Boot from USB via Floppy or CD

Posted on 2006-04-22
Last Modified: 2008-02-01

Is it possible to first boot from a Floppy/CD and then let it boot from an USB drive. I mean this:

1. Start small OS from Floppy/CD
2. Let that OS boot a Usb flash drive.

I want to do this because many pc's can't boot from an USB flash drive. I only want to do this if the OS on the USB-flash drive can have write access on the USB drive.

Thanks in advance,
Albert Peschar
(sorry for my bad english)
Question by:albert006
    LVL 3

    Expert Comment

    I think it might be a bit of a problem as one OS should transfer control to another OS. Apart from that the second OS should probably want to load a driver for the USB-device.  

    Technically speaking it should be possible as bootable CD's implement a similar technique (First the bios emulates an floppydisk that boots into MS-DOS then MS-DOS loads a device-driver and MSCDEX to gain control over the CD-ROM).

    However, bootable CD's were developed in the time when Windows 9x was still hot so there was plenty of development done there. But today MS-DOS is hardly used so it will be hard to find USB-drivers for it. (Norton Ghost is able to use external harddisks, but as far as I know they are not usable in MS-DOS as they don't have driveletters).

    So I'm afraid you won't get it to work the way you want to.
    But you might try something different:

    Today most PC's are able to boot directly from USB (as a BIOS-feature), so it is possible to make an external harddisk bootable and run the OS directly from the drive. MS-DOS and Linux (and even MacOS if you own an Macintosh) are able to boot perfectly from an USB-drive. MS-DOS because the BIOS is emulating an ordinary drive and MS-DOS is just to stupid to understand what's going on, Linux and MacOS by design.

    However, Windows XP does NOT support booting from USB as this MSDN-Blog article explains:
    "Imagine, you plug in a USB camera, the USB bus reinitializes, Windows loses access to the boot drive, and *oops* the kernel needs to page in some data and it can't." -- source:
    Another article on WHDC (for hardware developers) states:
    "This paper focuses solely on booting from hard disk drives and CD-ROM drives for recovery and deployment purposes. Windows as it exists today is currently not optimized to run as an installed operating system from USB attached mass-storage or CD."  -- source:

    And as always, there are people who try to make the impossible work, like running Linux on an Xbox... Bart Lagerweij has created an rescue/recovery tool called BartPE:

    So I found this (non-ms) article where they managed to get Windows XP running from an USB-drive using BartPE:

    Hope that Helped...
    LVL 4

    Expert Comment

    If Linux is your desired OS:

    If other...Hard to say. I know of people booting PE type environments just fine.
    Full Windows? Not too sure, preleminary Googling not sounding promising.
    LVL 1

    Author Comment

    My second OS is XP

    I know from a Dutch magazine (Computer Techniek, c't in short) that it IS possible to boot WindowsXP from a USB stick, without using something like BartPE. I want to use the tutorial to install XP on a USB-stick. But many pc's do not have support for booting from an USB-stick, especially the old ones... But I don't think it's possible too. I hope somebody knows how to do it so I will wait for a while, maybe somebody will post the solution...
    LVL 3

    Accepted Solution

    Don't think you'll get an answer there. As I already said, the second OS should gain control over the machine, and XP is not designed to do so. It expects a certain situation (for example that the bootdevice is recognised by the bios, so it can be accessed thru int13) and will change the situation as soon as the GUI is loaded.

    I expect that even if you succeed in launching the first XP bootstrap from another OS, you'll get an 7B stop-error as soon as XP switches from real-mode i386 emulation (for booting) to the protected mode and wants to initialize the drivers.

    I'm not saying it isn't possible (Like I said, there are always people who make the impossible possible), but it will be hard to find a solution.  

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