I have an old PC that doesn't work with CD/DVD drives and cannot boot from USB. I've removed the hard drive, installed it as slave on my Windows 7 PC, and formatted and copied the Windows XP installation folder to the slave hard drive.

However I don't know what I should do next to make the slave hard drive be bootable, so that I can start the Windows XP installation via DOS commands.

I've tried running "format e: /s" and "sys e:" on the command line but they don't work (I think that Microsoft removed them from Windows 7.) In Windows Explorer, right-clicking and choosing to format doesn't seem to have any options to transfer the system.

How can I solve this? Am I missing something, or should I use a third party tool?

  • Can I ask the reason for the machine not working with a CD DVD drive?
    – Yeodave
    Dec 9, 2011 at 12:48
  • Can I ask the reason you insist on trying to salvage such a trash machine? Frugal is one thing but... Dec 10, 2011 at 18:19

8 Answers 8


On your working Windows 7 machine. Create a bootable Windows 98 floppy (Or CD) from one of the many boot isos easily found on the net. Make sure it has fdisk.exe, format.com, himem.sys and smartdrv.exe. You may need to edit the ISO adding himem.sys and smartdrv.exe if they're not already on the boot iso you found. Shutdown and install your old hard drive as master in your Win7 machine. Boot from your newly created boot CD. Create a partition on the hard drive, set it as active (fdisk.exe) and make it bootable/system (format C: /s). Create config.sys containing "device=himem.sys" and autoexec.bat containing "smartdrv.exe" in the old hard drives root directory. Copy himem.sys and smartdrv.exe from the CD to your old hard drive. Reattach your original Win7 hard drive as master with your old hard drive as slave and reboot. Create the directory WinXP on the old hard drive. Insert your XP CD. Copy the entire contents of your XP CD to this directory. Remove the slave hard drive from your Win7 computer and reattach it as master to your old computer. Boot and run C:\WinXP\i386\winnt.exe. Make sure you tell XP to do an upgrade instead of a fresh install, you don't want the install to format your XP install files away. You may also want to convert fat32 to NTFS once your install is done.

Addition: After running winnt.exe it will ask you for the location of the install files. These would be in D:\WinXP\i386.

Addition2: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/307848


You'll still need some sort of boot partition and operating system to run the installation from.

You'll need something like http://www.nu2.nu/mkbt/ to make the system bootable, and you'll have to install an operating system, say http://www.freedos.org/


You should be able to use Diskpart on windows 7 to make the disk bootable. The commands you will need to use are as follows.

To determine the disk that you are working with use:

list disk

Then select the disk with the following, substituting the proper disk from step 1

select disk 2 

Then use the following to select the first partition (assuming only 1 partition)

select partition 0

Then type "Active" to mark that partition as active (allowing it to boot)


This should make the disk bootable, assuming the OS has been loaded properly on the disk.


Copying the windows installation files will not work - you need a running Windows to execute them. If you want to boot you need the ISO image containing the whole CD and a boot-loader like Grub4dos.


If what you are trying is boot XP on another computer, then this is simply impossible.

The old XP installation does not have the drivers to pilot the modern hardware, and so will not work. You will also have problems with XP becoming inactivated on the new computer.

Your best bet is to use VMware vCenter Converter while booting it from inside the old XP computer, to convert it to a virtual machine. This way it will conserve its hardware in emulated format, and you can use it on the Windows 7 computer as a virtual machine, using VMware Player.


You need to boot files , that are generally installed to root drive during installation of windows, like boot.ini, ntldr etc. I am unable to recall their real names. try copying them to root .


Man I am not saying this is not "possible"... but it's a ridiculous excercise without some kind of reason. It's been asked why you cannot use a CD drive (I note you said CD/DVD drives and that's inaccurate. They are different things. If you tried a DVD drive, did you try a CD drive? With the age of this poor lil' beast a CD only BIOS would be very likely and XP typically comes on a CD not a DVD like Win7). Further it's been asked why you are trying to work with such a nonfuntional piece of hardware in the first place? Can you virtualize and simply save yourself MAD time and work as well as power consumption and heat output?

Please provide some more information. What you want isn't impossible it's just very very labor intensive for the result you seem to want and THAT result unless I am missing is FAR easier to achieve by any number of solutions.

  • If you are already willing to go to these extents for pretty much a trashpile system... you COULD investigate some remote deployment methods. Setting those up now could save you trouble in the future if you plan to keep working with this box. Here is a link superuser.com/questions/42263/… Dec 10, 2011 at 18:43

I would install the slave HD into another computer, and do the first phase of the installation. As soon as you get to the windows XP log on screen, turn off the pc and swap the HD into the 'old' computer. Continue installation from there. Worst case is performance will be miserable at first due to no chipset drivers being available, but thats why you download all the drivers first.

Make sure you download all the relevant drivers for the old computer before you start to save some major time, and also XP service pack 3. There is no reason that 'XP cannot pilot new hardware', basic functionality is all that is required to complete the initial installation.

And I have done this more than a few times and can verify it works. You will 'possibly' need to reactivate windows once the driver is installed in the other computer, but who cares? Its a simple 5 minute phone call.

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