Friday, September 12, 2008

How to Create an XP Bootable USB Flash Drive

An XP bootable flash drive is a flash memory device that has been configured to allow you to boot up Windows XP on a computer by plugging in your flash drive device into the USB port. An XP bootable flash drive is highly useful for two purposes:

  1. Booting up XP to troubleshoot on any computer that permits the boot.
  2. Transporting Windows applications between different physical locations such as home and the office.

To create an XP bootable flash drive, you first need a computer that has BIOS that will permit you to configure its USB port as a configurable device. Then you need a flash memory drive that is set up to be able to act as a booting device. It might not be readily known at first if you have a flash memory drive that is going to boot; one thing to look for when you access a computer's BIOS is whether or not the plugged-in flash drive appears in the listed items on the setup screen. Hopefully this happens, and you can then select this as the first device to check during your boot sequence. Some computers might require that you hit F10 to select your flash memory device.

Assuming that you have the computer and the drive that you need, now you need to get the software that will permit you to condense Windows XP onto your flash memory device. This includes: PE Builder, which is easy to install just by following the directions; you need to install it into your root directory and make a folder in C:PEBUILDER3110a called SRSP1. This will enable you to download Windows Server 2003 Service Pack One to this place. There are only two files you need from it: setupldr.bin and ramdisk.sys. Don't extract anything else, because you may totally corrupt your current version of Windows if you do. Specifically, never run the Windows Server 2003 SP1 executable file.

Once you have these files, run your PE Builder CD (Windows XP Professional CD). Make sure you hold down the [Shift] key to prevent Autostart from launching the CD. Launch PE Builder manually. When the Source field on the main PE Builder screen, enter the letter of the drive in which you put the CD. Check to see that the Output box contains BartPE and that the "None" option is selected in the Media Output panel. Once you have all this squared away, click Build. You can watch the progress of the compression.

When it's complete you're prepared to format and copy the Windows XP Professional bootable image to the UFD with the BartPE USB Installer. Open a Command Prompt window and use the CD command to switch to the pebuilder3110a folder. Next, insert the UFD into a USB port; note the drive letter to which it is assigned, as you'll need to enter it into your next command prompt that you type.

Let's imagine that it was assigned to drive E. You will now type the following command (take note of the last letter in the command). pe2usb -f e:

When Bart is all done, you just hit any key to exit the program, and you have your XP bootable flash drive.

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