Manually "put" a bootable XP onto a 2nd partition

By Vigilante
Apr 8, 2005
  1. I have a rather peculiar problem.
    I have a laptop that has no way to boot off anything but the HDD. There's no CD, no floppy, nothing external. Only HDD.

    The HDD has been formatted and partition with this:

    Part 1: Active 27gb
    Part2: 2.5gb

    Both are blank.

    What I need to do is manually place the needed files onto these partitions in order to install XP onto partition 1.
    I have thus far copied the entire contents of an XP Pro SP2 CD to the 2nd partition. From this partition, I have to run the "winnt.exe" file from "i386".

    Then I copied the 3 necessary XP boot files to the active partition, which let's the system know something is there.

    My thinking is that somehow I can edit boot.ini to point to partition "3" to "i386\winnt.exe". And then Xp setup will start from there. When I tried this, it gave me the proper OS loading screen where I choose my 2nd partition but it just throws an error saying missing "<systemroo>\system32\hal.dll" and doesn't do anything.

    So then, how can I, by manually placing files directly on the partitions, get XP to install?

    I know it can be done, it's the same concept as OEMs putting "Recovery Console" or a system image to a 2nd partition and letting you reload Windows from there. I just don't have a way to see how they did it.

    Any ideas?
  2. triplate

    triplate TS Rookie Posts: 134

    Hook the lap to a Network wth Admin rights and operate from there...???
  3. RealBlackStuff

    RealBlackStuff TS Rookie Posts: 6,503

    Take that HD out, put it temporarily in a PC, then format the 27GB partition in FAT32 with the command: format x: /s where x is that HD partition.
    Finish copying all XP setup files to that second small partition.
    Put the HD back in the laptop. It will now boot into C:>.
    Install XP using the \i386\winnt.exe command

    You can have XP change FAT32 to NTFS before it starts install.
  4. Vigilante

    Vigilante TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 1,666

    That's exactly what I was thinking blackstuff, only problem is that the laptop HDD is on my USB adapter, which I don't think is recognized should I boot to dos.

    Cause I can't use format x: on XP cause either:
    1- Says wrong DOS version
    2- Says can't directly access HDD

    The only way I see is if I can use my USB adapter on a 9x box and run that command. Wonder if that would work?

    Otherwise, worst case scenario, how can I, or what program can I use, to force the 9x boot sector info into that HDD? Assuming XP will let me "directly access" the drive to do it.


    PS, Laptop doesn't have network boot capability.
  5. Vigilante

    Vigilante TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 1,666

    Uh oh, I think I solved my own problem. I finally came across this article:;en-us;307848&sd=tech

    Which pretty much is what I wanted.
    I think my original issue was the smartdrv because MS warns it would take FOREVER without it. Which is what it did (+45mins). But the second time when I re-formatted the drive and copied the "system" files (9x) and started setup again, it went much smoother with smartdrv running.
    Also different is that, before running setup, I added all the drive letters and the i386 folder to the PATH variable. And pointed Windows setup to "d:i386" instead of just D: like the first time.
    So all in all the process is like this:

    1. Take the HDD and set it up from a 9x box.
    2. Use FDISK to create 2 partitions.
    3. Make the first partition the "active" partition and make it about 1gb less then the total space.
    4. Create the second partition using the remaining space.
    5. After the partitions are created, you may have to restart.
    6. Format the partitions in FAT32. When formatting the primary partition, use "Format x: /s". This will copy the necessary system files. Where "x" is the primary partition's drive letter.
    7. Copy all the XP files to the second partition. This could be just a "select-all" from explorer. You may only need the i386 folder but I'm not sure.
    8. Note: If the "format x: /s" didn't work. Or the partition is already formatted. You can do the same thing by going into a command prompt and to the C: drive (windows drive) and type "sys x:" where "x" is the new primary partition. This will transfer the system info and make the partition bootable.

    9. Next find the files "smartdrv.exe" and "himem.sys" and add those to the primary partition.
    10. Create a file called "autoexec.bat" and another file called "config.sys" on the primary partition.
    11. Edit autoexec.bat and add two lines. First one is "smartdrv.exe". Second line add "path=c:\;d:\;d:\i386". Save the file and exit. I assume once the drive is put back in the system, the drive letters will become C: and D:. D: being the small partition where the setup files are stored. Edit as needed.
    12. Edit Config.sys in notepad and add this line "device=himem.sys". Save the file and exit.

    13. Now you should be able to install the drive back into the original machine and boot it up. It should dump you at a command prompt. Now you can probably just type "winnt" and away you go. If not, type
    d: <enter>
    cd i386 <enter>
    Then type "winnt" and away you go.

    14. The first thing Windows Setup asks is where the setup files are located. Type "D:\i386". Or whatever your setup files partition is.

    15. Well that link I put up there explains it good enough to rough out the edges here.

    These steps got me all through setup. My only problem now is, it rejected my Dell XP Pro keycode!! AHHH
  6. RealBlackStuff

    RealBlackStuff TS Rookie Posts: 6,503

    Pretty much what I said, except M$ is a bit long-winded, and adds some bells and whistles.
    My approach is the minimalistic one, which WILL work also, albeit slower.
    Regardless, glad you got it sorted.
  7. Vigilante

    Vigilante TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 1,666

    Yes, there are some extra details that must be done. Especially adding himem.sys and smartdrv to the boot drive after copying the system files.

    The only kink is that this is a laptop hard drive that I'm using through a USB 2.5 to 3.5 to USB adapter. But when loaded on a 9x machine, the DOS format and sys commands still work. But they won't on an XP machine. Otherwise, if it was a normal IDE, I would have just installed it as a slave.

    But to conclude. Because it's a Dell laptop, it refused the XP Pro Dell OEM product key when I used my standard XP Pro SP2 files. Lukily, I have a new Dell laptop with XP pro, so I had to reformat and do the whole darn thing over again, but using the setup files from the Dell OEM CD instead.
    This worked and accepted my keycode. But during setup, it failed to copy a whole mess of files, which I skipped. That didn't seem to effect XP after it was loaded though, cause it's working fine.

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