Installing WindowsXP Pro on USB External Drive

Hi Geeks - (geeks meant as an accolade)

I recently purchased a western digital 80 gb USB external hardrive - really for the purpose of easily being able to move data from one pc to the next.

Functionality would be far greater, to be able to boot from this disc as well, and have had no problem installing Windows98SE or WindowsME on the drive
(the drive is recoginised in the bios).

All attempts to install WindowsXP Pro have been futile - have tried cloning using Norton Ghost as well, cloning goes fine but when boot from the drive get error message: NTDLR not found.

Any help if you have any experience of this would be great.

Regards all

WinXP will be directly tied to the chipset of the motherboard in use and switching the OS HDD from one machine to another with different configuration will only result in problems.
If you cloned the WinXP OS from another machine with a different configuration…the result will be the same.
Earlier versions of Windows do not suffer from this…(I believer it’s just 2000, NT, and XP).

If you HDD is simply a desktop drive in an enclosure:
One way you could try…as long as your motherboard supports a USB boot…hook the HDD up inside your PC and format/install WinXP from there. Once completed, remove the OS HDD and install it into the enclosure and set up the USB HDD boot in you BIOS.

Thank you jmike - using ghost was just one alternative which did not work - even clean install to the USB drive did not work - copying of files for setup was fine - but on reboot for installation - get first black screen with windows xp logo and little blue bar running - then blue screen of death - error:

stop: 0X0000007b (0xf78ea63c,0xc0000034,0x00000000,0x00000000)

and that is it.

maybe these stop codes mean something to you?

This depends a great deal on what your BIOS can support.
My current m/b for example supports booting of a USB device and can emulate a floppy on devices if I need too.
I do not know what other brands outside of ASUS support this feature, but I am sure some joined the bandwagon after ASUS did it.
Expect it to be much slower if you run an O/S off a USB HDD.

Thanks for the response Xtacydima - bios does support booting from USB - Win98 and WinME boot fine - have contacted western digital who suggest I find out from microsoft - not much help from western digital I’m afraid - I will keep on trying for time being - probably end up just accepting that it cannot be done as I’m not skilled enough to write a hack - seems to me Win XP has some lock (or block) on it - which prevents the boot.

Well, in order to get windows to boot off the cd you must set a cd-rom drive as master. I would unplug all other HDD and leave only the USB HDD plugged in. Next you might wanan check if there is a USB driver available and force an install by pressing F6 to install RAID, SCSI, or 3rd party hardware. Then point to the USB HDD because it should now be recognized.

Thats the only thing I can think of off hand ATM.

Hey all,
My plight is similar to gmas. I want to install XP on an external HDD. I bought a Western Digital drive, and a Laser external case(USB2 interface). I tried a few things:

  1. Booted XP on internal HDD, plugged in USB interface, formatted external drive and put some files on it.
    Well, I just did that to make sure that it was working and that the interface had no problems. Everything worked fine on my XP and my 98 PC’s.
  2. Inserted winXP CD, started setup.
    Got to a menu saying ‘Please select where to install XP’ and it listed my current internal HDD (c:) and my external one (it showed the partition and format that i had already done, and the unallocated space)
  3. Selected first the unallocated, and then the partitioned (on the external)
    Both times, a screen came up telling me that XP couldn’t install on that device, due to a problem with either the interface or BIOS (I can’t remember the exact message, but could find out if needed). However, I was able to create and erase partitions on the external drive.
  4. Booted back into internal XP. Surfed forums.
    I found many forums like this one, with people running into similar problems when installing XP on an external HDD. THe common solution was to put some drivers on a floppy, hit F6, and force the install of the drivers during setup. The other solution was to check BIOS support for USB.
  5. Found some drivers, put on floppy, hit F6, loaded drivers successfully.
    However, when I got to the same ‘Select where to install’ menu, nothing had changed. It still wouldn’t let me install, but would let me un/partition the external drive. So I checked the BIOS
  6. Entered BIOS setup, browsed through.
    All USB support was enabled (inlcuding hi-speed). Having done all I knew how to do, I accepted that it was probably beyond my scope of knowledge to boot to an external HDD.
    However, I read from gmas that 98 works fine, so I might try that, it will suffice for my purposes. I also have a copy of Redhat 8 here somewhere, so I might try that as well.
    If anyone has any comments, or has found more information since, a reply would be appreciated.
    Thanks [in advance/anyway]

Hi, my question to flaming trout in particular I have been trying to boot xp from external usb hard drive myself. I am interested in where you found the drivers that you installed after pressing F6, either a link or sending me the files. I heard that you needed to install the usb drivers when installing XP, the drivers I have for my own drive do not contain oemsetup.inf (I think is the name of the file it specifically says it cannot find) with the other files and so will not install.

Others just simply say this just cannot be done, I would love to know if this is the definitive answer so that I dont waste any more time thinking about this myself. I cant really remember seing anyone posting who said they were booting and using xp from a usb external drive.


There were some drivers for win98 with my external case, but none for XP (and no oemsetup.inf). So I went to the external case website, but couldn’t find any drivers for XP there. I eventually found some other external HDD USB drivers, which included the oemsetup.inf file. Although they weren’t from the same manufacturer, they were for an external case that had an IDE to USB interface, which was what I was using. I presumed that the drivers would work fine, even though they are not specifically for the device. I’ll check to see if they do in fact work, and if they do, I’ll put the site were I found them up. Otherwise, as you said, I don’t think anyone anywhere has made a post saying they have booted XP on an external USB drive.

Just for curiosity, would a USB2.0 connection be a serious bottleneck for the OS, if it does end up working? One comment on a forum somewhere was that it might lag to the point of inoperability, but I thought that 480mb/s have no discernible effect. (I am yet to check the read/write speeds of an external HDD and compare them to an internal HDD, but I will once I have the time)