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Installing Windows XP Directly from Hard Disk

Posted on 2009-05-06
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Last Modified: 2013-11-05
I have an old Compaq laptop. Its CD-ROM and floppy drive is broken, and its BIOS cannot boot from USB.

I tried doing the following steps to get Windows XP installed directly from the HDD :

1. I plugged the HDD into my desktop machine using an IDE to USB device.
2. I then formatted it with the HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool (FAT32), and made it bootable using the Windows 98 boot disk image as the DOS startup disk.
3. I copied all the contents of the Windows XP Installation CD into the HDD.
4. Removed HDD from desktop machine and plugged it into my Compaq.
5. It boots to DOS. I run the \i386\winnt.exe program to start the installation.
6. The installation completes with no errors and restarts.

When it restarts, I get an "NTLDR is missing" error. I've tried all kinds of methods to get past this error (fixing boot record, mbr, etc) but it still doesn't work. I checked the contents of the HDD and it all checks out ok (boot.ini, etc.).

Strangely, if I install Windows 98 first and then install Windows XP on top of it, the setup runs without a hitch.

Can anyone explain why this happens and suggest a solution that (obviously) doesn't require buying new hardware?

Thanks.
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Question by:JunHaan
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16 Comments
 
LVL 13

Expert Comment

by:Brum07
ID: 24312694
Have you tried cloning the desktop drive to the laptop drive using something like ghost?

Regards
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Author Comment

by:JunHaan
ID: 24312723
Brum07,
I need to mention that the old HDD in my compaq is broken as well.
I tried restoring an old Acronis backup image to the HDD complete with MBR, Track 0 and HDD signature, but when I plug it into the Compaq laptop, it simply fails to boot. Instead of an error message, I get a blank screen with a blinking cursor instead. Pressing any button excessively will cause the old junk to beep.

I've also tried the steps I previously mentioned in VMWare. Same problem, "NTLDR is missing".
I can't simply install on VMWare and then plug it back into my Compaq for some reason which I'm guessing is the Windows installation writing stuff into the MBR and the ntldr bootstrap file.
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LVL 13

Assisted Solution

by:Brum07
Brum07 earned 150 total points
ID: 24312784
What about using a BartPE recovery disk and restore the image that way.

E.g. create a bartpe disk with the image on it, boot laptop with blank drive installed, restore using Acronis

See here for BartPC - http://www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/
and here for the Acronis info - https://www.acronis.co.uk/support/kb/articles/985/index.html

Regards
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Author Comment

by:JunHaan
ID: 24312810
The CD-ROM is broken. I can't start BartPE without the CD-ROM, right?<input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden">
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LVL 13

Assisted Solution

by:Brum07
Brum07 earned 150 total points
ID: 24312838
Sorry I forgot this, can you not do this on your desktop though?

Plug the laptop drive in and boot the BartPE then restore.
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Author Comment

by:JunHaan
ID: 24312895
Yes but the restore doesn't work (see earlier post). I just get a blank screen with blinking cursor.

I'd like to start over with a clean install of Windows XP. There must be a reason why it isn't booting even though the files are all in place. The strange thing is if I install Windows 98 first and then install XP, it works fine.
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LVL 32

Assisted Solution

by:nappy_d
nappy_d earned 70 total points
ID: 24312898
You need to be able to do this command to the drive fdisk /mbr

somehow, you need to get to a command line with this hard drive with a windows boot disk to run this command.  Once you do, it should now be able to boot.
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Author Comment

by:JunHaan
ID: 24313006
nappy_d - I ran fdisk /mbr  via VMWare and a floppy boot disk image. It still doesn't work - I'm still getting "NTLDR is missing".<input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden">
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Expert Comment

by:dbrunton
ID: 24313055
Attempting to upgrade from a Windows 95, 98, or ME computer that is using FAT32

From http://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch000465.htm

If you are getting this error message while you are attempting to upgrade to Windows 2000 or Windows XP from Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows ME running FAT32 please try the below recommendations.

1. Boot the computer with a Windows 95, Windows 98 or Windows ME bootable diskette.
2. At the A:\> prompt type:

      sys c: <press enter>

3. After pressing enter you should receive the "System Transferred" message. Once this has been completed remove the floppy diskette and reboot the computer.

------------------------------------------------------------------

You could try that via VMWare but I offer no guarantee or hope.
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Author Comment

by:JunHaan
ID: 24313124
dbrunton - I tried that and it lets me boot back to C:\, but I need to run the setup. So I run \i386\winnt.exe again and I get the same result - "NTLDR is missing".
btw, I'm doing a clean install of XP, not upgrading from Windows 95/98/ME.<input id="gwProxy" type="hidden"><!--Session data--><input onclick="jsCall();" id="jsProxy" type="hidden">
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Assisted Solution

by:dbrunton
dbrunton earned 50 total points
ID: 24313191
Yep.

I realize that.  I'm suggesting you do this after you've done your clean install of XP.  I'm just wondering if it'll boot this way and transfer control to Windows XP.
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Author Comment

by:JunHaan
ID: 24313374
I'm currently trying to get it clean installed. Its strange, not sure what is going on.

The only option I have right now is to first install Windows 98 and then clean install Windows XP.
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Assisted Solution

by:nappy_d
nappy_d earned 70 total points
ID: 24313636
OK where is the i386 folder for XP located?

Do you have USB boot support on this laptop? if so, you can start Windows from ubcb4win.com with USB
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Author Comment

by:JunHaan
ID: 24313752
nappy_d - as mentioned in Q,  BIOS cannot boot from USB. Its a 10 year old compaq presario 2800.
Thanks.
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Assisted Solution

by:SniperSheep
SniperSheep earned 20 total points
ID: 24341363
You might consider creating a bootable (< 2GB) memory card on your desktop using the same "HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool", copying XP installation files to it, then booting your laptop from it using a memory card to PCMCIA adapter. CompactFlash cards work best, as they will be recognized as an additional harddrive when used in a PCMCIA adapter. If you have a large CF card around, the CF-to-PCMCIA adapter can be had for a few bucks.
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Accepted Solution

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JunHaan earned 0 total points
ID: 24398273
All comments above either required additional hardware or did not work.
I used a workaround which is to first install Windows 98 and then install Windows XP on top of it. This is the only way that worked for my old Compaq.

Thanks all for the effort.

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