Creating a bootable USB flash drive for Windows XP
However, before you can create a bootable UFD, you must clear a few hurdles. You saw that one coming didn't you?
The first hurdle is having a PC in which the BIOS will allow you to configure the USB port to act as a bootable device. The second hurdle is having a UFD that that will work as a bootable device and that's large enough and fast enough to boot an operating system such as Windows XP. The third hurdle is finding a way to condense and install Windows XP on a UFD.
If you have a PC that was manufactured in the last several years, chances are that its BIOS will allow you to configure the USB port to act as a bootable device. If you have a good quality UFD that's at least 512 KB and that was manufactured in the last couple of years, you've probably cleared the second hurdle. And once you've cleared those first two hurdles, the third one is a piece of cake. All you have to do is download and run some free software to create the bootable UFD.
I'll start by showing you how to determine whether your PC's BIOS will support booting from USB and explain how to configure it to do so. Then, I'll show you how to download and use the free software to create a bootable UFD running Windows XP Professional.
The UFD hurdleYou probably noticed that I didn't mention how to determine if your UFD would support being configured as a bootable device, except that it must be a good quality unit of recent manufacture. Well, I've discovered that when it comes to the actual UFD, you'll just have to try it and see what happens. As long as you have a PC with a BIOS that will allow you to configure the USB port to act as a bootable device and you have configured the installation correctly, it should work. If it doesn't, you probably have a UFD that can't boot.
I tested three UFDs on two new computers and had mixed success. First, I attempted to use a 128 MB PNY Attache but received an error message that said "Invalid or damaged Bootable partition" on both PCs. Next, I tried a 1GB Gateway UFD and it worked on both PCs. Then, I tried a 256 MB Lexar JumpDrive Pro and it worked on only one of the PCs. You can find lists of UFD brands that others have had success with on the Internet.
Checking the BIOSNot every new BIOS will allow you to configure the USB port to act as a bootable device. And some that do allow it don't make it easy. On one of my example systems, it was a no-brainer. On the other, the UFD had to be connected to the USB port before it was apparent that I could configure it as a bootable device. Let's take a closer look.
On the test system with a PhoenixBIOS version 62.04, I accessed the BIOS, went to the boot screen, and found that USB Storage Stick was one of the options. I then moved it to the top of the list, as shown in Figure A, thus making it the first device to check during the boot sequence. (This particular BIOS also allowed me to press the [F10] key during the boot sequence and select any one of the available bootable devices, so it really wasn't necessary to move it to the top.)
|The settings on the Boot Screen of the PhoenixBIOS made it a no-brainer to select the device.|
|A USB boot option didn't appear on the Boot Sequence screen.|
|The Hard Disk Drives screen only showed the SATA hard disk.|
|With the UFD plugged into the USB port, I could configure the UFD as a bootable device.|
|As the Boot Sequence screen indicates, the UFD was set to be the first bootable device.|
Rounding up the softwareTo condense and install Windows XP on a UFD, you'll need a program called PE Builder by Bart Lagerweij. You'll also need two files from the Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1. And of course, you need to have a Windows XP Professional CD.
You can download PE Builder from Bart's Web site. At the time of this writing, the most current version of PE Builder was 3.1.10a.
You can download Windows Server 2003 SP1 by following the link in the Knowledge Base article "How to obtain the latest service pack for Windows Server 2003." Be sure to get the 32-bit version!
Keep in mind that at 329 MB, Windows Server 2003 SP1 will take some time to download. And although you need just two small files, the only way to get them is to download the entire package.
WarningDo not run the Windows Server 2003 SP1 executable file! Doing so will completely corrupt Windows XP. We will use a set of special commands to extract the two files and then delete the rest of the package.
Preparing the softwareInstalling PE Builder is quick and easy. Just run the installation program and follow the onscreen instructions. To make things simpler, I installed the program in the root directory in a folder called PEBUILDER3110a.
Once PE Builder is installed, you'll need to create a folder in C:\PEBUILDER3110a called SRSP1, as shown in Figure F. This is the folder in which PE Builder will look for the extracted Windows Server 2003 SP1 files.
|Once PE Builder is installed, you'll need to create folder called SRSP1 in C:\PEBUILDER3110a.|
To begin, open a Command Prompt window and use the CD command to change to the folder in which you downloaded the Windows Server 2003 SP1 executable file. I downloaded the file to a folder called Downloads. Now, to extract the files contained in SP1, type the command
WS-SP1.exe -xYou'll immediately see a dialog box that prompts you to select a folder in which to extract the files and can type the name of the same folder, as shown in Figure G. Click OK to proceed with the extraction procedure. When the procedure is complete, just leave the Command Prompt window open.
|You can extract the files into the same folder containing the Windows Server 2003 SP1 executable file|
copy setupldr.bin c:\pebuilder3110a\srsp1Expand the ramdisk.sy_ file to the SRSP1 folder with the command:
expand -r ramdisk.sy_ c:\pebuilder3110a\srsp1These three steps are illustrated in Figure H.
|You'll copy and expand the two necessary files to the SRSP1 folder.|
|You'll want to verify that the setupldr.bin and ramdisk.sys files are in the SRSP1 folder.|
Running PE BuilderNow that you've extracted the necessary files from the Windows Server 2003 SP1 package, you're ready to use PE Builder to create a compressed version of Windows XP. To begin, place your Windows XP Professional CD into the drive and hold down the [Shift] key to prevent Autostart from launching the CD. Then, launch PE Builder.
In the Source field on the main PE Builder screen, simply type the letter of drive in which you put the Windows XP Professional CD, as shown in Figure J. Make sure that the Output box contains BartPE and that the None option is selected in the Media Output panel. Then, click the Build button.
|Fill in the Source field on the main PE Builder screen.|
|PE Builder displays a detailed progress report.|
Preparing the UFD to boot Windows XPAt this point, you're ready to format and copy the Windows XP Professional bootable image to the UFD with the BartPE USB Installer. To do so, open a Command Prompt window and use the CD command to change to the pebuilder3110a folder. Then, insert your UFD into a USB port and take note of the drive letter that it is assigned. On my example system, the UFD was assigned drive E.
Now, type the command
pe2usb -f e:You'll then be prompted to confirm this part of the operation, as shown in Figure L. While the operation is underway, you'll see progress indicators.
|You'll be prompted to confirm that you want to format your UFD.|
|The BartPE interface provides you with a pared down version of Windows XP.|
ConclusionBooting Windows XP from a UFD requires that your PC's BIOS support booting from USB and that you have a UFD that can be formatted as a bootable device. If you can meet these two requirements, all you need is PE Builder, a couple of files from the Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, and a little effort to configure a UFD to boot the BartPE interface to Windows XP.
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