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How to Create a Bootable USB Drive for XP

Published by monica on Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Photo credit by nagzi

While a lot of people are using Windows 7, there are still people using Windows XP for one reason or another. Some just don't like to adjust themselves to the format and the interface of newer Windows versions, while others are gun shy about all of the problems of newer versions (e.g., Windows Vista). Whatever the reason, XP is still their OS of choice.

One thing is certain; at one time or another nearly every Windows XP user may find their computer refusing to boot. With a boot disk, you can get you computer to boot up, and run diagnostic programs to determine what is preventing the computer from booting.

A bootable flash drive for Windows XP is a device that plugs into your USB port and allows you to boot the computer from the flash drive. This is useful for diagnostic and recovery of an XP computer that has crashed, and become corrupted.

In days past, you would usually have a recovery disk (floppy disk) that you could boot the computer to, and get the system into a recovery state. However, many computers these days do not include floppy drives.

USB flash drives are more efficient, portable, and can hold much more data.

For a bootable USB flash drive to be a viable option, your BIOS must support booting to a USB device. If your computer is less than two years old, this is a fair chance. You may have to change the configuration of your BIOS to accept a USB device.

Once you have determined that your BIOS is compatible with booting from a USB device, the device itself needs to be compatible. A USB flash drive that supports USB 2.0 would be the best one to use. The speed is improved, and while an older flash drive might work, booting it would be almost painfully slow.

Your flash drive must be formatted with FAT-16. Why? Simple, most computers will not recognize a flash drive as being bootable if it is formatted with anything else.

You will also need the following system files to create the boot disk. Boot.ini, NTLDR, and Make copies of them and place them in a separate directory.

You will need this utility to get the USB drive set to be bootable. It is called the HP USB Disk Storage Tool Once you have downloaded and installed this tool, plug your flash drive in and run the utility. You need to make sure that the utility has found the device.

Change the file system to “FAT”. Click on “Create a DOS startup disk” and point the utility to the directory you created with the copies of the system files. Now the utility will create the files you need on the USB drive. Now you can use the USB flash drive to start XP.

Since the advent of the USB drive, floppy drives have become used less, and less. Having the ability to create a diagnostic and recovery tool like a bootable USB flash drive may just well sound the final death knell for the floppy disk.

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