How to install Windows XP on a Netbook using a USB flash drive


Posts: 1,391   +72
A Netbook can be a very handy replacement for a laptop sometimes, with their lightness and small size, but the fact that they don't come with a built in optical drive can really hurt when trying to perform certain tasks, like the re-installation of an OS for example. If there's been a big irreversible mistake on your Netbook or maybe you bought it secondhand without an OS installed, you're going to need to fix it...and unless you have a spare external CD drive to hand, it can be tricky.

Well, before you go running off to the shops to buy an external CD drive (that you will probably only need for this one task), you can get the job done all the same using a USB flash drive.

I just recently had to go through this myself, and the guide I was following was very short to the point. I wanted to write a new complete "Noobs" guide for people who might need to do this in the future (plus this guide will make things a tad easier if I have to do this again). Also, this guide is for the install of Windows XP only (32bit), if you would like to install an OS like Windows 7 on your Netbook, then look here; If you would like to install XP 64bit then you may receive errors during this guide's setup process.. Anyways, let's get started.

[CENTER]Step 1..What you will need:[/CENTER]

1 - A USB flash drive (2gb or 4gb would be best, High speed is not necessary but preferred) (You don't have to format it just yet but know that it will be formatted later)

2 - Your Netbook at the ready

3 - A working computer with an optical drive and a Windows XP OS (it's important we work on an XP OS because an OS like Win 7 can be awkward with some of the software we will be using)

4 - Your original XP installation disc at the ready

5 - These Programs: usb_prep8 (227kb and bootsect (226kb (Download these folders and extract both onto the desktop of the working computer)

[CENTER]Step 2..Prepare the flash drive on the working computer:[/CENTER]

1 - Insert your USB flash drive into the computer and to be safe remove any others you might have connected. Enter the "usb_prep8" folder and double click "usb_prep8.cmd". A command prompt window will open.

2 - Just press any key and the program will continue to open a program called "PeToUSB". It's very important you do not close any windows until I tell you to from this point on.

3 - Don't make any changes to the options just click start. Your USB flash drive will now be formatted and it shouldn't take long. (Remember, don't close any windows when it's finished)

4 - Now, open a fresh command prompt window by typing "cmd" in the Start->Run box. In this new command prompt window, Type the directory where "bootsect.exe" is saved (this should be in the bootsect folder on your desktop). Now type "bootsect.exe /nt52 Z:" (Replace "Z" with the drive letter of your USB flash drive..You can find your drive letter by looking in "My computer")

TIP: If you're having trouble with command prompt, move the contents of the Bootsect folder including the important "bootsect.exe" to the default command line of command prompt, normally "C:\Documents and Settings\Userxp" ("userxp" being your username folder). So move the contents into the "userxp" folder and then all you have to type in command prompt is "bootsect /nt52 Z:" (change "Z" to the the drive letter of your USB flash drive)

If all went well you should see “Bootcode was successfully updated on all targeted volumes”. After seeing this, close this very command prompt window and Close the PeToUSB window also. (remember to keep the other command prompt window "usb_prep8" open). The usb_prep8 window should now show some new options, we only need to concentrate on options 1, 2 and 3 here.

5 - Insert your XP installation disc into your CD drive and exit any autorun windows.

5a - Focus on the usb_prep8 command window and press 1 on your keyboard. This will bring up a window where you need to highlight the CD drive where your XP disc is and press OK.

5b - Now press 2 on your keyboard and type a drive letter that is NOT assigned to anything on the computer (this might already be done for you).

5c - Now press 3 on your keyboard and type the drive letter of your USB flash drive.

5d - Now press 4 on your keyboard to start the process.

6 - The script will ask you if it's ok to format. This is just the temp drive that's being created. Press Y then Enter.

7 - Once that's done, press Enter again to continue. Now you will see it copying the files from your XP disc to the temp drive, this will take about 5 minutes to complete. Press Enter again after it's finished to continue.

8 - Next a box will pop up asking to copy the files from the temp drive to the flash drive. Click yes, this will now complete the copying and it will take roughly 15 minutes to complete the process.

9 - When the program has finished a pop up window will ask you if you would like the USB drive to be the preferred boot drive. Click YES on this window.

10 - Click YES to unmount the virtual drive when it asks you. Now the USB drive is ready!. (Also, click any key a couple of times on the usb_prep8 window and it will close itself)

[CENTER]Step 3..Installing XP onto your Netbook:[/CENTER]

If you receive any problems during this section, skip to the errors section at the bottom of this guide.

1 - Safely remove your flash drive from the computer and plug it into the Netbook before you turn the Netbook on (I would suggest you hook up the main power supply to the Netbook aswell).

2 - Turn on the Netbook and go straight into the BIOS (normally by pressing "Delete"). Change the boot priority from your main hard drive to your USB flash drive (sometimes their names maybe slightly different like "USB:MOAI" for example). Exit BIOS with "save settings and exit" when finished.

3 - On boot, you should now have two options: "Text Mode" and "GUI Mode". Enter the "Text Mode" here to start the first section of your XP install. Don't press anything when you reach the "Hard drive" section of the install, move to the next step.

4 - In order for your USB flash drive to recognize the partitions of your hard drive, we need to be careful here. So, format your Netbook's primary hard drive as normal Using "NTFS quick"(or if you need to create a new partition, do that then format it). Then choose to install on that partition.

Note: If you encountered a problem with the above step, try turning your Netbook off straight after the format and choosing "Text" setup again after reboot. When rebooted make no changes to the partition you've just format and carry on with the install. Things should be ok from here.

5 - After the files have been copied and the Netbook restarts, choose "GUI Mode" on the boot options. Let the Installation continue and do the stuff, input your product key and other information when required and then wait for the next restart.

6 - When the Netbook has restarted, choose the "GUI Mode" option again. The final part will now complete and eventually take you to your XP desktop.

7 - When you reach your desktop, you may now remove your USB flash drive. Before you start playing around on your new XP, I would recommend restarting your Netbook and entering the BIOS to change the boot priority back to your primary hard drive. After doing that, boot back up to your XP desktop and you're all done!

[CENTER]Error section:[/CENTER]

NTLDR is missing when booting from your USB - First check that your BIOS boot settings are all correct. If they are correct, the files on your flash drive might have been corrupted. Plug it back into your backup working computer and take a look at the files, are the file names all scrambled up with funny square symbols and the like? If so, your flash drive might be corrupt (this sometimes can happen through repeated formatting with the windows formatter). Oh and the "$" and "~" are normal within the folder names.

No USB option in BIOS - Check that it's plugged in properly first. If so, your Netbook might not be able to recognize USB's as hard drives, check the manual maybe?

Cannot copy file in "Text Mode" or a BSOD in "Text Mode" - When I did my install, I got both a "Cannot copy file error" and a BSOD (the second time round). Installing from a USB is not the most reliable way of putting Windows on a computer, many times errors like this might occur...All you can do here is retry, and retry again till it takes. Place the Netbook on solid ground and don't move it (or the USB for that matter) and your chances will be better. If it keeps sticking on a particular file, that file itself might be corrupt (so take note of the file the error stops on).

Errors in "GUI Mode" - On a later install, I did experience two errors in GUI mode: I can say that if you encounter a freeze or BSOD here, as long as it doesn't happen in the "Saving Settings" section you should be okay to just restart your Netbook and press "GUI mode setup" again. If it does happen in the "Saving Settings" section, then you will have to do a complete fresh install right from "Text mode setup".

Unable to install - See if your BIOS has an option for "AHCI", If it does try disabling it and trying again.

My Netbooks on fire! - Well stop reading and start putting it out then. :D

I hope this guide has been helpful :)
Thank you

first i like to say thank you soo much for your post.You did a great job.But i dont understand something.I wil paste : So, format your Netbooks primary hard drive as normal Using "NTFS quick"(or if you need to create a new partition, do that then format it)-->When the format has completed turn your Netbook off straight away.

I did format, windows is copying files and next step after restart was GUI mode (twice) and its worked. (not 2x "text mode)

I am sorry for my english i am from Slovenia and my writing is bad and slowly :)

Thank you again.


Posts: 1,391   +72
It does work without the forced restart in some cases, you are correct. I noticed this some time ago but forgot to update the guide.

I'll add a side note to the guide on that now. Thanks sboy :)
Installing Windows XP on Netbook

am trying installing XP from the flashdisk 4GB the steps are ok have followed all but........when the setup reaches Windows XP Professional just says "setup has recognized the following mass storage devices in your computer: <none> then there is option bellow where am required to hit "s" and choose other devices or Enter to install in the same flash disk? how do I choose the harddisk because it is not listed ?

I followed all the steps mentioned


Posts: 1,391   +72
Welcome to Techspot, Victor :) Doesn't sound good this I'm afraid, although it could be something simple.

Ok so, check that your HDD is listed in your BIOS correctly and that the Netbook does recognise it -- If it is It should be available in the XP setup in some form or other (as a partitioned device or non partitioned). But if it is not listed in the BIOS properly, there could be a problem with it (like not placed in the Netbook correctly or just faulty ect...).

My Netbook had a bad HDD bay in it. Sometimes it came out now and then.
Installing Windows XP on Netbook

hi thank you for your response but ...........the type of Netbook that am working on is MSI U135DX and it has Windows 7 installed and running ......but I don't like this version of windows thats why I would rather stick with my XP SP3! Now in Bios the hard drive is properly listed and am able to change booting sequence but during installation some stage am supped to see all the storage devices and partitions and then choose the partition that is already having Win7 but I dont see this ......i only see my flashdisk that i prepared to install my XP from......I dont know if you have ever come across this't possible that XP prepared files are unable to see and hence list this devices?...............I need help .


Posts: 1,391   +72
I have never seen this problem before, no.

The fact that it's a relatively new Netbook/Notebook and that it's got Windows7 on could have some problematic effects on using this method, I'm not sure.

Go into BIOS and disable 'AHCI', see if that solves the problem.
Installing Windows XP on Netbook

Thank you Benny26 I tried with this option of disabling 'AHCI' on Bios and it worked perfectly...................I do not however know what 'AHCI' this is but am glad the problem is behind me now............thank you for your help!
After Text Mode was finished, the computer rebooted (from the usb) and I get an error:
[FONT=Verdana]"Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:[/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana]<Windows root>\system32\hal.dll.[/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana]Please re-install a copy of the above file."[/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana]I tried to follow some troubleshooting methods on the internet but none had worked. I then realized that a partition named System Recovery was there. I deleted it and VOILA! everything went fine. Thanks for your tutorial also.[/FONT]
Hi I would like to know further, after install xp on Acer Aspire One 725 Net book, HOW I can install DRIVER for hardware like lan, vga, sound, chipset driver....?
My Problem is that When XP installation Starts from USB Pendrive in GUI mode after some sort of time It asking for "Insert Windows XP Service Pack 2" Installation CD in CD rom and copy some missing files from i386 folder it could not found within
USB Pendrive. Please help me in this regard. If anybody have solution Plz mail me to [email address removed for your safety]


Posts: 1,391   +72
Haven't encountered that myself before I'll admit. If you have an original XP disc (Home, Pro ect) to do the process with, and if the flash drive is large enough, there shouldn't really be a problem.

Not sure what to suggest other than checking the disc is original and good and the size of flash drive is OK. Apart from that trying the process again from step 1. That's all that really comes to mind.
If someone has problems with the installation of the virtual drive like I did, the virtual drive portion of usb_prep is not compatible with 64bit systems. Oh well, maybe that was said. Great tutorial. Very easy to understand.


Posts: 1,391   +72
Thanks for the info, geebs. That's something I wasn't aware of due to the fact that I have never used XP 64bit.

I shall update the guide with this information.
All I have done............but one problem occurred- when I choose to install from txt option it tells - "A problem has been detected and windows has been shut down to prevent damage.If this is your first time error then restart your computer.If this screen appears again follow these steps- Check for viruses on your computer,remove any newly installed hard drive or hard drive controllers.Check your hard drive to make sure it is properly configured and terminated.Run CHKDSK/F to check your hard drive corruption and then restart your computer."

When I choose GUI option it tells - [FONT=Verdana]"Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:[/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana]<Windows root>\system32\hal.dll.[/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana]Please re-install a copy of the above file."[/FONT]

Plzzzzzzzzz help me plzzzz
Hey Benny26 I m trying to install Win XP SP3 from TPB to my Netbook Gateway LT28 that currently runs on Win7 Starter. However, I am having a difficult time finding the correct drivers that support Win XP on my netbook. I already searched in the Gateway support website and the drivers provided there are only for Win 7. Is there anything I can do at this point? I read a few people experienced problems with the drivers on Gateway LT28 because of the downgrade.


Posts: 1,391   +72
There doesn't appear to be any XP drivers for that model, so you're out of luck. You can try running XP with the Win 7 drivers installed but you would be asking for trouble.

I probably wouldn't even bother trying to be honest.
That's what I figured. Well I 'll go hunt for a cheap reliable Netbook with the ability of running Win XP. Thank you for your reply Benny 26. Keep up the good work man. I'll be back when I mess up my new Netbook.
Hello there! I'm new here but I hope you guys can help me out... I'm doing all the steps really carefully, but when I arrive on step 5c "Now press 3 on your keyboard and type the drive letter of your USB flash drive." It is not recognising the drive (it is D). The error message is:

**** D: is not a valid drive ****

But it is and if I try any other letter it sais

***** Target USB-Drive Z: does NOT exist *****

Any sugestion? =]

P.S.: Sorry for any english mistakes, I'm from Brazil...
P.P.S.: This is really a GREAT tutorial, shame my PC does not like me xD


Posts: 1,391   +72
Hi pinkfloyd, glad you liked the tutorial. :)

Hmm...Never had this problem myself, but it shouldn't be too hard to fix. It may be due to some sort of write protection that the flash drive is bringing that up, but then it might just say that instead of "not a valid drive", I'm not sure.

If you're using the correct size flash, and it's USB 2.0, it might be worth shifting it to other USB ports as a start. If that still doesn't work (and you're certain all the formating steps are correct and everything) it would probably be worth trying another flash drive.