HOW TO: Install Windows 2000 (or XP perhaps) from DOS without a bootable CDROM

By Rick · 44 replies
Jul 14, 2004
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  1. I figured this might deserve its own thread since I've been asked / heard this question a number of times.

    This post has been created in response to this thread:

    *WARNING: The following instructions delete all data on the hard drive. They may be modified to retain data, but I take no responsibility for data loss.

    1. Using DOS requires that the drive be formatted in FAT32. It is possible to convert to NTFS later on, but I'll leave that decision up to you. ;)
    2. Your system must bet set to boot from the floppy drive.
    A QUICK NOTE: Many users can avoid installation from DOS by using the bootable floppy diskettes provided by Microsoft. You can find them here:

    The information given will allow the following to happen:
    1.) Install Windows 2000 (XP?) if you do not have a bootable CD-ROM.
    2.) Install Windows 2000 (XP?) from DOS
    3.) Install Windows 2000 (XP?) if you have a swappable floppy / CD-ROM laptop, but cannot boot from a CD

    How to install Windows 2000 from DOS without a bootable CDROM

    1.) Obtain a Windows 98SE startup / emergency boot diskette
    2.) Preparing for your Windows 2000 installation - Make the hard drive bootable and add CD-ROM support
    • Insert your Windows 98 startup diskette and start/restart your computer
    • Your computer will boot into DOS. When prompted for CD-ROM support, this is not necessary. Please continue.
    • Command prompt will appear.
    • Enter the command fdisk followed by [ENTER] key. Use this utility to delete all partitions on the disk drive. (Helps ensure this goes smoothly)
      The following link provides more information on how to use the FDISK utility:;en-us;255867&Product=w98
    • Use the FDISK utility to partition the drive (You must create at least one Primary partition. FDISK will ask if you would like to make this partition active - YES!)
    • Restart the computer with the floppy disk inserted.
    • The computer will boot into DOS again.
    • Select "Enable CD-ROM support" when available
    • At the prompt, type format C: /s . This will format the new system partition and copy the necessary system files to make the drive bootable without the need of a floppy or CD-ROM
    • Enter the command copy D:\mscdex.exe C: .
    • Enter the command copy A:\oakcdrom.sys C:
    • Enter edit C:\autoexec.bat. A blank, blue window should appear.
    • Type C:\MSCDEX.EXE /D:MSCD001
    • Press ALT and F keys at the same time to bring up a menu and use the arrows keys to select save. Repeat the ALT and F keys again to bring up the File menu, but this time exit.
    • Enter the command edit C:\config.sys
    • Type the following: DEVICE=C:\OAKCDROM.SYS /D:MSCD001
    • Save and exit as you did before
    • Remove your floppy disk, insert the Windows CD and restart the computer. If you have a swappable floppy/CD-ROM, exchange the floppy for the CD drive and insert the Windows 2000 or XP CD. Restart. In order for DOS to detect the CD-ROM, it is very important that you have the CD in before your computer boots next time.
    • Your hard drive is now bootable and will now have CD-ROM support

    3.) Getting the Windows 2000 / XP setup started
    • The Windows 98 logo will appear. Your computer should now boot into DOS at command prompt again. (C:)
    • You will now have CD-ROM access (D:)
    • Enter the command D:\i386\winnt.exe

    *Instructions edited to exclude CD copy, although you may if you wish

    Now Windows 2000 setup will begin.. It will also perhaps nag you about smartdrive not being installed. Just ignore it and continue setup anyway. I'd tell you how, but it would make this thing even more complicated. :)

    It may also ask you about the location of the setup files. The default path is D:, which should be correct. Simply press [ENTER] if it asks.
  2. RealBlackStuff

    RealBlackStuff TS Rookie Posts: 6,503

    Nice job, Rick.
    Turn it into a "Sticky".
  3. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Topic Starter Posts: 4,572   +65

    Not sure if it deserves a sticky... It's an answer to a fairly specific question. :)
  4. Nodsu

    Nodsu TS Rookie Posts: 5,837   +6


    Doesn't W2k/XP setup need files from the subfolders in \i386? "copy *.*" does not take subdirs with it.

    There is also no need to make the HD bootable or to install the CDROM drivers manually.

    My way:

    1. Download custom Windows 98SE bootdisk from

    2. Make the floppy

    3. Boot from the floppy.

    4. Create and format a partition for w2k setup. It should be 600MB+ is you skip point 7, 1.2GB+ if not. All the tools you need are on the floppy.

    5. Reboot from the floppy

    6. Run smartdrv from the floppy to make things go faster

    7. (Optional) use the xcopy command to transfer the i386 folder to the HD. /E switch is for transferring subdirectories.

    8. Run winnt.exe from the CD (or HD if you did the copy thing)
  5. Mudshark

    Mudshark TS Rookie Posts: 101

    My W2K Pro CD has a directory containing the
    programs and files required to extract to
    floppy and create the “boot disks” all 4 of them….
    With instructions. (like NT used)
    The Directory is called “MAKEBOOT”
    And the program called “makeboot.exe” run it and
    Follow the instructions.
    It will create the 4 boot disk set. To install the OS just
    Put disk 1 into the floppy drive set your PC to boot from
    Floppy and reboot then follow the instructions.
    It'll take you through the install but copy the initial driver
    pool from the floppies then load the CD after it is done
    with them.
  6. Mudshark

    Mudshark TS Rookie Posts: 101

  7. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Topic Starter Posts: 4,572   +65

    Keep in mind the 2K/XP boot disks will work for most situations, but not if you have a swappable drive bay in a laptop that only accepts either or a floppy/CDROM.
  8. Mudshark

    Mudshark TS Rookie Posts: 101

    Very true Rick.... sorry I thought the topic said "without a bootable CDROM" I didnt get that it was an either / or thing :eek:
  9. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Topic Starter Posts: 4,572   +65

    That's fine. I wanted to mention that to, but I think I neglected that in my original post. So I might add the bootable diskettes in there too. :)
  10. Samstoned

    Samstoned TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,018

    has anyone tried to install the w2k disc in cdrom drive install the 98 floppy in the floppy drive run the floppy using add cdrom support when you get back to the a prompt remove the floppy hotswap with the cdrom enter your d: or what ever
    and load setup files.
    I don't know if hotswapping will work?
  11. Nodsu

    Nodsu TS Rookie Posts: 5,837   +6

    Hotswap? You mean unplug the removable floppy drive and replace it with a removable CD-ROM drive on a laptop? No, that won't work since the CD-ROM drivers will not detect a CDROM drive if it is disconnected.

    May have better luck with a bootable DOS CD like UBCD:
  12. Surfer Sam

    Surfer Sam TS Rookie

    I need more info on how to do this. How dose smartdrv & xcopy work.

    Thanks in advance, sam :mad:
  13. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 6,002   +15

    I have never heard of this being possible. Windows is put on CDs for copy protection.
  14. sdonn9

    sdonn9 TS Rookie

    I have followed your instructions and the computer hasnt worked. the install asks for the EULA for windows. Is there a way to copy this file so the setup will run??
  15. alidabiri

    alidabiri TS Rookie Posts: 441

    is D: the ram drive?
    if the boot disk doesn't install the ram drive, step j would not work. i also have prescribed this scenario many times to users to get access to a machine. but option k (oakcdrom.sys is not always on 98 bootdisk).
  16. sdonn9

    sdonn9 TS Rookie

    no the drive isnt a RAM drive. The Program ran ok but the file didn't copy. after trying Three time this work. Thanks for the help
  17. jcbeach

    jcbeach TS Rookie

    Installing W2k from DOS without a bootable CDROM

    I tried the steps in the instructions and eventually got this to work using only part of the information. The problem I ran into was formatting my c: /s so I could boot to the hard drive without a cd or floppy. Whenever I tried the command format c: /s I received an error about having insufficient memory or resources. Got any idea why I'd get that?
  18. alidabiri

    alidabiri TS Rookie Posts: 441

    go here and get a win98 boot disk
    start machine with this boot disk with cdrom support option on the menu
    do an fdisk to display/delete/create a partition
    do a format
    install os from cd.
  19. foozy

    foozy TS Rookie Posts: 139

    If it works then it at least deserves to be preserved as a guide somewhere, if not a sticky, thats a very specific walkthrough.
  20. Tmagic650

    Tmagic650 TS Ambassador Posts: 17,244   +234

    Boot your computer using a Window 98 boot disk. You may need to add Smartdrv.sys to the floppy, to use on older systems. You can find Smartdrv.sys in the TOOLS, OLDDOS directory of a Windows 98 install disk

    At the A prompt type FDISK, follow instructions to delete an existing partition, or create a partition.

    At the A prompt type FORMAT C, follow instructions

    At the A prompt type Smartdrv, press enter

    At the A prompt type CD E: where E: is the CD ROM

    Place the OS install CD in the CD Drive

    At the A prompt type CD i386, press enter

    At the A prompt type winnt, press enter, follow on screen instructions

    That's it!

    Heaven forbid if you have to install any Microsoft OS using floppy disks. I remember installing Windows 95 from floppies. What a pain!
  21. jcbeach

    jcbeach TS Rookie

    Yea, it works great....except for format c: /s - that's the only thing that didn't work from the earlier instructions.

    Thanks for your help!
  22. ocsickgirl

    ocsickgirl TS Rookie

    i hope this works for me!

    i did everything in the orignal post but it's still not working :(

    I did all of it and looked good till i got here, I did this:

    but it still says no drive detected. WHAT THE HELL SHOULD I DO? :(
  23. Tmagic650

    Tmagic650 TS Ambassador Posts: 17,244   +234

    Try my instructions... I didn't post them to be ignored
  24. ocsickgirl

    ocsickgirl TS Rookie

    Hunny I did that. Do you think i like switching back one huge PC back and forth. I wrote down your instructions the problem is it's not detecting the "E" drive. It's not recognizing that i have a cdrom at all. I've tried yours, as well as everyones on this site. I think it has to do with the driver.
    It's weird though because when my mom gave me this comp the cd rom she had in it didn't work either. so i put the one i knew worked in it and now the same thing. Is it possible that the cables connecting it are bad?
    I didn't ignore you :(
  25. Tmagic650

    Tmagic650 TS Ambassador Posts: 17,244   +234

    When you boot with the Windows 98 startup floppy you have 3 options:

    1. Boot with CD ROM support
    2. Boot without CD ROM support
    3. Boot to A: Prompt

    You must choose option 1

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