Search for a true startup disk for Win XP Pro

Posted on 2006-04-23
Last Modified: 2008-02-01
This is my first XP install after a long and exhausting software nightmare that forced me to keep Win 98SE until the old software could be replaced in its entirety.

Coming from the Win 98SE environment I would like to make a true SINGLE floppy startup disk for Win XP Pro that allows me to partition and format my drives in NTFS format BEFORE installing the OS from the CD.  So far, I have NOT found a solution I can believe and would like your advice whether my conclusion is correct that this is not possible in NTFS - here is what I found:

There you get guidance for a clean install of XP, one of the segments reads as follows:
Another option to the floppy disk set from Dr. D's

Windows XP System Setup Disk - Look for bootdisk essentials

Allows you to boot from a single floppy disk, partition and format the drive and then begin the XP installation from CD

Note:  A lot of people appear to be unaware of the fact that you do NOT need the 4 or 5 setup disks in order to install Windows 2000 and XP.  A common Win98 boot disk such as the Boot Disk Essentials diskette below can be used to install these OS's.  This is what the Win XP System Setup Disk above does.

Here's how to do it:

Start the computer with your chosen boot disk.
Change to the cdrom drive.
Go into the \i386 directory on the cdrom.
Run WINNT.EXE to begin the install process.
The above was copied from Dr. D's web site.
But this is basically senseless, because I have over 10 such Win 98SE startup disks with all these files laying around and my PCs are all bootable from CD ROM.  To simply boot the PC with a floppy and then go to the CD ROM drive, therefore is the same as having booted from the CD ROM drive, if your PC can boot from a CD ROM drive.

What I would like to do is to independently from a single floppy and NOT from Win XP Pro format and partition my RAID drives as one C: drive, but fdisk only offers FAT16 and FAT32 options, NOT NTFS, which I would like to be able to create independently first, and install Win XP Pro afterwards.

Reading the ASUS motherboard manual, XP requires the same insertion of a driver floppy to recognize the Promise RAID chipset as 98SE does, hence, at a first glance there seems no architectural difference, with the one exception I am trying to ascertain here:  Windows 98SE can be installed after the Promise RAID utility has made the 2 or more RAID drives into a single C: drive via fdisk, which allows to partition, allocate space and a choice between FAT16 and FAT32.

The only way to do this in steps would be if I can use fdisk in this manner, create a FAT32 RAID volume and use XP Pro during the installation to convert that FAT32 volume to NTFS.  But I am not a great friend of conversions or of installing a clean OS onto some FAT32 RAID volume that still has Windows 98SE on it.

My ideal way of doing things would be to wipe all this by creating a vanilla RAID C: drive in NTFS, followed by a vanilla install of Win XP Pro.  Please, advise, if this is simply not possible from a single such boot floppy.  

Alternatively, please, advise what in your opinion is an alternate way that comes closest to the vanilla separation standard I have been using for years, where I started with blank, formatted and partitioned drives and then performed a completely unquestionable vanilla install.

A secondary consideration would also be SPEED - it is my understanding that XP Pro formats MUCH faster than fdisk ever did with FAT32, hence, if the step that wipes everything that was there before is reliable, then the standard way of installing XP Pro with NTFS is anyway the only option and my questions are senseless - please, advise.

Thank you very much in advance.
Question by:brnbrg
    LVL 19

    Assisted Solution

    You are making it much harder than necessary . . Your XP disc is bootable and will allow you to delete/create partitions and format.  ( as were your win98 discs ).

    Enter BIOS ( Setup ) and set the first boot device as CD/ROM.  Put your XP Disc in the drive and disconnect all external peripherals except the monitor, keyboard and mouse, and be sure those are not USB, or wireless.  Any internal USB card should also be removed.

    Once you set your BIOS to boot first from cd . . when it restarts you will see a black screen with a prompt "Press any key to boot from CD" . . do that and you will be able to delete partitions and recreate one or more, then proceed to formating and installing XP.

    That message can pass quickly, so have a finger on the keyboard when you boot.  This will delete all data on the drive so be sure you have your important data backed up. The prompt will appear after every reboot, but do not press any key on subsequent reboots. The setup process will continue with no action required from you.

    If you do not get that message, and you have another optical drive, try the XP CD in the other drive.

    This is a site that walks you thru a simulated XP installation:

    These are good guides to reinstalling XP . . you might want to print one for reference during the install.

    Author Comment

    P.s.:  I should have added that the real purpose of the vanilla formatted and partitioned C: drive is to Ghost a complete system back from a point of a solid previous install with apps that were subsequently found to be stable and desirable.  In the past, I kept around Ghosted images after each successful new install.  Only if something corrupted it later, did I have to go back to this earlier point.  This involved 99% of the time no changes and sometimes very few changes, meaning an immense saving in time and effort compared with recreating a complex system from scratch.  Hence, the total process was only minutes of Ghosting the good install back onto a reformatted C: drive followed by weaving in the new data files from backups.  Even with over 130,000 files this took less than 40 minutes from high-speed SATA drives.  Recreating that system from scratch would take days by comparison and up to 3 weeks later would you find something you had not thought about and had to add or change, not to mention hundreds of passwords, histories etc.

    This is what I really want to achieve and I should have said it upfront.  It is also the fundamental reason why I would like to be able to have a tool that formats and partitions drives with NTFS without any further action, just as fdisk used to do for FAT32...
    LVL 69

    Accepted Solution


    How to create a bootable diskette
    quick links

    Boot Disks
    as well as
    System Tools, Analyzers Etcetera...

    How to Create a restorerecovery disc & partition

    Configuring Bootdiscs PDF
    Configuring a Boot Disk With VERITAS Volume Manager

    There you go boot discs covered.
    Cheers Merete
    LVL 15

    Expert Comment

    Well a the tool you might be looking for is the ultimate boot tool found here but a part you need to under stand is that xp doesnt start off in ntfs format when it installs it copies the files off the disc in a fat32 format then converts it all to ntfs when it comes to the starting windows segment of the install.  Just some food for thought.

    Author Comment

    The answers were excellent as usual and I thank you all so much for your help, I wish I had more points to give away.  I will have to accept that Win XP is slightly different and will not lend itself to the old Win 9x 2-step vanilla installation standard of format first and install later, but you gave me more than enough to surivive in the new environment.


    Author Comment

    I have a quick follow-up question for simpswer:  On my old RAID 0, which is made up of 2 SATA 1.5 WD Raptors of 74 GB each, there are 2 partitions.  The 1st is the C: drive and the 2nd became the F: drive, because Win 98SE treated 2 other hard drives as D: and E: which I never found quite logical, but that's how 98SE is.  Can I just leave Win 98SE and those 2 FAT32 partitions as they are on those 2 WD RAID disks, simply reformat them as NTFS with the XP Pro install CD, or would you recommend to first run FDISK and wipe the old info off and start the XP Pro install with 2 empty FAT32 partitions that have been just freshly formatted?

    Thanks again,

    Author Comment

    p.s.:  I also read all the tutorials, but it seems as if there is no way around in the setup to bypass user accounts- it says, I will have to enter at least one user - in short, is there a way to set XP Pro up so that it goes straight to the desktop without asking to click on an idiotic user icon?
    LVL 19

    Expert Comment

    You can use the XP install disc to delete/create partitions and to format . . are you sure you want them formatted in FAT? . . NTSF is the native file format for XP and does not have the file size limitations of FAT.

    Once you have XP installed, you can change the way users log on and eliminate the logon screen.;en-us;291559

    Author Comment

    First, sorry for the delay, but I have only occasionally a machine to write to you - presently modding a Lian Li case with 120 mm fan out the side - even with all dual ball bearing 80 mm fans it got hot in there!

    Alright, your answer above is a slight misunderstanding - I do not want them in FAT, I of course, want to use only NTFS.  But when I start converting that target machine, there will be an almost exact replica of what I want to achieve with Windows XP Pro fully installed and running with Windows 98SE on FAT32, meaning that the 2 WD SATA 1.5 Raptors are partitioned the way I need them etc.  I just don't like even a chance that the install process can think I may want to install XP Pro over 98SE, that's why I asked whether it is wiser to wipe 98SE out and reformat the drives so that they look like an empty FAT32 volume, ready for a new OS, that's all.  If it is confirmed that the install CD for XP Pro really does not care what was there, and if the reformat step to NTFS is absolute, I assume the old system will be gone for good and only the new XP Pro system will be there on a new NTFS volume.  I only need clarification or a warning, if there is anything along the way that may cause the install to look like an upgrade over 98SE - I really don't want that - I want a clean (vanilla, from scratch) install of XP Pro on NTFS.

    Re eliminating the logon screen - it is amazing how MS can confuse you even with a simple question - all I want to know is for a development machine how to make it boot the fastest and unattended - so that if you get a cup of coffee that thing is waiting for you ready in the desktop, period.  Is that not a common request?  

    An unattended logon process is described at

    To make logon an unattended process:

    Click [Start] [Run] and type
    control userpasswords2
    Click [OK]
    The [User Accounts] Property Sheet displays.
    On [Users] tab, clear the [Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer] check box.
    Click [Apply].
    Enter a user name and password that should be used to logon automatically in the dialog box that appears.
    Click [OK].
    Go to [Control Panel] [User Accounts] [Change the Way Users Log On and Off].
    Uncheck [Use the Welcome Screen] and [Use Fast User Switching]

    Thanks for all your kind help.  If you know anything that makes an unattended boot as fast as possible, please, let me know - that kind of time loss damages me the most.  My problem is I am disabled from an explosion accident in which I lost my right eye and my left eye is scarred and burnt - it starts to hurt and tear heavily, the longer I have to stare in stress at the screen, hence, anything to shorten unnecessary wait stages helps.

    LVL 19

    Expert Comment

    If you boot from the XP CD, Delete all partitions and create the ones you want, there is no chance that XP could install over win98 . . the old installation will be gone.

    Once you change the way users log in to eliminate the need to log in with a password . . it will boot and load XP with no intervention on your part.  

    Hope this helps.
    LVL 69

    Expert Comment

    brnbrg I saw this and thought of you, so basically do you just want to perform an unattended windows install?
    If yes here is how to. Just for you.
    Well I hope this is what you actually wanted.
    Think of it as an extra note.
    Good Luck and best wishes. Merete

    Verify That You Can Perform Unattended Installation from CD-ROM
    To perform an unattended installation from a CD-ROM, the following conditions must be met: • The computer must support booting from a CD-ROM, and must adhere to the El-Torito non-emulation specification. For additional information about this specification, click the article number below to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
    167685 ( How to Create an El Torito Bootable CD-ROM  
    • The unattended answer file must be renamed to Winnt.sif and copied to a floppy disk so Setup can access it.
    • The answer file must contain a valid [Data] section. This is explained later in this article.
    NOTE: The following limitations exist with this installation method: • The installation is limited to a single partition.
    • You cannot specify third-party drivers during Setup.
    Prepare Your Computer for an Unattended Installation
    To prepare your computer for an unattended installation from a CD-ROM, follow these steps: 1. Create an unattended answer file by using the Setup Manager utility included with the Microsoft Windows XP CD. To install Setup Manager, follow these steps:a.  Open My Computer, and then open the Support\Tools folder on the Windows XP CD-ROM.
    b.  Double-click the DEPLOY.CAB file to open it.
    c.  On the Edit menu, click Select All.
    d.  On the Edit menu, click Copy To Folder.
    e.  Click Make New Folder. Type the name that you want for the Setup Manager folder, and then press ENTER. For example, type setup manager, and then press ENTER.
    f.  Click Copy.
    g.  Open the new folder that you created, and then double-click the setupmgr.exe file. The Windows Setup Manager Wizard starts. Follow the instructions in the wizard to create an answer file. For additional information about how to create an answer file, click the article number below to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
    308662 ( Use Setup Manager to Create an Answer File  
    2. Add a [Data] section with the following entries to the unattended answer file:

    • UnattendedInstall=Yes - Value must be set to "yes"
    • MSDosInitiated=No - Value must be set to "no" or Setup stops during the graphical portion of Setup
    • AutoPartition=1 - If the value is set to 1, the installation partition is automatically selected. If the value is set to 0 (zero), you are prompted for the installation partition during the text portion of Setup.
    3. Save the unattended answer file as Winnt.sif on a floppy disk.
    4. Insert the Windows CD-ROM into the CD-ROM drive, and then insert the floppy disk into the floppy disk drive.
    5. Change the boot order in the CMOS so that the CD-ROM is first in the list. For information about how to do this, refer to the documentation included with your computer, or contact the manufacturer.

    For information about how to contact computer hardware manufacturers, click the appropriate article number in the following list to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
    65416 ( Hardware and Software Third-Party Vendor Contact List, A-K

    60781 ( Hardware and Software Third-Party Vendor Contact List, L-P

    60782 ( Hardware and Software Third-Party Vendor Contact List, Q-Z
    6. Restart your computer. When Setup is started from the CD-ROM, the Winnt.sif file located on the floppy disk will be used to complete the unattended installation.
    Microsoft provides third-party contact information to help you find technical support. This contact information may change without notice. Microsoft does not guarantee the accuracy of this third-party contact information.
     Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
    • Microsoft Windows XP Professional Edition


    Author Comment

    Thanks to all of you!  I have to remember that all theory is gray and at some point I just have to jump in the water and swim...

    LVL 69

    Expert Comment

    yeah it's good fun if you have a good hdd with nothing to lose.
    Cheers Merete

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