To help someone reinstall a corrupt XP install on his IDE or SATA drive in a older desktop box (hence no Vista/W7), I was thinking of asking him to bring his harddrive and meet at Starbucks, and I would install a brand new XP by connecting it to my laptop, and booting it up with the XP install CD.

If someone's already used a USB-to-IDE/SATA connector such as this one by Sabrent, does the XP CD accept installing Windows to an external IDE/SATA through USB?

Thank you.

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    I'm not sure if it will boot when installed on different hardware (read motherboard and the like)
    – Ivo Flipse
    Apr 2 '10 at 10:54
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    I've already installed Windows from one desktop, moved the drive to an entirerly different desktop, and it booted OK. It looks like the HAL is forgiving enough so that it works. Obviously, the user will then have to install the required drivers for peripherals (VGA, sound, etc.) Apr 2 '10 at 10:58

I've recently had to do this as well.

I had a netbook with Windows XP installed that was giving the unmountable boot volume error. Unfortunately I don't have an external CD drive so I had to search for an alternative way to get to the recovery console.

I found WinToFlash.

There may come a day that optical drives are as hard to find as 5.25 floppy drives are today.

WinToFlash starts a wizard that will help pull over the contents of a windows installation CD or DVD and prep the USB drive to become a bootable replacement for the optical drive. It can also do this with your LiveCD.

You don't have to worry about scratches on the disc or misplacing your original media discs once you transfer their contents to the flash drive. The optical drive is quickly becoming a thing of the past, especially in office environments, as media is shifted to the cloud.

This neat little program was very useful and allowed me to hold off getting an external drive until payday!


You will not be able to install XP on USB drive because XP doesn't have USB drivers at install/boot time.

Even if you did, moving to a different motherboard is always a coin toss I personally am not willing to make. On one of the servers I've put together you can cause Windows to BSOD even when booting in safe mode just by changing disk controller mode (IDE/RAID) in BIOS. So moving to another motherboard isn't likely to work.

  • Thanks for the tip. Isn't it possible to load the USB driver at the very beginning, when offered the option by pressing F6? I remember doing this once to install Windows on a RAID set of disks. Apr 5 '10 at 9:05

I've read there is a solution to the USB drives getting reset during bootup, and that's by putting the old 2003 SP1 USB drivers on the install disk - as those drivers don't reset the USB ports during bootup. [I've recently read about this working on a related problem. I've read that the USB drivers problem is caused because Windows resets the USB ports during boot, killing the external drive - so you get the "blue screen of death." This problem is only supposed to happen when trying to boot from it, not during the install - but, doesn't Windows reboot during the install process?]

Something to look into.

You will not be able to install XP on USB drive because XP doesn't have USB drivers at install/boot time.

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