Installing Windows on External Hard Drive


I’m having a problem with my internal hard drive so I took it out and put it in my other computer to format it. I want to try to install Windows on NOW EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE but being an EXTERNAL from other computer, i would assume there is different way to install windows on it. Can anyone tell me how to do it? It drives me insane because when i put it internal again, it said ‘Bootable disk is missing, insert system disk’ so i’m thinking because there is Windows in it, is that correct?

Thank you so very much in advance.


That could mean the drive is on its way out, it could mean that something isn’t hooked up properly, it could mean you need to update the firmware of the drive or that the motherboard’s BIOS need updating. In short, it could be a lot of things.

We need more info. What did it say / how did it behave in your other computer? Did you format it successfully? If so, did you partition it and set it as active?

“Bootable disk missing” is not an error you would get if Windows was installed to the drive. If you formatted the drive, there would be no installation of Windows, right?

Give us some more information and we can help you.

Why did you take it out in the first place? Most of the time you could do what you need to do and leave it inside.

In my other computer, it works just fine as an EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE. I’ve format the hard drive but i didn’t partition it or active it. I might try it again later. I HAVE NOT INSTALL the Windows XP on it because i don’t know how to install it on the external hard drive. Do you think it is possible? Because my problem is Bootable disk missing and it’s because the windows is not there, is there anyway i can install windows on external hdd without formating my C drive?

Thank you

No need to shout, I can read “external” just as easily as “EXTERNAL.” :smiley:

I still don’t understand why you removed the internal hard drive. What was the reason for doing this?

You say it’s working as an external drive. I assume that you have an enclosure for it then?

The easiest thing for you to do is to hook it back up to the machine you want to use it in and install Windows XP from there.

If you do have an enclosure and it can be hooked up through USB, most motherboards will allow you to write to these drives whether you have Windows installed or not. Do this: when you boot up the computer with the external drive plugged in, go to your BIOS and see if there is a hard drive detected. If so, then you shouldn’t have any problems installing XP to it.

If you can’t do it externally, put the drive back into the machine you want to use it in and then make sure the BIOS can see it.

XP setup discs should boot by themselves, without the need for a boot floppy disc. Make sure your BIOS has the proper options set for CD-ROM boot.

Windows setup will allow you to partition the drive, make it active and ask you if how you want to format it (FAT32, NTFS. Go NTFS).

The reason that you need to have it hooked up to the computer you are going to use it in is so that Windows setup will identify all of your hardware and install the proper drivers for it. You can NOT setup Windows from your other machine using the drive externally and expect it to work properly.

Let us know how it goes. And remember: is your best friend.

By the way: you probably posted this in the wrong section. I’ll see if I can get a mod to move it to another section so that more people see it.

Sorry, I’ve forgotten to mention that my DVD is not working. The computer cannot read it no matter what. I’ve already check so many times the M/S but it just won’t read. It works if i put it external though. So that’s why I cannot install the Windows internally. Is there any way I can copy the whole Window CD to a Thumb Disk and then boot it from there?

When i tried to do it on my other computer, even though i’d selected the external HDD but when i format it, it has to format the c drive first and then format the d drive.

Thank you so much for your help, I’d really appreciated it.


Windows XP can not be installed on external drives. Just forget it. It won’t boot.


This question is btw not really related to the topic of this forum “flash memory”, isn’t it?

Moved to the Hard Drives forum, as it’s pertaining to an external HDD :slight_smile:


Move your working CD or DVD drive then. That would be the easiest thing.


You can try this:

Of course the easiest thing to do is to just [I]search Google[/I] as it’s quicker than posting and waiting for replies. All I had to do what type “windows xp setup flash drive.”


does your motherboard support USB or other external disc bootup??? Make sure your motherboard has this features before you even think of using external drive as your boot drive. But I dont recommend using external bootup disc and use it to boot 2 different computers. You will get hardward conflict and other things that will crash your system. Only time that you can do this is when your 2 computers have identical motherboard

Your drive will not boot unless it is activated.
Instead of using a usb stick for windows if you make a small partition and copy the windows cd to it on this drive you will find that will work for the installation of windows. Place the drive back in your machine and use a floppy to load dos, go to the partition with windows and run the setup program.

Hmmm…i think mine is a bit more complicated. I just found out that the only IDE cable that works is onu my Primary Master. For some reason, the others does not work no matter how hard I try. So I cannot stick my USB AND my HDD so it has to be either. And it seems like there is a Windows installed in the HDD in there but it’s missing NTLR or something. Do you think I can put the bootable in the HDD instead in USB? or maybe is it possible to add the NTLR? I know…my case is weird, right??

Run over this page long ago but never tried it myself. :wink:
Look quite advanced for me. :bigsmile:

USB2 (1GB) stick needed.

Thank you guys, I’ve fixed the problem and now my computer is working. Thank you so very much for everything. God Bless you, guys… Thank you once again :slight_smile:

Totally not true. Windows XP can be installed on external Harddrive. In order to do so Windows installation disk has to be modified certain way. After that it installes just as easily as with internal harddrive. I did it. And it works just fine.

Seems to me to be kind of a waste of time except if there was some extreme need for it.

Great! Glad you got it worked out. :slight_smile:

For the benifit of some member that might try the same process could you explain how did solve and overcome the problem of installing WinXP in USB drive.

Hey Jason, Could gimme the details of how to install Windows on the external HD. please help

Thank you,

Hey Jason, Could you gimme the details to install Windows on the external hard drive. Please help

Thank you,

Sorry, did not check this thread in a while.

What I did is described here:

Basically what you do is:

  1. Get your original Windows XP disk.
  2. Copy its image on the harddrive.
  3. Extract some files from the image
  4. Modify these files
  5. Update imga with new files
  6. Write new image to CD.

For details on what files and how to modify them see the above link.

The new CD will be capable of installing Windows on the external USB Harddrive. I believe they recommend to remove internal harddrive from the PC for the procedure. I did not bother doing that and it still worked. Just select the correct (the USB one) drive.

One more thing. Do not bother installing Windows on a USB memory stick. Although it will install the stick will die in few weeks. This is due to Windows constantly writing data on the disk abd wearing it out. You probably cam install the disk on a compactflash if the PC is able to see it during the boot-up. Compactflash takes care of worn out sectors and replaces them with new ones.

Good luck

i wuld suggest a complete clean boot
that may help
there are a few good freeware programe outhtere who will wradicate everytiign so that there is no residual leftovers to further comicate the reinstall, just a thought jojo12