I have a computer that has a dead CD drive in it and it seriously needs a new installation of Windows (XP is on it now, but Windows 7 does not sound that bad). At first I tried making a bootable USB drive, but it does not look like the BIOS supports booting directly from a USB drive.

Is there some sort of boot loader that I can put onto the hard drive first and boot from the USB drive using that? If not, how else can I re-install Windows on the computer?

Edit: The only bootable device the computer has it the network with PXE (although I have no idea how to do that) and it's three internal hard drives

6 Answers 6


I believe the method of making a Windows 7 installation pendrive should work for a hard drive partition.


I just went for the simplest solution. I don't know why I didn't think of it before.

I just extracted the .iso onto my desktop of the target machine and ran setup.exe. Setup went through fine (I opted not to upgrade and instead everything was moved to a Windows.old folder and Windows 7 was started from fresh).

A couple of hours later and I have turned a broken Windows XP install into a brand new Windows 7 install!


Without CD-ROM or USB I think your last option is a network install (PXE boot).

These articles may be of interest to you:


Installing Linux over a network - I know you're after Windows, but just in case.


I had a similar problem when installing Windows 7 on an old laptop with Ubuntu on it. It just refused to boot from the CD.

Googling often gives you results like: press F8 when in BIOS, but I don't think that really helped.

A solution that should work is creating a boot disk (on a floppy), but this requires you to have a floppy drive. Care to update if you have it?


If you can't start the XP installation by booting from the CD-ROM, it is possible to start the installation using a Win98 boot disk. (Floppy needs to be set as first boot device in the BIOS)

Boot the computer with a 98 boot disk. Choose the option: Start computer with CD-ROM support. When you get to the A:> prompt insert the XP cd.

At the A:> prompt press ENTER after typing each of these three lines. (Replace the X with your your CD-ROM drive letter).

x: cd i386 winnt.exe

If setup does not detect Smart Drive Press ENTER to continue without Smart Drive. Once setup begins remove the 98 floppy disk.

Though I think you should be able to make a boot CD as well.

Another solution for forcing the CD is simply unplugging the hard drive, you know for sure it's not going to load Windows then. As soon as it launches the installation you just plug it back in and the installer should recognize it. However this assumes you actually manage to boot into the CD like that...

Yet another suggestion: try the Windows XP CD for booting. If it works go into recovery mode, where you can get to the command prompt. From there you could get switch the CDs and load the executable from the Windows 7 installation CD

  • The CD drive is dead. It just does not work :) There is no floppy drive as well.
    – Josh Hunt
    Jul 17, 2009 at 7:07

Why not just pop in a new (or second hand) CD drive and install from there?
These things don't cost a lot (maybe 15 € at max).

It depends on how much you value your time though ;-)


You could always go low-tech and pop the hd out, take it over to a friends computer and install it from cd there - although I'd recommend trying the USB method mentioned first.

Make sure the BIOS is set to allow USB booting, if I remember correctly there should be a boot devices category in the homescreen. From there, make sure the pendrive is plugged in and scroll down to an empty boot slot (probably 3rd or 4th in the list - try not to change the ones that are already there), set it to the name of your drive (should show up in a dropdown), and reboot! You should be good from there. Every BIOS is different, but thats the general idea of what you need to do, it shouldnt be too far off either way.


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