XP SP3 Boot Diskettes

Discussion in 'Windows XP / Older OS' started by Galileo Figaro, Dec 1, 2014.

  1. Galileo Figaro

    Galileo Figaro MDL Junior Member

    Sep 6, 2010
    #1 Galileo Figaro, Dec 1, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2014
    There was this ancient IBM Thinkpad T21 that
    needed an XP installed onto it. Problem was
    it had no CD drive, just an internal floppy

    After having tried and failed several of the
    alternatives for transferring the XP
    installation files to USB, and they all
    failed for different reasons, I decided to
    try boot floppies.

    I know, "boot floppies"? Wasn't that
    something they used in the computer stone
    age? Well, yes. So consider this a very
    retro exercise.

    Microsoft still provides boot floppy images
    for download. They're different downloads
    for the Home or the Professional edition of
    XP. You also need to match the language of
    your XP installation CD with the language of
    the boot floppies. But the type of licensing
    doesn't matter. There are no OEM and VLK
    versions. In my case I needed the XP SP3
    Home Swedish version.

    There's a little problem though. The boot
    floppy images are Service Pack level
    sensitive as well. My XP is SP3, but the
    newest floppy images available are SP2

    After googling about the subject I found a
    tip that said if you copied over one file
    from the SP3 XP CD and replaced the resident
    one on the first floppy, you'd have your SP3
    upgraded boot floppy. So I downloaded the
    closest image to what I needed, SP2 Home

    When you download the boot floppy images you
    get a single file. By running this file
    you're taken through a process where the
    program asks you to feed the floppy drive 6
    floppies in a sequence and, if everything
    goes well, you'll have your 6 XP SP2 Home
    Swedish diskettes.

    But we're gonna do it another way.

    First we'll extract the separate files that
    contain the images of the floppies. We'll do
    that painlessly with the aid of WinRAR. Then
    we'll use a program called WinImage to
    replace the file TXTSETUP.SI_ on the first
    diskette image with TXTSETUP.SIF from the
    SP3 Home CD, which will make the floppies
    accept working with an SP3 system.

    TXTSETUP.SI_ and TXTSETUP.SIF are treated
    the same way by the installation program.
    Difference being that TXTSETUP.SI_ is CAB
    packed while TXTSETUP.SIF is a straight text
    file. If both are present, the straight file
    will be preferred.

    With WinImage the physical floppies can be
    formatted and written in one go. The nice
    thing, compared to doing it the Microsoft
    way, is that if a floppy fails you don't
    have to start all over from the beginning.

    And that's all there's to it. Kinda.

    A prerequisite for this to work is that your
    source CD isn't heavily patched with mass
    storage drivers etc. Use an unpatched
    source. If you really need mass storage
    drivers you can put them on another floppy
    and invoke them with F6 while the first boot
    floppy is loading.

    Before happily grabbing the 6 floppies and
    running off to wherever you'll perform the
    installation, have a dry run with them.

    This means, boot a computer with the first
    diskette, feed it the second when asked to,
    the third, etc. Untill all 6 have loaded
    without complaints, or without blue screen
    crashes. If the installation program
    complains that some file is missing, write
    down the name of that file and copy it to
    that diskette from your CD. If you get a
    blue screen crash, write down the error
    numbers and google for them.

    After successfully loading of all 6
    diskettes the installation program will find
    that PCMCIA attached eternal USB CD-DVD
    drive containing your XP installation CD. Or
    even that parallel port attached CD drive,
    if you provided the F6 drivers for it.

    The rest of the installation will proceed in
    the normal way. Reboots during installation
    will not require the diskettes again. If you
    don't want to really install XP you can just
    check that the CD is found and then turn off
    the computer.

    If the dry run was succesful you could add
    another file to the first diskette, namely
    WINNT.SIF, which is the answer file for the
    installation program. In it are the answers
    to questions you'd normally type in with
    your keyboard or click with your mouse. Like
    the serial number or the time zone you live
    in. A WINNT.SIF file on floppy will override
    the one contained in the CD. If there is one
    there. Many times there isn't. Look in the
    i386 folder.

    An idea one might get when studying
    TXTSETUP.SIF, which is the file that tells
    the installation program what to load and
    where everything is, is that maybe one
    should edit it and remove unneeded stuff?

    Good idea. One only needs to precede a line
    with reminder or comment signs, a semicolon
    ; to make it not count.

    But it seems TXTSETUP.SIF is quite sensitive
    to tampering and crashes when the semicolon
    is placed in front of the wrong line.

    For the adventurous personality there are
    even further ideas. Provided that the first
    diskette is copied the right way, it
    contains a boot loader, the content of the
    other floppies can be simply dumped to some
    other media. Like a USB stick for instance.

    Easiest way to do this is via UltraISO. By
    transferring boot floppy 1 to a USB stick
    with UltraISO and by then adding the files
    of the other diskettes to that same stick,
    you'll have a bootable XP stick of sorts. It
    will try finding an installation CD and then
    reboot or crash.

    Since I don't want to end my post with the
    word crash, I'll just add;

    Good luck!
  2. urie

    urie Moderator
    Staff Member

    May 21, 2007
    Only one point confuses me here on older machines that did not have cdrom they also did not have usb ports they came far later. And the last actuall boot disks (floppy) to boot cd that I can remember were for widows 98 after that widows 98 se could boot from cd itself . you mention UltraISO before it came out you could use nero to add bootable floppy image to your xp iso to also make it bootable :biggrin: been years now since I have needed to :D
  3. Galileo Figaro

    Galileo Figaro MDL Junior Member

    Sep 6, 2010
    The starting point for this exercise was an IBM Thinkpad T21. That laptop has from factory a CDROM drive, as well as a floppy drive. But not at the same time. They use a bay system which can be filled with either a floppy unit or a CDROM unit. In this particular case though, the CDROM drive was lost.

    Also, the machine has one single USB 1 port, but I added a 4-port USB 2.1 PCMCIA card. To this faster port I attached an external CD-DVD reader, which could be accessed after loading the 6 boot diskettes.

    Booting with DOS from W98 won't help in this case. Although you could install XP from DOS up to XP SP2, with SP3 that option no longer works.
  4. mockingbird

    mockingbird MDL Member

    Mar 13, 2011
    Do you know if there's a way to obtain XP x64 boot disks? I don't think this ever existed. If not, is it possible to modify the XP bootdisks with the x64 files?
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  5. Galileo Figaro

    Galileo Figaro MDL Junior Member

    Sep 6, 2010
    I believe you're right, boot diskettes were never officially supported for XP x64 by MS. If you just need to install XP x64 and if the system in question refuses to boot from CD, try transferring it to USB and then use PLOP to make it boot from there.

    The only reason I went through the procedure with boot floppies was because I couldn't make the transfer of the installation files to USB stick work. I tried Rufus and Novacorp and one other solution that I've forgotten the name of. Finally I lost patience and went the floppy way.

    If you want to make x64 boot floppies for fun or sport, then you'd have to try and fail and then try again. Just don't forget to tell us about it here.