. If not (seems to be the cases with many of the Freecom USB HDDs for example), you will get an error like "Windows is unable to find your drive, partition, data etc.

If you want to install XP to USB Stick, you can't do anything. But if you want to install XP to a USB HDD, this is usually not a big problem. All you need to do is "properly" format the drive. Reboot into your normal Windows, and get this HP tool, and use it to format your HDD completely and choose NTFS format.

How to Open UltraISO, and select Tools -> Make CD/DVD Image... , and save your CD image. After the CD dump is done, close and reopen UltraIUSO. Then, open the ISO file you just created using File -> Open. Now, click the I386 folder, and select the following files (Ctrl key to multi-select)

  • TXTSETUP.SIF
  • DOSNET.INF
  • USB.IN_
  • USBPORT.IN_
  • USBSTOR.IN_

Select Actions -> Extract and put the resulting files into some folder to work on them. Use the Cab SDK to extract the contents of the .IN_ files.

Go to Start -> Run and type cmd. No navigate to the folder you have the files and type these commands: cabarc x USB.IN cabarc x USBPORT.IN cabarc x USBSTOR.IN_

You should end up with three new files in the folder, called:

  • usb.inf
  • usbport.inf
  • usbstor.inf

Now delete the .IN_ files. No you must open the inf files with a text editor to modify them.

File TXTSETUP.SIF Move the following entries from [InputDevicesSupport.Load] to the [BootBusExtenders.Load] section, as shown here. [BootBusExtenders.Load] pci = pci.sys acpi = acpi.sys isapnp = isapnp.sys acpiec = acpiec.sys ohci1394 = ohci1394.sys usbehci = usbehci.sys usbohci = usbohci.sys usbuhci = usbuhci.sys usbhub = usbhub.sys usbstor = usbstor.sys [InputDevicesSupport.Load] usbehci = usbehci.sys usbohci = usbohci.sys usbuhci = usbuhci.sys usbhub = usbhub.sys usbccgp = usbccgp.sys hidusb = hidusb.sys serial = serial.sys serenum = serenum.sys usbstor = usbstor.sys ... now the same for [BootBusExtenders] and [InputDevicesSupport] [BootBusExtenders] pci = "PCI-Bustreiber",files.pci,pci acpi = "ACPI Plug & Play-Bustreiber",files.acpi,acpi isapnp = "ISA Plug & Play-Bustreiber",files.isapnp,isapnp acpiec = "Integrierter ACPI-Controllertreiber",files.none,acpiec ohci1394 = "IEEE-1394-Bus-OHCI-konformer Anschlusstreiber",files.ohci1394,ohci1394 usbehci = "Erweiterter Hostcontroller",files.usbehci,usbehci usbohci = "Open Hostcontroller",files.usbohci,usbohci usbuhci = "Universeller Hostcontroller",files.usbuhci,usbuhci usbhub = "Standard-USB-Hubtreiber",files.usbhub,usbhub usbstor = "USB-Speicherklassentreiber",files.usbstor,usbstor [InputDevicesSupport] usbehci = "Erweiterter Hostcontroller",files.usbehci,usbehci usbohci = "Open Hostcontroller",files.usbohci,usbohci usbuhci = "Universeller Hostcontroller",files.usbuhci,usbuhci usbhub = "Standard-USB-Hubtreiber",files.usbhub,usbhub hidusb = "HID-Parser",files.hidusb,hidusb serial = "Treiber for seriellen Anschluss",files.none,serial serenum = "Enumerator for seriellen Anschluss",files.none,serenum usbstor = "USB-Speicherklassentreiber",files.usbstor,usbstor usbccgp = "USB Generic Parent Driver",files.usbccgp,usbccgp

No insert the following in the [HiveInfs.Fresh] section: [HiveInfs.Fresh] AddReg = hivedef.inf,AddReg AddReg = hivesys.inf,AddReg AddReg = hivesft.inf,AddReg AddReg = hivecls.inf,AddReg AddReg = hiveusd.inf,AddReg AddReg = dmreg.inf,DM.AddReg AddReg = usbboot.inf,usbservices and also in [SourceDisksFiles] [SourceDisksFiles] usbboot.inf = 1,,,,,,x,3,,3 bootvid.dll = 1,,,,,,3,2,0,0,,1,2 kdcom.dll = 1,,,,,,3_,2,0,0,,1,2

Save and close TXTSETUP.SIF.

File DOSNET.INF Open DOSNET.INF , and change the second [Files] section to look like this:

[Files] d1,usbboot.inf d1,_default.pif d1,12520437.cpx d1,12520850.cpx 

File usb.inf Change the bolded lines in the [StandardHub.AddService] and [CommonClassParent.AddService] sections: [StandardHub.AddService] DisplayName = %StandardHub.SvcDesc% ServiceType = 1 ; SERVICE_KERNEL_DRIVER StartType = 0 ; SERVICE_DEMAND_START ErrorControl = 1 ; SERVICE_ERROR_NORMAL ServiceBinary = %12%usbhub.sys LoadOrderGroup = Boot Bus Extender [CommonClassParent.AddService] DisplayName = %GenericParent.SvcDesc% ServiceType = 1 ; SERVICE_KERNEL_DRIVER StartType = 0 ; SERVICE_DEMAND_START ErrorControl = 1 ; SERVICE_ERROR_NORMAL ServiceBinary = %12%usbccgp.sys LoadOrderGroup = Boot Bus Extender

File usbport.inf Change the bolded lines in the [EHCI.AddService], [OHCI.AddService] , [UHCI.AddService] and [ROOTHUB.AddService] sections:

[EHCI.AddService] DisplayName = %EHCIMP.SvcDesc% ServiceType = 1 ; SERVICE_KERNEL_DRIVER StartType = 0 ; SERVICE_DEMAND_START ErrorControl = 1 ; SERVICE_ERROR_NORMAL ServiceBinary = %12%usbehci.sys LoadOrderGroup = Boot Bus Extender [OHCI.AddService] DisplayName = %OHCIMP.SvcDesc% ServiceType = 1 ; SERVICE_KERNEL_DRIVER StartType = 0 ; SERVICE_DEMAND_START ErrorControl = 1 ; SERVICE_ERROR_NORMAL ServiceBinary = %12%usbohci.sys LoadOrderGroup = Boot Bus Extender [UHCI.AddService] DisplayName = %UHCIMP.SvcDesc% ServiceType = 1 ; SERVICE_KERNEL_DRIVER StartType = 0 ; SERVICE_DEMAND_START ErrorControl = 1 ; SERVICE_ERROR_NORMAL ServiceBinary = %12%usbuhci.sys LoadOrderGroup = Boot Bus Extender [ROOTHUB.AddService] DisplayName = %ROOTHUB.SvcDesc% ServiceType = 1 ; SERVICE_KERNEL_DRIVER StartType = 0 ; SERVICE_DEMAND_START ErrorControl = 1 ; SERVICE_ERROR_NORMAL ServiceBinary = %12%usbhub.sys LoadOrderGroup = Boot Bus Extender File usbstor.inf Change / Add the bolded lines in the [USBSTOR.AddService] section [USBSTOR.AddService] DisplayName = %USBSTOR.SvcDesc% ServiceType = 1 StartType = 0 Tag = 3 ErrorControl = 1 ServiceBinary = %12%USBSTOR.SYS LoadOrderGroup = Boot Bus Extender

File: USBBOOT.INF Create a new file called USBBOOT.INF in the same directory as your other changed files, and put the following content into it: [usbservices] HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesUSBSTOR","DisplayName",0x00000000,"USB Mass Storage Driver" HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesUSBSTOR","ErrorControl",0x00010001,1 HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesUSBSTOR","Group",0x00000000,"System Reserved" HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesUSBSTOR","ImagePath",0x00020000,"system32DRIVERSUSBSTOR.SYS" HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesUSBSTOR","Start",0x00010001,0 HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesUSBSTOR","Type",0x00010001,1 HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbehci","DisplayName",0x00000000,"USB 2.0 Enhanced Host Controller Miniport Driver" HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbehci","ErrorControl",0x00010001,1 HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbehci","Group",0x00000000,"System Reserved" HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbehci","ImagePath",0x00020000,"system32DRIVERSusbehci.sys" HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbehci","Start",0x00010001,0 HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbehci","Type",0x00010001,1 HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbhub","DisplayName",0x00000000,"USB2 Enabled Hub" HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbhub","ErrorControl",0x00010001,1 HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbhub","Group",0x00000000,"System Reserved" HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbhub","ImagePath",0x00020000,"system32DRIVERSusbhub.sys" HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbhub","Start",0x00010001,0 HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbhub","Type",0x00010001,1 HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbuhci","DisplayName",0x00000000,"Microsoft USB Universal Host Controller Miniport Driver" HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbuhci","ErrorControl",0x00010001,1 HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbuhci","Group",0x00000000,"System Reserved" HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbuhci","ImagePath",0x00020000,"system32DRIVERSusbuhci.sys" HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbuhci","Start",0x00010001,0 HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbuhci","Type",0x00010001,1 HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbohci","DisplayName",0x00000000,"Microsoft USB Open Host Controller Miniport Driver" HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbohci","ErrorControl",0x00010001,1 HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbohci","Group",0x00000000,"System Reserved" HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbohci","ImagePath",0x00020000,"system32DRIVERSusbohci.sys" HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbohci","Start",0x00010001,0 HKLM,"SYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesusbohci","Type",0x00010001,1

Now open the cmd again. Type the following commands: cabarc n USB.IN usb.inf cabarc n USBPORT.IN usbport.inf cabarc n USBSTOR.IN_ usbstor.inf

The three IN_ files should now exist again. We are finish with modifications.Open your Windows CD image again with UltraISO. Navigate to the I386 folder, and delete the following files from the ISO file.

  • DOSNET.INF
  • TXTSETUP.SIF
  • USB.IN_
  • USBPORT.IN_
  • USBSTOR.IN_

Now save the iso file. Now select "Add Files" and add your changed files, in detail:

  • USBBOOT.INF
  • DOSNET.INF
  • TXTSETUP.SIF
  • USB.IN_
  • USBPORT.IN_
  • USBSTOR.IN_

Save the ISO. You are done. Now you can burn the image.

To test the CD, shut down your computer. Disconnect ANY internal and external hard drives (so Windows cannot find them during installation).

Some computers will have trouble to boot without an internal HDD attached, check in your BIOS and, if possible, remove the HDD from the boot sequence and set the USB Harddisk as the first boot device, and the CDROM as second.

Also, connect your USB Harddrive directly to the computer, without any Hubs in between. Windows should install just fine, with the exceptions noted below.

At the installation, windows will prompt you, as they are "not certified" - This is normal. Just press "yes" a couple of times. Also, upon completion of the install, the system will complain once on the first bootup that the pagefile does not exist.

You can ignore this for now, as Windows will work fine without it.