Home > How To:, Nerd Stuff > Guide: Install Windows without a CD-ROM or floppy drive

Guide: Install Windows without a CD-ROM or floppy drive

Guide: Install Windows without a CD-ROM or floppy drive

There are many times where I have run across a system (mainly laptops) that I need to install Windows XP or Windows 2000, and the system doesn’t have a CD-ROM (or functioning CD-ROM). This is a method I have divised using another computer, that will help you install Windows on a system with no CD-ROM available.

Items you’ll need…

– Windows 98 or equivilant CD
– A floppy bootable with Windows 98 (you can get one at bootdisk.com)
– A seperate system with Windows XP (that has a CD-ROM and floppy)
– Working knowledge of Windows and some DOS (including fdisk)
– Adapter to convert a laptop 2.5 inch to a 5.25 inch IDE Adapter (if you are trying to install to a laptop)

1) So you’re ready to install Windows XP (or 2000) on a system with no working CD-ROM or floppy. The first thing you are going to want to do is make a bootable floppy with Windows 98. On this floppy, you need to format it so that it’s system bootable. If you go to http://www.bootdisk.com, you can download various bootdisk’s from various Windows OS’.

2) So you have your floppy that is bootable now. Using the windows 98 CD, you need to extract some files from the cabinet files on the CD (.cab files). Using the extract command in the CD, you need to extract the following files and put them on the bootable floppy. “himem.sys”, “smartdrv.exe” “format.com” “fdisk.exe”.

3) Next you will need to write an ‘autoexec.bat’ and ‘config.sys’ for the floppy. This will be relativily easy. With the floppy still in the drive, open notepad (or whatever editor you want) and write this in…


Then you can save it as ‘a:\config.sys’.

After you save your config.sys file to the floppy, next you want to write an ‘autoexec.bat’ file for the floppy. Open notepad again and write this in…


…then save it as ‘a:\autoexec.bat’.

Your floppy is locked and loaded. It’s ready to prep your hard drive for installation.

4) You will need to take the hard drive that you want to install Windows to and install it to your working XP system. When you do this, you will need to boot to the floppy disk that you created. At the DOS prompt type in…


In FDISK, you will need to partition the hard drive and prep it so you can format it with FAT32.


When the disk is partitioned, get out of fdisk. You will have to reboot. Go ahead and boot back into the floppy disk.

5) Now you’re ready to format the hard drive. Let’s check to make sure you can access the drive. At the prompt, type in ‘dir C:’. You should see a message stating that the media is ‘invalid’. At this point, you know you are ready to format it. Type in…

‘a:\format c: /s’

It will take some time but when it’s finished, it should say ‘system transfered’. This message indicates that your hard drive is now bootable.

If you receive an “Invalid drive specification” at any point, then the drive was either…
a) not partitioned correctly or
b) the drive is not hooked up.

Next type in the prompt…

‘copy a:\*.* c:\’

It will ask if you want to copy over the command.com and a few other system files. Just say no to everything it asks. Everything else will copy over.

6) Next you need to remove the floppy from the drive, and reboot the computer back into Windows with the drive attached as a secondary drive. When you boot into windows, you should see the attached drive (drive D or something equivilant) Create a folder in this drive called ‘WinXP’. Next you want to put in the Windows XP disk into the CD-ROM. Copy the complete contents of the CD into the ‘WinXP’ folder you just created.

7) After the Windows XP CD contents are copied over, turn off the computer and remove the drive. Put the drive back into the system that you need to install Windows and boot it up. The system should automatically boot into a DOS prompt. Type in…


The next window you will see is Windows asking for the directory of the Install files. It should say

‘C:\WINXP\I386’. Continue the installation and you are set.

Most of this write up is from memory. If I misdirected a piece somewhere, please let me know so I can correct it.

Categories: How To:, Nerd Stuff
  1. Jon
    April 13, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    How about if the floppy drive is dead, and windows came preinstalled so the cab files are still on the hardrive..and windows 98 won’t boot because the msvcrtdll is missing

  2. Daniel
    July 18, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    My last question: If I start up the laptop(IBM ThinkPad A20) with a Win 98 bootable floppy as you had mentioned, whether the temp driver attached to the USB port on the laptop can still be identified? My purpose is to copy all those Win 2K installation files from the CD to the laptop through the Temp Drive.

    If the temp drive is unidentifiable, could I download some driver(s) for this issue?

  3. kylenstevo
    July 19, 2007 at 12:04 am

    wow thankyou, made me the happiest internet person ever awesome;
    used your very well written instructions to put 98 on my lappy, couldnt do it all night n then half an hour instructions in the morning and its done, you even made me realise that there are partition limits goddamn without meaning too
    lol im stoopid but thankyou

  4. noob
    July 26, 2007 at 11:29 pm

    i have old toshiba satelite 5005 , p III – the cd room drive is malfunction – i want to install xp on it . i have one pc p4 and a converter usb to ide, can u help me ” HOW TO INSTAL XP WITHOUT flopy and cdroom ” .

    thx so much for any comment

  5. Balaji
    September 2, 2007 at 2:02 am

    thk u vry much for helping me in installing winxp in my laptop

  6. Newbie
    September 7, 2007 at 6:49 am

    what if i dont have a windows 98 cd what files do i need to extract using a xp cd

  7. manuel
    October 11, 2007 at 4:41 am

    pls. list the copy files from floppy to C:

  8. andy
    October 25, 2007 at 5:24 am

    It works on my Toshiba SS1600. Thank you for your information.

  9. William
    October 30, 2007 at 7:43 am

    I have two computers and neither have a floppy drive. How do I get around that problem? You have what is necessary to boot from a floppy, but what if you have no floppy available anywhere?

  10. Subhash
    October 31, 2007 at 7:56 am

    I have no CD ROM in my laptop and i want to install OS on it from a desktop computer.
    For the 5th item requirement,if i use a 2.5 inch to a usb type adapter and then connect to my desktop computer in its usb port,will it work then?

  11. cs
    January 9, 2008 at 1:26 am

    I already do as you say from the page above.My hard disk can boot itself to install the Windows XP and also can copy all the file needed by windows.But my problem is,when the system restart for awhile the blue screen prompt out.The message i get from it is like this:- Unmountable_boot_volume Stopxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    What can i do to solve this problem?

  12. January 16, 2008 at 12:59 am

    Worked perfectly with Dell CSx. I partitioned the HDD to make a small (1.5MB) C: drive to hold the Win 98 boot and XP CD-ROM copy. The rest of the HDD became the D: drive where I installed XP. Once I got XP running, USB became accessible and the rest was easy.
    I had tried to do this previously with the HDD in an external USB drive case, but it didn’t work. You have to have the adaptor because you can only make a C: drive bootable to DOS – I think? Can anyone explain that?
    Anyway Charlie, thanks for a great work around – save me having to get expensive and hard-to-find accessories. Only one criticism – white on black is hard to read for old guys with poor eyesight!

  13. Mike
    January 16, 2008 at 1:44 am

    Sorry, error in my previous comment. It was 1.5GB for the C: drive.

  14. sal
    January 24, 2008 at 9:41 am

    im sorry but i need to ask i have a laptop compaq has new hardrive but no floppy drive how do i install windows ex on the drive with no floppy cdrom works fine i know if i had a floppy its a matter of getting drivers on floppy and walla but i have no floppy how can i do this

  15. techie
    February 1, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    @sal boot from cd
    @cd try procedure again, i don’t see off hand whats wrong
    @Subhash no, it won’t work, dos does’nt support usb
    @Newbie google for a 98 boot disk, most come with all files already
    @William use ubcd (http://www.ultimatebootcd.com) instead
    @Jon 1. Copy the .cab files to another source so you have them later!
    2. use a differant bootdisc for dll problem

  16. techie
    February 1, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    oops, meant to say @sal boot directly from your windows cd

  17. Cecile
    May 5, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    I have an acer aspire 5100 that has no floppy and the cdrom drive is broken. I have another laptop that takes the same HD and has a working cdrom drive. Both also have usb drives. Is it possible to install XP on the acer drive by switching the drive, installing xp, then placing it back into the acer? I’ve tried doing this and it works for about an hour or so then i get errors on the acer. Someone suggested to me that I have to repair windows on the Acer once the HD is back in the computer, but I don’t see how I can do that with a broken Cd-rom drive

  18. jim
    June 23, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    any idea if this will work on a dell laptop??

  19. Simon
    July 18, 2008 at 4:23 am

    This method works fine. Thanks!

    You could also avoid opening up your laptop by using a USB key:

  20. Mallik
    July 20, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    hey how can I implement your above steps , lets say if I forget my password to login to the Windows 2000 Machine (Dell latitude laptop) which doesn’t have CD Drive and Floppy drive. Any suggestions.

  21. August 7, 2008 at 12:32 am

    can a bootable floppy be your installer for your OS?

  22. August 7, 2008 at 6:08 am

    The only way a floppy can install the OS are…
    1) you have a slimmed down OS that is about 60k in side (since the installer will take up the rest of the space on the floppy)

    2) You redirect the floppy to install from a separate hard drive or CD-Rom. Doing these steps sort of makes this post irrelevant.

  23. harsh
    August 30, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    can this be used for a desktop …

  24. vent
    September 7, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    How to install windows xp using with USB Drive?

  25. wtf
    September 10, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    im not finding the files “himem.sys” and “fdisk.exe”. in step 2, where exactly are they located??

  26. KPhoenix
    September 13, 2008 at 7:32 am

    There isn’t even a win98_21.cab file located on the Windows 98 Installation CD, it’s only win98_21.cab – win98_sixty something.cab. So I downloaded a HIMEM.SYS file, and then I got everything up and going, but then during the XP install, it said the EULA was missing. What now? If you ask me this tutorial is a bit mediocre, because it has it’s explanation flaws or something…

  27. KPhoenix
    September 13, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Well, first of all, I’m using the official Windows 98 CD. Not SE or anything, as you stated to use the original Windows 98.
    In regards to Step 1: So it needs to be just the Windows 98 OEM bootdisk?
    ” Step 2: Your screenshot seems a bit misleading, being that on this cd, there is no win98_21.cab file. Also I think this step itself is misexplained. You said to extract those 4 files from cabinet files. Well judging by the screenshot, you need to type in the cabinit file you are extracting from. Well how would you figure out which cab file it is? Also, you left out /L directory. How in the world would you extract a file from a cabinet file if you didn’t specify where you wanted it extracted to? Also, smartdrv.exe isn’t even located in a cabinet file, it’s sitting in \win98\. I guess you should state that a person should use a File Search inside of the CD (Ctrl + F) in order to find the designated files. Apparently HIMEM.SYS is located in Base5.CAB.
    ” Step 3: Wouldn’t it be smart to say when saving the config.sys and autoexec.bat, Set the file type to All Files instead of .txt, so you wouldn’t accidently end up with such as a config.sys.txt?

  28. KPhoenix
    September 13, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    I’ve reviewed the steps several times and I’ve come to the conclusion that their this setup isn’t meant from Windows XP Professional or you skipped totally over something, because I keep getting some crap about the “EULA” being missing and setup having to abort.

  29. christopher
    September 19, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    hi there. ive got a petium 2 csx dell laptop without a cd drive. I followed your instructions precisely and it neverything worked fine up until when the files had finished copying to the hard disk windows asks you to reboot to continue installation.when i rebooted i get the message ‘NTLDR MISSING’. any ideas why, advice would be appreciated.

  30. September 20, 2008 at 7:51 am

    The Missing NTDR table is the most common issue. Ususally it indicates several things…

    1) The boot sector didn’t copy correctly (which is mainly the case) and you need to repeat the process
    2) All the files were not copied correctly
    3) Combination of both 1 and 2
    4) The laptop’s BIOs you are using does not support what this project suggests (which I have seen as well)
    4) Bad IDE Channel / Cable (I have seen this one often..which is weird).

    The missing NTDR is a showstopper and there are some cases where you can’t get around it. This will be the case if the BIOs doesn’t support the install mostly. I do recommending an attempt to installing it again. I hope it helps some…

  31. christopher
    September 20, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    charlie, thanks for the reply. so basically to summarise this method is not always the successful option but just one of the options available in installing xp on a system. Ill keep on trying. thanks again for the advice.

  32. christopher
    September 20, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    hey mike i just spotted your comment, ive got a csx laptop too but had problems with installation. where did you get your boot disk from or which one did you use etc.., can you elaborate further much appreciated…

  33. KPhoenix
    November 19, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    Hey, just dropping in again. Since I last left comments, I’ve successfully gotten Windows XP on my laptop (thank you very much for making this tutorial). Although I got a wicked virus, and had to come back again to print out this tutorial so I could redo the entire thing, since yet I can’t get the new DVD-ROM drive in the laptop to work.
    Unfortunately I got the NTLDR missing thing, I guess I’ll just repeat the process.

  34. Keith Bishop
    December 4, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    well, i have and old Thikpad 570E, and tryed this with win2000, and works untill the first time when win asks for boot, i press enter,reboots..and then a BLANK screen with a blipping line in the left upper corner…what might be the issue, could someone give me a hand ?

  35. Sebastian
    December 13, 2008 at 5:24 am

    when asked, you should change the FAT32 to NTFS. if the hdd is bigger than 40Gb you might have problems like “one of the components that windows needs could not be install”. to avoid this try NTFS

  36. Joel
    May 28, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    I have been trying this process. I created an unattended, slipstreamed disc, which I have been using just fine, I can just start the installation, walk away, and come back to an XP Desktop with SP3 and all updates already installed. I have a netbook, which does not have a cd-rom, and I tried using this process, wherein I ripped my unattended disc. After the text setup (simple file copy), the machine consequently reboots, and then repeatedly tells me to reboot, and just won’t go to GUI setup. I tried forcing it by running winnt32 on the semi-setup c: drive, and it tells me that it cannot find the cd-rom. DUH! I installed this from the D: partition, there IS no CD-ROM. How do I tackle this? Is there a way to trick it into continuing to use the D: partition throughout setup (Text & GUI), or am I screwed, and forced to buy a USB CD-ROM?

  37. Joey from Taunton
    June 3, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    i dont know what the hell any of you are talking about

  38. September 17, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    I found your blog doing a web search today 9/17.
    I think I better share this on my blog. Thanks

  39. asd
    January 3, 2010 at 2:48 am

    i have laptop nec versapro va80j no cdroom and no floppy A how can i install windows 98 using network?

  40. November 11, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    kylenstevo :wow thankyou, made me the happiest internet person ever awesome;used your very well written instructions to put 98 on my lappy, couldnt do it all night n then half an hour instructions in the morning and its done, you even made me realise that there are partition limits goddamn without meaning toolol im stoopid but thankyou

  1. June 27, 2007 at 11:44 am

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