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So, I built a new computer and...I don't actually have a CD drive. I managed to get Windows 7 installed, but I don't have the tools anymore (external CD drive that I borrowed from a friend). In order to interface with a microprocessor, I need to get a 32-bit operating system installed. Is there any way i can just copy windows 98 files onto a spare partition? (From a computer with a CD drive) What else would I need to do, otherwise?

Probably something to do with the MBR? If so, is there any way to do that manually?

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WHy not install it under a VM ? – Sathya Sep 14 '10 at 23:48
He wants to interface with a (i assume external) microprocessor, probably via a serial connection. A virtual machine might not be able to pass this hardware thru, or if it does the extra layer of abstraction at least introduces on extra (completely opaque!) layer for bugs to hide in. – imoatama Sep 15 '10 at 2:40
Bingo. I've actually already tried using a VM; the problem is that the host machine (Windows 7) doesn't have any drivers for the device (that's the main issue here). Because it has no drivers, it therefore has no way of passing it on the virtual machine. – Christian Mann Sep 15 '10 at 3:44
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Not exactly.

Setup usually does more than just copying files, it runs scripts and processes that "tie" the operating system to your individual hardware.

There is a stage in most Operating systems where you can actually make a copy.

In Windows 3.1 - Windows XP this was the dos portion of setup before it went to the Windows shell.

In Windows Vista and Windows 7, the first part of setup simply extracted a lot of files from a .WIM system image. (After it rebooted, it actually did the configuration.

So, if you were to image the system after any of the stages above, before the hardware gets configured, you should be able to continue - However, versions prior to Windows Vista and Windows 7 will require the media for the Windows part of setup.

You would also need to manually format/partition the drive and copy over the bootloader, but if you had a proper image of the hard drive, it should take care of that for you.

Also, if you were to get any edition of Windows and do a Sysprep /genralize, (link here), you should actually be able to copy the installation to any hardware - again, you will need to partition / load the MBR first.

edit - I should of just re-read the question! I gave a bigger overall solution/look at this.

For what you want, yes, it is very easy and I used to do it all the time (had a spare machine with LapLink, and I used to transfer files via LPT/parallel cable).

I used to:

  1. Use a boot floppy to start the machine.
  2. Format the hard drive, no system files or anything.
  3. Create a folder called "winstall" ( mkdir winstall )
  4. Copy the root of the cd to that folder - (I can't honestly remember as it was over 10 years since I last did this, but I think there was just one folder, I386)
  5. Run setup.exe from the Winstall folder.

This process will install Windows fine and will setup the hard drive correctly, system files and all (Remember that Windows 98 was its own operating system).

Hope this helps.

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In Windows XP setup, you can't always even copy the DOS half of the install. I've tried swapping a hard drive out of a PC that couldn't boot from the CD... when I swapped it back in and tried to continue setup, it blue screened. – zildjohn01 Sep 15 '10 at 2:05
Oddly enough, I have had luck moving drives that had Windows fully installed (3.1, 95, and XP). You just need to deal with a lengthy driver install process on the first boot (except for 3.1, IIRC). – zildjohn01 Sep 15 '10 at 2:08
@Zildjohn01 it really depends on the hardware, I think what I wrote is generally true most of the time, but if moving Intel to AMD or vica versa, or seriously different hardware, it won't work. – William Hilsum Sep 15 '10 at 3:14

I would recommend doing this in a virtual machine. VMWare is the way to go if you can afford it, but I have also had great success with VirtualBox. You can connect to the hardware (if it interfaces with USB) directly from the virtual machine, as if it were right there.

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I also like VirtualBox. However you may not know that VMWare Server is free. It is more work to install and maintain than VB. – Dennis Williamson Sep 15 '10 at 1:44
See my comment above for problems with a VM. Most microprocessors won't connect over USB, or if they do it's eg JTAG, using serial console over USBtty. I'd be worried the VM might interfere with this. – imoatama Sep 15 '10 at 2:45
Actually, it works great. I've done it myself. Furthermore, the host machine does NOT need drivers. I'm not sure what method you have tried, nor what VM software, but I suggest trying VMWare. It works by installing a pass-through driver on your host machine, so even if your host has no driver, it doesn't matter. The device gets hooked right up to the virtual machine, as if it was actually there. It is rock solid these days. I've used a handful of custom hardware with this method. – Brad Sep 15 '10 at 4:06

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