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I have a very old Acer Laptop and it's not reading CDs anymore. Therefore, I am not able to boot from CD.

I bought an external DVD writer, but there is no option in the BIOS to boot from it.

Is there any way I can install an operating system on the laptop?

I have Acer Aspire 2004 model running Windows XP.

Can I connect the laptop hard drive to a desktop perhaps?

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Which model of Acer you have? – avirk Aug 27 '11 at 17:33
Why not just replace the internal DVD reader? Tell us the model of the laptop and we can provide some info on how to do that. – nhinkle Aug 27 '11 at 18:45
What OS are you currently on? – Simon Sheehan Aug 27 '11 at 20:44

Depending on you current OS and what you are installing, you may be able to run the installer from the current OS from the CD.

You can also remove the internal hard drive and attach it to another PC (with an adapter) and install the OS that way.

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It would be hard to install a Windows OS on another PC, since the auto-detected hardware would be different. – Lance Roberts Aug 27 '11 at 20:26
I have installed Windows that way many times. As long as the disk type is the same, Windows has no issues detecting new hardware. – Keltari Aug 27 '11 at 20:30
the real issue is the motherboard and it's drivers, not just the peripherals. – Lance Roberts Aug 27 '11 at 20:33
not really. Windows supports the most common chipsets found on most motherboards. – Keltari Aug 27 '11 at 20:40
No, it's an issue because a) Windows as you say supports 'the most common' and that leaves a lot still out there and b) if it's trying to boot up on a different chipset than it was setup on, there's a good percentage chance it won't be able to handle the differences. Of course, I might be jaded since I usually have worked new installations on cutting-edge boards, and Windows definitely can't keep up with the edge. – Lance Roberts Aug 27 '11 at 20:44

You can create an ISO image of the CD using another computer. Copy that to the hard drive on your laptop, then mount it using an ISO utility. It will then act like a normal CD.

Caveat: The one thing I'm not sure of and haven't got to test, is if the ISO image can be set to boot properly.

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You can install the OS from a flash drive.

Using another PC, you need copy the files from the installation medium or disk image file to this flash drive and make the flash drive bootable; this way, you can boot from USB on your next boot.

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Why is this down-voted? Pretty flexible option. – Belmin Fernandez Aug 28 '11 at 18:56
@Beaming: Because of disagreement in the comments; I've improved the quality. – Tom Wijsman Aug 29 '11 at 17:32

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