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William_Wilson 03-11-2006 04:37 PM

Install Windows XP without floppy or cd drives
I will try to be as detailed as possible, including pictures as i go.
(My laptop is a Dell Latitude CSx, but this will work for any make or model with the same issue)

*Please be careful when playing with hard drives they are extremly fragile and affected by magnets, static and sudden impacts.

SysChat and it's affiliates will not take the blame for your mistakes! You have been warned

*now for the fun part!

Approximate cost of this procedure is $20 canadian, for the converter.
You will need the following:

*use of a desktop computer
*a laptop hard drive to IDE converter (available at any major online computer store)
*DOS (preferably 7.10 for it's improved loading times, available online, or by request.. it was free when i got it)

*If you have not burned a copy of DOS 7.10 yet, do that first, you will need it before moving the hardware!

locate the drive bay on your laptop:

open the bay by removing the screws and slide the hard drive and drive tray out.

both the drive tray and pin to laptop converter will need to be removed, carefully unscrew the drive tray and VERY carefully pull the converter off, it may be stuck on very tight.

Now connect the adapter to the hard drive

Now with the desktop computer OFF and grounded (to prevent static) plug the IDE channel 1 cable into the adapter (it will only fit one way) and the power cable into the other plug on the adapter.

NOTE: the red and black wires on the power MUST line-up!!

- attatch the drive to IDE 1, channel 2 and start up your computer.
- format the drive to FAT32 (you can always switch it to ntfs later, with a prog such as partition magic)
- shutdown the computer

*With the DOS cd in the drive

- switch the laptop drive to IDE 1 channel 1 for best chance of detection, DOS is not the smartest OS ever made

- power up and install DOS 7.10 when prompted. IT is your choice to add or not add all the extras with DOS, these will not affect your installation either way!

- shutdown the computer and rearrange the laptop drive such that it is on IDE1, channel 2 again. so that you can boot into the OS (psobably XP) on your desktop.

- remove DOS 7.10 cd
- replace with Windows XP cd after system has booted.
- Copy I386 folder from WinXP cd onto the laptop harddrive
*probably place this directly on the root of the drive to prevent confusion later.
- find and download smartdrv.exe and copy it to the root directory as well (speeds up dos transfers)

*IF you cannot find this file, it is also found on win98 boot disks :D

- put the harddrive back in the laptop, reversing all the steps you did in the first part. Be Careful here as well, i have seen many pins bent due to carelessness on connecting the laptop/pin converter.

-When you turn on the laptop DOS should load, otherwise select it from the list

- run smartdrv.exe (type C:\smartdrv.exe at command prompt)

- run 16bit Windows XP installer (type C:\I386\winnt.exe)

- now let the laptop sit! Even if it appears to stall, it will continue, some older harddrives do not spin very fast and need time to load (5-10min is not an unreasonable wait
*with smartdrv.exe installed, expect MUCH longer without it!

- follow the Windows installer directions!
(Total time, depending on computer speeds: 1-2hrs - though most of this is waiting for Windows XP to install)

*you will now have dos and windows on the drive, you can remove dos, or leave it, it is up to you!!

PM if you need help removing your dual boot screen or uninstalling DOS safely.

**The best part about this installation method is it is much cheaper than buying an external drive, as long as you have access to a desktop computer.

*NOTE most external drives will use a USB connection which cannot be accesed on an installation.

Sami 03-16-2006 08:22 PM

Excellent guide William.

Just want to let you all know that DOS ver 7.10 is now available in the downloads section. Here are the links.

1. MS-DOS 7.10 CD Full Installation

2. MS-DOS 7.10 Boot Disk

3. Windows 98 OEM Start-up Disk with CD-ROM Support

William_Wilson 03-17-2006 12:16 AM

Also if you have a floppy drive, but no cd drive in your laptop, then you can use the Windows XP 6 installation Floppies, available from microsoft
There are options for both XP Proffessional and XP Home, happy installing.

iconico 04-05-2006 06:27 PM

Many Tx
I tried several ways to do it... The converter was the answer... very clear solution . Many Thanks !

jinjim 05-30-2006 03:07 PM

could you guide the steps on Page 3 in more details?

William_Wilson 05-31-2006 01:38 AM

Do you have a converter?
It should only fit on in one way, then make sure that pin 1 (red mark on IDE) is lined up on both drive and cable. If you have a specific question feel free to PM me.

jinjim 05-31-2006 02:01 PM

Thank you much. It's helpful. One more question:

Originally Posted by William_Wilson
Do you have a converter?
It should only fit on in one way, then make sure that pin 1 (red mark on IDE) is lined up on both drive and cable. If you have a specific question feel free to PM me.


I have two laptops: one HP good, the other Fujitsu bad. The good with external floppy and internal cd drives and XP, the bad with a bad OS (no boot, so to be replaced), external USB cd and floppy drives, but neither working without OS. Can I install OS on the bad as follows.

Swap the two internal fixed HD, use the good as platform, with bootable media either in floppy or cd drives:

1. boot from floppy, or directly from cd-rom, to install XP on the bad's HD, then switch back each other's HD, then boot the bad with XP just installed, and change certain configurations according to the bad's;

2. boot from floppy, or directly from cd-rom, to install DOS and copy XP on the bad's HD, then switch back each other's HD, then boot the bad with DOS just installed, and run XP setup.

(2) looks easier, isn't it?

I need urgent help/comment from you.


Jim Jin

anton 06-01-2006 06:12 PM

my laptop just says remove media? anyone know whats up?

William_Wilson 06-02-2006 03:50 PM

you can try that, but it probably won't work. An installation of Windows sets up the hardware. If you were to do the copying step of the files, and upon the restart, power off the laptop and transfer the hard drive back, that may work as the correct hardware would then be set up.

daafi 07-02-2006 05:25 AM

Thanks William!

Thanks to your tutorial, my problem is solved:biggrin:

but i have 1 guestion,

Could you tell me how to remove dual boot screen and uninstall DOS safely?

William_Wilson 07-02-2006 02:17 PM

Hopefully i will have some time to re-write this with some pictures for SC, but for now it's only over on this site: Removing a Dual Boot

robargna 07-16-2006 10:35 AM


Originally Posted by William_Wilson
Also if you have a floppy drive, but no cd drive in your laptop, then you can use the Windows XP 6 installation Floppies, available from microsoft
There are options for both XP Proffessional and XP Home, happy installing.

My laptop has a floppy drive, but the CD drive is unreliable. This support page says that you need the CD drive eventually. How can I use these setup disks to get at the contents of the installation CD without using a CD drive? Can I copy the contents of the CD to my hard disk (using another computer and the network)? Thanks!!

William_Wilson 07-18-2006 02:46 PM

if you can gain access to the drive by any means, simply copy the cd to the drive as i have mentioned in this tutorial.
There is also the option to install a dual boot with any OS, if there is an OS on the drive, simply install XP or Vista directly to another partition on the drive from the OS already installed, by copying it's cd to the drive.
(Network your drive and copy from another comps drive is also workable)

Another option is an external cd drive, this should be ok once the floppies are installed.

newmikeman 07-23-2006 10:56 AM

Your guide worked like a dream. Thank you

hex24 07-24-2006 03:43 PM

Hello there, I'm new to forums and I really need some help. Been around computers for a while, but this one has me scratching my head.
I have a dell Latitude CSx no floppy, no cd. I also have an IBM thinkpad t30, dvd drive.
*I removed latitude's hard drive and placed it on my IBM installed dos.
*Then I placed latitude's hard drive on an external adapter and loged into my winxp on my IBM.
*Copied i386 and smartdrv onto latitude's hard drive.
*Removed it and placed it back.
I followed the steps exactly as instructed by your guide. The windows xp installation goes through to the point where it copies all the files, but when it restarts to start the setup, I get "ntldr missing" no bootable drive. Not even DOS will bootup. I tried the steps several times, but no success.

any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. :censored:

chipleadjoe 08-30-2006 06:28 PM

Hi - When I Try To Install Dos 7.1 To My Laptop Drive In The Desktop Pc,the Cd Of Dos Runs But It Does Not Give Me Any Options To Install It To The Laptop Hard Drive - Is The Install Disc Burned Wrong Or Is The Desktop Pc Not Finding My Laptop Hard Drive Or Something Else??? Thanks

William_Wilson 10-14-2006 02:28 PM

If you have a cd drive in a second laptop (hex24) there is a simpler method. Simply place it in the laptop and format the drive, and start the install of XP, when you reach the first restart, hold the power button to stop the install from resuming after the restart, remove the hdd and place it in the correct laptop, and presto all settins will be installed for the correct laptop

William_Wilson 10-14-2006 02:29 PM

(Chipleadjoe) If the installation is not offering you to install to this drive, it may be connected incorrectly. I suggest disconnecting all other drives and only having the laptop drive connected to remove any confusion :)

bobo123 10-15-2006 08:01 PM

William your the best :) Thx.

William_Wilson 10-16-2006 10:12 PM

i like to think so, but we all like to hear it now and again. Glad to hear your issues are solved :)

reeso 10-29-2006 08:46 AM

William - Is it possible to install Windows 98SE in a similar way?

bobo123 10-29-2006 08:35 PM

The first laptop i tried earlier in the month worked fine and ty. I've tried this on another laptop (fujitsu B-2131) and it goes through the file copy procedure perfect, but as soon as it restarts to continue the setup, it hangs after the bios screen with the error "ntldr is missing press any key to restart". Any input on this error would be greatly appreciated. thx

Shacobo 11-03-2006 11:49 PM

Worked great. I have the CSx and it was driving me crazy how to install XP. Thanks.

William_Wilson 11-13-2006 03:49 PM

It is a touchy thing the ntldr error, i've had it myself many times on both laptops and desktops alike. Usually the error is from a drive which is not properly setup as a primary. Thus the NT loader is not loading correctly as the drive is not meant to have an OS on it. there are many other reasons this could occur, but this has been my main issue, a simple complete format and ensuring the drive is primary seems to fix it in most cases.

murj 11-29-2006 09:17 PM


Originally Posted by William_Wilson (Post 4116)
If you have a cd drive in a second laptop (hex24) there is a simpler method. Simply place it in the laptop and format the drive, and start the install of XP, when you reach the first restart, hold the power button to stop the install from resuming after the restart, remove the hdd and place it in the correct laptop, and presto all settins will be installed for the correct laptop

I tryed this using xp pro. When i put it back in my laptop and started it up the hdd read for a second and then nothing. Nothing on display.

William_Wilson 11-30-2006 02:24 AM

if the drive is any good it should display something even if it's a ntdk file not found or a no OS, the bios should also be displayed... something else must be going on.

murj 11-30-2006 06:23 AM

well the drive worked fine, i tryed over and over till i gave up and tryed the slow way of using dos. Got it installing xp now. Thanks!

William_Wilson 12-05-2006 12:59 PM

glad to hear people are still willing to take the time to do it right! :)
Glad your laptop is up and running.

vir1980 12-07-2006 12:53 AM

Thank you for youre tutorial, the only think a needed was the ms-dos on cd because i didnt have a floppy drive in my laptop :happy:

mWMA 12-19-2006 09:17 PM

Slight modification of the method and no dual os.
My friend brought me a toshiba laptop to fix but it did not have dock with it so we had no DVDROM or floopy.
I installed XP on the laptop using method which is similar to yours but with a few steps which are different to removing Dual OS before the setup.

Here is what I did to get XP on it.
Required items:
98SE bootdisk
40-Pin to 44-pin 2.5 adaptor to connect HDD to working computer.

1) Connect Laptop HDD to desktop working system using the convertor. Format the HDD and create 2 partition. Recommend using FAT32 for both. Second partition does not need to big but will be used to store windows install files.
(for my friend 's 60GB HDD we did 30GB and 25GB partition)

2) Copy 98SE bootdisk files included hidden ones to primary partition. We also using XP 's disk manger and set this partition to be active.
Here is list of files incase you wonder which ones: config.sys drvspace.bin Himem.sys IO.sys ramdrive.sys msdos.sys should be more than enough. Rest can be ignored. You can also edit the config.sys with notepad and remove all entry except keeping the following
device=himem.sys /testmem:off
devicehigh=ramdrive.sys /E 2048

3) Copy smartdrv.exe, (usually located in to second smaller partition.

4) Copy the i386 folder of a XP CD to second partition. Also copy any apps, driver you may need for your laptop.
Note: I also added a winnt.sif file to the i386 directory and added unattended install information along with XP CD key to make it so that I don't have to sit during the install process.

5) Using a working desktop: Unplug any and all HDD from a system. plug only the Laptop HDD. insert the 98SE bootdisk into the floopy drive on the system.
Choose boot with CD-ROM support.
At the A: prompt type C: and verify all the bootfiles you copied earlier are there.
type A: to get back to A prompt.
type sys C:
Once system is copied. shutdown the box and remove the laptop hdd.

6) Plug laptop HDD back into laptop. Bootup and you will see C: prompt.
Type D: to access to second partition.
Type smartdrv
to make the process of copying faster.
Type format /Q C:
to format the C: drive and clean up the 98se stuff off it.
Type CD i386 to switch to windows files folder with all setup files.
Use the winnt.exe to start the setup.

For my friend I did
winnt /s:D:\i386 /u:winnt.sif /t:C:
/s is source where all setup files are.
/u:winnt.sif is the unattended command file
/t:C: is switch to tell setup to copy files to C: drive and install XP to C: drive.

XP setup should now copy files and you will not have deal with any DOS installation or dual OS issues. You can also convert to NTFS during the setup without any issue.

For those you don't use winnt.sif for unattended install. Here is small tip to help you pass some time during install.

Once you are 30min remaining into the install, you can start playing games like freecell or solitare to pass the time during the install.
Steps to running games during install
During XP setup do Shift+F10
You will get dos prompt
Type start freecell OR start sol OR start pinball
or use paint to do some drawing if you like.
Pinball is not ready until you have 13min remaining in setup.

Once you are XP install is done you can delete the files of the second partition if you like or keep em there for future.

Have a nice day.

William_Wilson 12-19-2006 10:27 PM

this is an option, that is slightly different, but it is not guarenteed that the boot disk will be recognized as a bootable device with every motherboard.
Removing the extra boot drive is not that big of a deal, but it can be annoying i suppose, i find it to be more useful if a re-install is needed, as it can be completed without anything, but restarting in dos.
*always good to have other options, good post :)

speedgamer 01-04-2007 07:48 PM

when issues arise
Great guide will helped me alot.

i ran into an issue though, that i think others might possibly run into as well.

see in my case i was trying to install a copy of XP tablet pc edition. when i installed in the manner you provided i, durring the course of the install, ran into a message box asking for a file that i could not find. the first time i hit cancel and my install of windows ended up with no tablet functionality at all. so during reinstall i ran into the same message box. in anticipation i had browsed the cd and determined that certain cab files that were necessary for it to work were in the components directory on the xp cd. i copyed the files over and then tried entering the cab files in the destination. now realizing that the files needed to be extracted the files on the a desktop computer and then copyed them to a folder on a usb flash drive.

then back on the install computer i plugged in the drive.
then hit shift-f10 to open comand prompt to see if it recognized the drive. this was annoying as i needed to check every letter to see if the drive recognized.

suprisingly it did. turned out to be E:\

(i tried using the browse button in the msg box but it was worthless)

then i typed in the thumbdrive dir into the msg box and it worked fine. i did have to reenter a different dir as there were 2 different cab files on the tablet xp disk within the component dir.

but everything worked.
just thought that this would be worth mentioning.

thanks again for the guide.

kureme 01-10-2007 08:14 AM

Hi I recently got a Dell Latitude CSx from a friend and it has no floppy or cd drive. You're guide is great and should most definately work, but I have run into a "Missing Operating System" error when I put the hard drive back into the laptop. When I did a test run on the desktop that I used, it boots up fine and MS-DOS loads and I can access the c drive without problems. When I stick it back in the laptop, I always get the "Missing Operating System" error. Any ideas how to get around this little problem? Thanks in advance.

madtown 01-11-2007 03:52 AM

no operating sys message
Hi I recently got a Dell Latitude XPi A-Series and it has no floppy or cd drive. LIke the last poster I agree that "You're guide is great and should most definately work", but I to have run into a "Missing Operating System" error when I put the hard drive back into the laptop.

Everytime i put it back in the laptop, I always get the "Missing Operating System" error. Any ideas how to get around this little problem? Thanks in advance.


William_Wilson 01-11-2007 01:10 PM

kureme, if your drive is working in your desktop, but not in your laptop, it is a boot sector error i would think, and for some reason your desktop is getting around it. Try using the tips on this site Fix Boot Sector in your desktop to try and fix the problem. You may have to format and reinstall.

madtown If you are having the same issues then try the above as well, but if the drive is not working in your desktop as well, it is possible the drive has failed do to improper grounding during the installation.

*hope this helps, if not post again with the results :)

kureme 01-12-2007 09:34 AM

Thanks for the quick reply and a nice link that should come in handy for future problems to come. Unfortunately, their solutions to the "Missing Operating System" issue did not resolve my problem. I have rewritten the system files as well as the master boot record as suggested in 1 and 2. I even tried reformatting and reinstalling the MS-DOS but this didn't work either. I did notice that as I was reinstalling DOS, during the part where the setup checks the partitions on the hard drives, I get--

(E) Cannot read sector 0 of fixed disk 2 -- Invalid function or parameter
(E) Cannot access fixed disk 2 -- Invalid function or parameter
(W) Drive letter assignments may be incorrect

^--that repeated 5 times and then it proceeds with the rest of the setup continuing with a prompt asking to rewrite the MBR.

After the reformat and reinstallation of DOS, the drive works as usual on the desktop, but still gives me the "Missing Operating System" error when I stick it in the laptop. Do you have any other ideas of what I should do? Thanks again.

Also, I have taken apart the laptop to clean up some water residue and noticed some jumpers on the motherboard but I can't seem to find any information on what they do or even any info on the motherboard itself. I did however find a nice pic of the motherboard on ebay with a nice shot of the jumpers so here it is. The best best would be to contact Dell, but me not being the original owner of the laptop and it being such an old model, I don't think they will be of much help. Google only turns up a bunch of sites selling computer parts but nothing about the jumpers or the motherboard. Sorry for such a long post.

William_Wilson 01-12-2007 12:42 PM

I would not be messing with the jumpers, these are not the type in which to play with.
How are you formatting the drive, are you sure you are creating a primary partition?
Also, run a scandisk on the first partition to fix any errors before installing DOS, you may have a few bad sectors.

kureme 01-12-2007 02:08 PM

I was just curious about the jumpers if maybe those were the ones to clear the cmos or something but oh well, not like I really need to do that or anything.

The first time I formatted it was with partition magic with FAT32 making it primary and active. After it didn't want to work with the laptop, I reformatted it using the DOS boot disk's format. I have also ran scandisk with the surface scan only to turn up with nothing. The hdd works fine on the desktop I don't know why it won't work with the laptop. Perhaps theres a problem with the laptop or the laptop is just too old? Well anything that can support xp can't be that obsolete can it?

William_Wilson 01-12-2007 11:19 PM

when you formatted with partition magic, did you install DOS? You need an OS such as DOS to get your laptop started and thus to install XP.

kureme 01-13-2007 01:16 AM

Yes, after I formatted the drive, I installed DOS and copied the I386 folder as well as SMARTDRV.EXE into it. DOS boots fine from the desktop without any problems and if I wanted I could just get started installing Windows but that would be on the wrong system. Unfortunately, I'm stuck with a "Missing Operating System" error every time I stick it in the laptop. I'm starting to think there is something wrong with the way the laptop bios checks the hard drive. That laptop bios is the version A12 and the newest version is A13. The only difference is in some battery charging algorithm.

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