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I'm having a few problems trying to install Windows XP via an external hard drive. I've formatted the hard drive to NTFS, pasted all the files from the XP CD to the Hard Drive and then tried to boot into after a restart, however, I keep getting BOOTMGR missing press ctrl + alt + del to restart.

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This is very difficult to do without some serious tweaks. Why not install from the CD/DVD? More info please. – Dave M Jan 9 '13 at 22:17
@DaveM nah I doubt it needs serious tweaks. i've probably done it before – barlop Jan 9 '13 at 22:27
@DaveM Because I want to try and install it from the external hard drive. There is no problem with the CD. – Kevin Dodd Jan 9 '13 at 22:31
You have to boot off the USB HDD. That means you make the USB HDD run DOS. That's easy to do if you have a Floppy Drive, as you make a bootable floppy and you run the SYS F: or whatever your USB HDD is. Then make sure COMMAND.COM and IO.SYS and maybe MSDOS.SYS are on there (one of those maybe msdos.sys is plain text and may not be necessary). Then you just boot off the USB HDD, run SETUP.EXE on the CD. Presumably you've got that far? – barlop Jan 9 '13 at 22:31
Ah, your mistake was formatting the USB HDD within XP. That gave it the XP Master Boot Record. A DOS Floppy disk or DOS HDD, should not be formatted with XP's format.exe command. In fact look at the MBR with Roadkil's sector editor and you'll see that. So, what to do. You need to find some way to format your USB HDD. Perhaps You can format it within XP then use the SYS command on it which should fix it. You might have to format it as FAT32 actually. I always formatted from DOS from a boot floppy, then you have the right format command, that's much easier and was the normal way. – barlop Jan 9 '13 at 22:34

Perhaps I am missing something but XP has an issue that it is loading drivers and files during install it drops the USB connection. When the installer tries to read the source USB, it cannot find the drive.

Certainly it is possible to boot from a floppy or something and access an external drive but running setup from the drive has an issue.

I know there were some workarounds posted some time ago and here is one Possible Fix

Windows 7 does not have this issue.

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