Windows XP: Installing from the Hard Drive

This is an install tech-recipe for Windows XP. It describes how to install Windows XP from the hard drive.

Windows 98SE Boot Diskette w/smartdrv.exe
Windows XP saved to hard drive (You need to have a separate FAT32 partition where XP install files are saved.)

Use the following steps to install Windows XP from the hard drive:

1. First, copy your Windows XP Setup CD contents to your hard drive. I recommend saving the XP install files/folders to a partition separate from where you are going to install XP. (e.g., Have setup files at d:\winxp\, and then install XP to c:\ drive.)

2. Now, boot your PC with the Windows 98 SE boot disk with smartdrv.exe on the floppy (This increases data transfer speed by ten-fold in DOS.). You do not need to boot with CD support since you are installing XP from the files on your hard drive (in my example, D:\winxp\).

3. At the command prompt, format the partition where you are installing XP (e.g., the c:\) by typing: format driveletter:. Replace the drive letter with the drive (e.g., format c:). Then go through the prompts.

4. Once that finishes, change drives to the drive with XP on it.
In my example, D: then Enter.
Then: CD WINXP (change directory to winxp folder) and Enter

Now, enable smartdrv by typing smartdrv and then type it again. The second time you type it and hit Enter, it will show the status of the drives and cacheing.

5. Now, change the directory to the i386 folder by typing cd i386 (In my example, this folder’s full path would be D:\winxp\i386\.).
Then type winnt to start the installation.

Finally, install XP as usual.

Now you are probably asking yourself, “Why would I do this or need to know this?” Well, I re-install my OS quite a bit. I get bored or it gets too cluttered. I just format and re-install. I do not really have to backup my files since I have my “my documents” folder located on a separate partition. [I have two hard drives: hd1: c: (winxp files, program files) d: (pure program files only) hd2 m: (my music, games) j: (my documents folder) r: (ripping folder).]


About Jimmy Selix

Jimmy Selix is an early adopter that loves to be one of the first on the block to have the latest and greatest in technology and gadgets. Another love of his is being able to share his knowledge to others seeking it. Feel free to drop any comments or questions that you may have.
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  • Holger

    installing microxp via that, dont have CDS right now, thanks

  • KB

    Hello there,

    I need some help pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeee

    Here is my problem, right after formatting drive C, I typed ” cd d: ” then D: popped up for a second then it went back to A:

    So it seems like i can NOT access drive D for some reason

    some please help, I don’t know what is going on ?????

  • redeng

    Thank u .It’s very usefule and important to me becaus i ahve old pc without cd rom but i well install a freedos on by buting the hdd in another machine then boot from it, ihope this workes and iwell post you
    thank u v m

  • MTA

    use the Hirens boot CD for NTFS Dos and all other Tools mostly used in DOS
    like partition magic , File manager , etc ………….

    can give you downlaod link Mail me

  • Oliver

    Hi, i have tried these steps but i have a sata hdd and the 98 se floppy will not recognise it

  • cyrus

    this is what im looking for, but i suggest you guys provide the smartdrv.exe software coz the link you had provided is not free,. 🙂

  • rey

    thank you’s cool
    I am trying it now.

  • Sharoon

    Hey heres waht im tryna do !! i got the new windows 7 iso all extracted n all…. n i wanna install it clean onto my desktop but it dont have a dvd in it n im not buyin one either!! lolz….anyhow i made a startup usb disc coz i dont have a floppy drive too!!! 🙂 i know im outa resources here!! so i got the windows 7 folder in another hdd on my pc…i got a master n a slave btw!! and i was thinkin how can i install it on my c drive….i got the windows files on d drive…coz 98 start up in dos is not recognizing the ntfs file system…does it mean im gonna have to format it n then try this on fat file sys??!!! sombody point me in the rite direction plz

  • deed

    That’s just because your BIOS had the CD drive as a higher priority than your HDD. When it saw a bootable disc in the CD drive it started loading from that rather than the HDD.

  • mplo

    after setup files were copied, it prompted reboot and removal of the boot disk. problem was, hard drive can’t boot.. “no bootable device — insert boot disk and press any key” appears.. HELP

  • Anonymous

    Thanks very much ! you saved me ….. your solution works perfectly….

    • phunk

      How to fix the “DISK BOOT FAILURE” after the DOS – part of the install.
      Right after formatting load F-Disk and set the C: Drive as ‘active’
      It’s in the menu of F-Disk, just look for it.
      It will allow windows to boot from C: and continue the installation.
      You have to do this before the start of the installation by running ‘winnt’
      It was a lifesaver for me….;-)

      • Anonymous

        You Have to SET your HDD to 2 or more Partition…
        You’ll also need to set the Active Partition of MS-DOS OS… from the F-disk Menu
        I set it to C:
        and put my WinXp Installation Files on D:

  • Worked like charm in my pc though I have to do a lot of troubleshooting. Thanks

  • Tim

    The guide helped me do a XP install;) Just after the dos part i had to run fdisk from the fdd to make the partition active;)Before that pc started with no operation system 😉 Thanks mate anyway

  • Anonymous

    when i instal from my D-Drive..its start but after some moment an error occur….

    “Eula is not found ”
    it is quite well when i instal the xp from cd…


  • William, your PC is freezing because dos cannot be used to install an os if dos itself is installed to the hd. It happened to me too with 98. I had to make a special install cd to install entirely from my cd drive. I used magiciso to make a bootable disk that booted a windows me boot floppy, or in this case, a vfd (virtual floppy disk) image file, in which I ran 98 setup and installed 98 on my computer. This method may or may not work with xp. MagicISO is pay for. I just found a code online.Mainly because I used to make custom boot disks with it. Again, you MUST use a dos floppy. DOS won’t install ANY OS if DOS is installed to the hd. My guess for the reason it can’t find the files is because it deletes them after. I hope I could help.

  • anoop

    i want to install windows xp while windows7 is running in d drive&also in c drive the setup of xp is in my e drive how i install

  • Dj

    what in this case where u dont hae a floppy disk? would you copy the win98 SE on the Hard drive to boot??

  • Bill Wilkison

    I’ve got a trojan virus that has put a lot of crap in my Window’s registry – of course, its a bogus way for somebody to supply me with removal software for this registry crap that they, themselves, installed on my computer (without my permission).

    So, I want to format the hard drive and reinstall Windows XP, (current version has service pac 3, I think) and my Dell Laditude is one that came not with the OS on a disk, but on a D partition of the hard drive.

    Question is …….. once I’ve formatted the disk (C only), how do I reinstall OS from partition D?

  • well creating the First partition to sustain the 98 boot can we have in sam epartition but in diferent folder the winXP install files?

    c:\ smrtdrv
    |_ xp install files

    would this commit some install errors o it will work just fine , is it recomended to use the first partition in FAT file sistem? because i read other tuts and they advice to do that .

    what do you thinnk about it ?

  • plus the best form to install the xp trough hdd is to copy the MBR and boot.ini from a eepc or (in portugal) magalhaes , they come already prepared to re-install the xp , the command lines are just enought the only thing is that you must slipstream the drivers to yours xp cd installation.

    the best method though

  • Brad


    Nice article. I’ve gotten to the point where I have made my two partitions, formatted both as FAT32. I copied my entire Windows XP Pro (SP3) CD to the 2nd (D:) partition. I load the computer via a Windows 98 SE boot disk, and then run smartdrv. I then go into D:\WINXP\i386 and run winnt.exe. It copies files over and gets all the way to 100%. Tells me that I have to reboot that MS-DOS portion is done. When the machine reboots I get a NTLDR is missing error and it won’t continue installing.

    I’ve verified via FDISK that the C: is active and is a primary partition. Not sure where I am going wrong here?

    Thanks in advance for your help!

  • Sivakumar

    Thanks .

    • kamal

      > Getting EULA error after setup starts after reboot

  • hulkbuster

    What i want to know and clear in the first step is :::

    Use the following steps to install Windows XP from the hard drive:

    1. First, copy your Windows XP Setup CD contents to your hard drive. I recommend saving the XP install files/folders to a partition separate from where you are going to install XP. (e.g., Have setup files at d:\winxp\, and then install XP to c:\ drive.)

    Do i need to format the D:\ as fat32 or ntfs and if it is ntfs will the Win98 se boot disk recognise the partition ???

  • Nic

    I installed from dos once, setup went all the way but some files could not be copied because of the restrictions for long file names in dos (I think). I then made a perfect install from within windows 98SE using the winnt32 file.


    I have no any floppy drive, How can I install Windows from my hdd directly???????

  • J.P.

    Jimmy, I’ve read this article several times and there is some confusion on my part. I’m trying to install XP on a machine that the hard drive is wiped clean of all data. I had difficulties trying to install XP from the original disks I had. I bought new ones and still had the same problems. So, I’ve been successful at copying all the files from the installation disks to a hard drive using a Vista machine to try and avoid the same problems with the CD ROM not copying files while installing from the disks. Having copied all the files from the disks, is there a way to install XP from one hard drive to another? These are just the installation files I have copied. I need a way to install them from one hard drive to another. If you can help me, please email me. Thanks. James aka Jamie

  • arturas

    hi, i have loptop and my CD-ROM is broken, I have no Floppy Drive, and I need to reinstall XP, I tried the USB but it does not work for me. I can not even swap this hard drive to a friend’s computer because after the reinstall xp my ATI X1250 graphics no work. I need to do install from the hard drive, please help me