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How To Install Windows XP On Any Laptop Without CD Drive

How To Install Windows XP On Any Laptop Without CD Drive

Install Windows XP From Scratch On Laptop Without Working CD Or Floppy Drive

After buying a new Asus laptop running Windows Vista I found that certain applications that run fine on XP, simply do not work. Although I could search out alternative pieces of software compatible with Vista, I am stuck in my ways and would prefer to use my favored tools.

So I turned to my old Vaio, a machine which crashed never to be revived – until now, in hope of re-installing XP for those odds bits of software which refuse to work on Vista.

Remove HDD From Laptop

A straight forward reinstall, especially with the recovery disks, would have been no problem, but mine was not that simple. I have no recovery disks, the CD drive doesn’t work, and my laptop, like most these days, does not have a floppy drive. Unless you have a brand new laptop, you will probably find that your bios version does not support “Boot from USB”. For anyone who has performed a fresh install on a laptop, you will know all these factors can amount to nothing less than problematic.

Faced with my current situation the first fix that came to mind was to place my hdd directly inside another laptop with a working CD drive, then run the installation using the Windows XP disk.

Everything seemed to work fine but when I put the hdd back in my Vaio and switched it on; it failed to read anything, as if Windows was not even there. This is common for many brands of laptop.

If you find yourself in this awkward situation, there is a tried and tested method for installing XP on any laptop.

You will however, need access to:

  • A desktop computer
  • A copy of Windows and MS DOS 7.10
  • ALL of your drivers, usually available from the manufacturers website
  • A 44-pin Laptop IDE to 40-pin IDE convertor, available for less than 20 bucks

44-pin Laptop IDE to 40-pin IDE convertor and USB Flash

Here’s what you do:

  • First carefully remove the hard drive from your laptop
  • With the power off, plug the hard drive into the desktop’s second IDE port using the 44-pin to 40-pin IDE convertor. Power on the machine and the drive should show in My Computer
  • Laptop HDD Connected to Desktop PC

  • If it is not already, you will need to format the drive to FAT 32. You can always switch it back later with a program like Partition Magic if you like. My Vaio was already partitioned with 20GB FAT32 on the primary drive C: and 20GB NFTS on the data drive D: I have kept the same file systems since the install and it works just fine
  • Note: Be sure to back up any vital data, formatting the drives will completely erase any information stored on the hdd
  • Once the hdd is formatted using the correct file system, you will need to insert the Windows disk into the desktop and copy the I386 from the CD to your laptop hard drive (If you have a partition set up, you should copy the folder to FAT 32 C: drive to save confusion later on)
  • Next insert the MS DOS CD, power down the desktop and switch the laptop hdd to the 1st IDE port. This will help DOS recognize the hdd you wish to install on. MS DOS version 7.10 (free download) contains a smartdrv.exe file which helps speed up DOS transfers.
  • Power on the desktop and machine should boot from CD, prompting you to click though the steps to install MS DOS
  • Once you’ve finished power down the PC and replace the hdd in your laptop
  • Turn the laptop on and DOS should load
  • At the command prompt you should type,
    • C:smartdrv.exe – to enable faster data transfer during the installation
    • C:I386winnt.exe – to run the Windows installer
  • Now let the installation complete its process. This may take a while, especially if your hdd is old, 5-10min is not an unreasonable wait with smartdrv.exe installed, expect longer without it
  • Follow the steps in the Windows installer and within 1-2 hours, depending on computer speeds, the installation will be complete
  • Now you can begin installing your drivers. These can, fortunately enough, be installed via USB. Just copy the setup files to your flash drive and run driver installations from there
  • Now you will have both MS DOS and Windows XP installed on your laptop. You can leave the dual boot and your computer will still function fine, or you can opt to remove the MS DOS leaving only XP

In our next article, we take a closer look at removing a Dual Boot in Windows

So, as long as you have access to a desktop computer, some peripherals and the correct software, you can install Windows XP on any stubborn laptop.

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  1. This was exactly the solution I was looking for. I followed the instructions step by step, and now I have a clean Windows XP on my laptop. Although it’s the same idea, I used a hard drive enclosure instead of a 44-pin Laptop IDE to 40-pin IDE convertor.

  2. What if you don’t have access to a desktop pc but can place the drive into a drive enclosure and connect it to another working laptop of a different model?

  3. The key is running the hard drive as a primary. Running it via a usb or similar connection won’t work. You could use another laptop instead of a computer though.

  4. i followed the directions to the letter and had no problems till after windows installed and restarted. thats when i got the NDTLR is missing error,i’m doing the whole process over again now. keeping my fingers crossed,any ideas?

  5. oops…NTLDR is missing sorry and got the same error after second install…

  6. You are using Windows ME or NT?

    To resolve this issue, use one or more of the following methods, and then restart your computer:

    * Remove the non-system disk from your boot device. For example, remove the non-system disk from the floppy drive or the CD-ROM drive.

    * Change your computer’s boot sequence (usually by press F2 to access your bios). To do this, you must change your computer’s setup and the option that controls which device your computer uses to start from. Make sure that you select a device that has boot files (or operating system files) installed.

    * If you start your computer from a hard disk drive, install a bootable operating system (such as Windows XP) on the drive.

  7. i also have a ntldr missing and i am using win 2000 pro sp4could i be something to do with ms dos instalation?

  8. it keeps removing my posts?
    i am installing win 2000 pro sp4 and i keep getting “ntldr missing press any key to restart”. it happens after windows copys files and the restarts to start the next xtep of the setup. what am i doing wrong? is there any cd drive that can plug into a laptop hard drive socket?

  9. Using a hard drive enclosure will work. Running it via a usb or similar connection will work if the boot order for the BIOS is set to that device first. The problem is that not all BIOS chips support booting from a USB.

  10. thank you very much, i tried just about everything but did not once consider copying the i386 files (DUH!). And DOS 7.1, WOW takes me back! I am very appreciative of this new found knowledge. Not bad for a Laptop given to me because the user thought is was JUNK!!!

    Laptop is an:

    Intel Celeron 1.06 Cpu
    IBM 20GB 5400 RPM

  11. I have the same problem with my laptop and i am using a desktop for that. I m still confused when hooking up the laptop HD to the Desktop, my desktop does not recognise it unless i plug it direct to the desktop system, leaving out the desktop hardrive.
    And when i do that , do i have to install windows Xp from scratch to the laptop HD and then install MS DOS 7.1 or there must be done sth else…

  12. Any idea why my desktop is not showing as connected my laptop drive hooked up in the secondary IDE port???? thanks

  13. I did this procedure last night, and got the famoust “NTLDR is missing, press any key to restart.” Where there any other suggestions to fixing this besides what was listed? It’s also doing it when it restarts after copying files to load Windows XP.

  14. I have the same problem that Jeff have with the missing NTLDR file and I don´t know how to solve it, I´am installing Windows XP on a DELL laptop, latitude C400, 512 MB, 30GB HDD,without CD-ROM or Floppy.

  15. On my second try it work very nice, without any kind of problems…. thanks very much for this information.

  16. nice.. id been looking for this solution for a long time, good job..!

  17. Anyway to work around only having one IDE port?

    Can’t seem to get my 2.5 laptop drive to read from the sata (with 2 adapters), externally usb or via PCI serial ATA controller card when trying to install DOS.

    My dvd drive is using the only IDE port on my motherboard.

    I have a floppy drive but its never worked with my motherboard, just always keeps searching for a disc even when a floppy is in there.

    please help…

  18. I copied I386 folder to my hard disk drive, C: partation which is formatted by FAT32 and I installed sys files and smartdrv.exe and then I configured config.sys file and copied himem.sys to under C: drive. When I run Winnt.exe and system is running system file copying process and restarted machine. At the Windows Installation Process at 39 Minutes, I occoured “the file asms on windows xp professional service pack 2 cd is needed” and although i choose browse C:\I386 location, doesn’t work. Please help me.

    • Again, this is probably a corrupt file. A portion of the Windows disc may not be reading the info, and not copying it across – that’s why you can’t find it when you’re browsing the files.

      I’ve had this problem before, and I was using an official Windows disc. I then tried it with a copied backup version of the same CD, and it worked fine.

  19. I have hp pavillion dv5000 laptop. I think the OS,winxp failed. CD/DVD drive can’t work. In the bios utility, It is seems that it possible to boot over network.
    How can I boot from a working pc cd drive over network to install fresh winxp to my laptop.
    Thank you.

  20. I’m using
    TOSHIBA A200 portage
    system unit.
    CD-ROM damaged,
    have floppy drive,
    does not support usb booting.
    ”NTLDR is missing, press any key to restart.”
    i’ve that problem for 15days what can be the solution let know please if anyone knows.
    you can use my eMail:

    • The NTRL could be missing for a several reasons, the most common of which would be:

      1. Your installation disk might be corrupt, therefore it’s not copying the necessary files over.

      2. You could have installed the Windows OS on the wrong partition of the drive.

      If you know for sure you have followed the process exactly, the chance are it has something to do with your Windows disc.

  21. I have seen similar problems posted in the Toshiba forum. Most likely you have a corrupted OS and will need to run Recovery Console from your Windows Disk or supplied Toshiba Disk. This fixes the problem very easy, however since you do not have a CD Drive or USB Boot try the following:

    1. Boot into DOS mode and run scandisk
      • – This may repair corrupt hard drive files
    2. If that does not work, take out our laptop hard drive and put it in a laptop with a functioning CD drive. Run the Recovery Console from your install CD.
      • – After it finishes put your hard drive back into your laptop
  22. i have lenovo y410 laptop. i am facing problem regarding cd drive. cd drive is unable to read any cd but the folder of cd drive is displayed on my coomputer. plz help me.

    • Exactly the same problem I had. Seemed like my CD drive was working, but it failed to read anything on the CD’s!

      Unfortunately, sounds like you’ll have to replace your CD drive to get it working, or use an external one. But if your Windows crashes, this article will help you re install everything without buying a new CD drive (if you have access to a desktop pc)

  23. Next insert the MS DOS CD in to the hard drive?

    • Sorry if my wording was confusing. I was continuing from the previous step, in which case the laptop HDD should already be placed in the 1st IDE port of the desktop, then “insert the MS DOS (installation) CD” into the CD drive of the desktop. It is from here you will install MS DOS on your Laptop HDD, using the CD drive of your desktop.

  24. ik krijg de ntldr missing
    maar niet met windows
    maar al in de pc als ik de dos cd erin doe om op de harde schijf te zetten
    Plaats vervolgens de MS-DOS-cd, electrische vaststelling van de desktop en zet de laptop hdd naar de 1e IDE poort. This will help DOS recognize the hdd you wish to install on. Dit zal helpen DOS herkent de hdd die u wilt installeren op

    bij deze stap gaat het dus al mis
    iemand enig idee.
    het bestand staat wel op de dos cd

  25. I followed the same procedure and after windows copies files to the hard disk and restarts for the second phase of installation My laptop shuts down. I am installing winxp on Toshiba a60. Any solution to this problem?

  26. Your NTLDR missing problem is probably because you haven’t set the fat32 partition as “active”.
    While you have the laptop HD connected to your desktop in windows mode, goto control panel, administrative tools, computer managment, storage, disk management.
    Right Click on the proper drive and left “mark partition as active”

  27. for those who have the same problem i have/had,
    has cd rom but will not boot from cd,  it could be because the cd you are using is a burned cd…..
    which ultimately disregards the op’s whole post

  28. what if the toshiba 2.1 hdd doesnt have male or female pins, its more of a slotted or male into the toshiba slot (female)
    still wish for an answer to this, bought and had shipped the above 40 pin doohikie. Mistake noted.

  29. @John Fahlsing: the ‘male into slot’ thingie is likely a plastic piece that was placed over your “male” pins on the hard drive.  Try to carefully pry it away from the body of the hard drive – you should find the expected pins there.

  30. Thanks lot for your guide.

    I install windows xp sp-2 to Toshiba A40L laptop using this method. i use another laptop to install DOS 7.10 and copy i386 via usb IDE convertor.

  31. NTLDR is missing can be fixed by formatting the laptop drive in the laptop.  1) connect the laptop drive to a computer with a cd drive that contains a bootable DOS 7.1 cd  2) reboot  3) install DOS 7.1 on the laptop drive  4) remove the laptop drive and put it in the laptop  5) start laptop   6) change directory to DOS 7.1  7) type format c:  8) the laptop drive will lose everything, including the DOS 7.1 files  8) do the entire procedure above all over again, i.e. load DOS 7.1 on the laptop drive then copy the i386 files to it then put the laptop drive in the laptop  9) small correction to the instructions above:  you have to change directory to DOS 7.1 to execute smartdrv.exe and change directory to i386 to execute winnt.exe.  GUARANTEED TO WORK WITH NO NTLDR IS MISSING PROBLEM UPON REBOOT.

  32. I posted a fix for the NTLDR is missing problem, but it never appeared.  Oh well.

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