How to add Windows to a USB Drive to Install on a Netbook

I am in the process of installing Windows XP on an HP Mini netbook and wanted to share a bit about the process I just had to go through to get here.

First the back story…

We recently sold this netbook at a yard sale. The funny thing was we didn’t even have this on display yet, I was behind schedule getting it ready for the sale, but the full-sized laptop I put in the sale on Friday was the first item to sell so I found the motivation to finish the project and get the netbook ready for Saturday’s customers. Before that could even happen, a friendly neighbor stopped by and offered to buy the netbook. Aimee showed it to her, but told her it wasn’t ready and she insisted she would wait until I finished it and that she indeed wanted this netbook. Cool!

Nothing was wrong with the netbook’s operating system I just wanted to re-install it to make it fresh for the new owner. I found the system CD that came with my HP Mini when I bought it; kind of silly that a netbook that does not have a CD-ROM comes with the necessary software on a CD. I added the contents of that disk to an external drive, plugged it into the netbook, and ran the setup executable. Other than that, I ran some updates and made sure all the drivers were installed handed it over the happy neighbor the next day.

A couple of weeks have gone by and I’m guessing everything is good to go when our neighbor stops by with the netbook in hand. Uh-oh, this doesn’t look good. You see, this netbook was purchased for a young boy to play with while at grandma’s house which sounded pretty harmless. It’s not really that a little boy was the problem here, it’s that website are so tricky to get innocent, unsuspecting users to click on an advertisement or malicious link to earn a few bucks. I’m not sure what it was, but some program completely took over this netbook. It kept telling the user to purchase the necessary software to clean the infections that rubbed off from the Internet. It prevented the user from opening the task manager, control panel, or even running executable files like MalwareBytes. This system was hosed and now I couldn’t even run the setup file to re-install XP and start over. If I only had a CD-ROM, smh.

Now to the present day…

My options were limited. If I pulled the hard drive and put in an external enclosure, I could slave it to a functioning computer and possibly run the necessary tools to clean the infected drive, but what if this was contagious. What if my computer got knocked out, then I would have two computers that needed to be fixed and that would make me very unhappy. So this option sounded like a long shot right from the get go and I began to question whether or not I should just give our neighbor back the money she invested in my HP Mini.

Another option floating around in my head was to somehow format a USB or flash drive with the operating system files, make it bootable, get the netbook to recognize it, and start the install process. I don’t really use flash drives anymore. The Army denies us the right to plug them into government computers and I don’t really move many files at home or if I do it is through the clouds. The first drive I pulled out; only 256 MB. Seriously, I can’t put a slideshow of Chuck Norris jokes on there. My next and last drive is 16 GB, but it’s full of junk including the files I need to install XP on the netbook. So I start copying everything over to my desktop PC and pulled up YouTube to search for ways to make a USB drive bootable. I got about 3 links deep and I was ready to roll!

The first video I watched was short and sweet, it was a command line tool called DISKPART.exe. This was a step in the right direction, it would walk you through making a USB Drive bootable, but I still needed to get my OS files on the disk and work with the netbook.

The second video I watched had Patrick Norton, a seasoned vet in the world of TechTV shows and his trusty sidekick guy, whom I have seen before, but never really caught his name. Their processor was more technical than I wanted to get, but they used Bart PE which got me thinking I should just download that program and see what I could do with it.

The third video was my jackpot! Titled: How to install Windows XP / 2003 / Vista / 7 / Bart PE via USB and it was perfect. Go to the site Wintoflash and download their latest software (in beta). Install the basic version, no activation key needed, just the hit NEXT. Point to the location of the operating system files, which were now on my desktop PC and point to the location of my USB drive. Start the process and let it takes as long as it needs, because when it is finished it will work like a champ!

Sorry for the long story when all I really wanted to share was in the last paragraph before the video, but I’m excited! What can I say! It’s taking forever and a day to copy the files to the freshly formatted hard drive, but once I get passed this I’m good to go and our neighbor’s grandson will be back in business with some kind of virus protection software to help keep him safe.


I forgot to add that if I had more time I would have wanted to sub-partition my USB drive with 4 GB for this feature and the rest for regular files. I typically keep a folder on my drive called “Toolkit” that I use when cleaning infected computer systems and I could add Bart PE to the 4 GB partition to side boot and run additional diagnostics on machines.


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