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Easy Windows installation with HBCD tools

One little known use of HBCD is the quick and painless installation of Windows.1 This is particularly useful in dicult situations where additional drivers are needed (e.g. computers with AHCI/SATA controllers), or computers without an optical drive, where only USB sockets are available. You can even install Windows to a computer that has neither optical drive or USB sockets. This guide describes step by step the installation of Windows XP via a USB port with the utility WinNTSetup from the Mini Windows XP environment.

It is assumed that the partition where Windows will be installed is already formated and active (bootable). If you are starting with a raw hard disk, use a utility, such as Acronis Disk Director or Partitin Guru (both are on HBCD), to partition it, format and activate the required partition. You need to have: HBCD DVD or iso image. Windows XP CD or iso image. Optionally, any drivers needed by the system but not included in the Windows installation CD. e.g. AHCI/SATA drivers. Then do the following: Transfer HBCD to a USB ash memory stick or drive.2 Copy the iso image of the Windows XP installation CD to the same USB stick.3 Copy whatever drivers are required to a directory of the same USB stick.4 If no drivers are needed skip this step. Notes: If you rather boot from an optical drive, use an iso image editor such as IsoMaster to add all of the above to the HBCD iso image before burning the image to a disk. If you are installing Windows 7, only copy from the installation DVD the le install.wim.

Insert the HBCD USB ash drive, boot the computer from it and select Mini Windows XP (or Mini Windows 7) from the boot menu. Then start the utility WinNTSetup found in the HBCD Programs Launcher as shown below:
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Windows 2000 to Windows 7 as well as server 2003 and 2008, 32bit and 64 bit. Consult the document usb-instalation.pdf 3 Alternatively, copy the contents of the Windows XP CD to a directory in the USB stick. 4 Subdirectories are permitted, for example you can copy here the directories containing the drivers from the motherboard/graphics driver installation CD.

Select the tab Windows 2000/XP/2003 (the other tab is for Windows Vista or later).

Right click1 on the Search button of the Select location of Windows installation les section of the utility, and seek the Windows XP iso image in the USB stick. If the image is a valid XP installation disk, a label will appear indicating the version, service pack (if any), etc., of the operating system. Click on the Search button of the Select location of the Bootdrive section and select the drive from which windows will boot. In most cases this is the drive where Windows will be installed too. So select the same drive in the section Select location of the Installationsdrive (sic.). Select a dierent drive only if you are creating a dual boot system. If the drive is not already formatted, click the F button and format it as needed (usually a quick NTFS format). It is very important that the active boot ag is set correctly. This is indicated by the tick box BOOT FLAG. It must be coloured green.

If it is red (as shown above), before continuing any further, see the appendix for how to use the utility BootICE to correct this.

Left click will seek a directory, do this if you have copied the setup les from the Windows XP CDROM instead of the monolithic iso image.

If you have extra drivers to install go to the Options section, tick Ad Drivers and locate the drivers directory on the USB stick. Leave the rest of the settings as they are unless you have special requirements and you know what you are doing. Click Setup and select to use bootice.exe to write the boot sector, as shown below:

Then OK to begin the copying the installation les to the hard drive. When WinNTsetup nishes, close it, remove the USB stick and reboot the computer. The installation will continue thereafter automatically. After installation, if required you may start the HBCD Program Launcher and use the tools provided for activation, validation, or make genuine your new Windows.

If the hard drive is already partitioned (as it is in most cases) the installation entails just a few mouse clicks, and it takes no more than 10-15 minutes to install Windows XP SP3 to a typical laptop computer. The instructions can be easily adapted for other Windows OS, or for installations via the optical drive or a second hard drive, and even for the installation of Windows 7 to a ash drive.1 I have made an 8 Gb USB bootable HBCD ash drive and I have included iso images for Windows XP and Windows 7 plus a directory with some drivers so that I can quickly install Windows anywhere. Finally, a very dicult case is installing windows to a computer without an optical drive or a USB socket. Simply remove the hard disk and mount it temporarily (directly or via a USB adaptor) on a machine that has an optical drive or a USB socket. Perform the initial installation with WinNTSetup, as described above, reconnect the hard disk to the original machine and boot it to complete the installation there.

Windows XP cannot be installed in a ash drive.

Appendix: Making a drive bootable with BootICE

BootICE is a boot sector manipulation utility. It can be used to set the master boot record, the partition boot record and the boot active ag. Normally these should have already been set by the partitioning utility, but we give the instructions below just in case something is missing. Start BootICE from the HBCD Program Lancher (Look in the Partition/Boot/MBR submenu). This will open the BootICE main window:

Click Process MBR and from the choices presented select Windows NT 6.x MBR, as shown below, install, and close.

Click Process PBR and from the choices presented select NTLDR boot record, as shown below, install, and close.1

Note that for Windows Vista/7 the selection should be BOOTMGR.

Click Parts Manage and from the list select the drive, then click Activate and close.

Close BootICE, go back to WinNTSetup, reload the boot hard drive, check that the three ags are green and continue with the Windows installation.