Software // Enterprise Applications
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1/19/2006
10:42 PM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
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Langa Letter: XP On Your Thumb Drive

Fred Langa offers a step-by-step and illustrated guide on how to boot XP from an ordinary USB drive.

Moving The Files To PEbuilder
The two files we need from SP1 are setupldr.bin and ramdisk.sys. Bart Lagerweij's boot-from-USB script will look for those files in a specific location; namely, a folder named "srsp1" off the home directory of your PEbuilder installation.

In my example case, my PEbuilder folder is at E:\pebuilder; so I created a new folder called E:\pebuilder\srsp1. I then simply copied and pasted the setupldr.bin file from the i386 folder (shown in Screen Six) to the E:\pebuilder\srsp1 folder.

Copy and paste setupldr.bin from the i386 folder to your PEbuilder folder.
Screen Six
Copy and paste setupldr.bin from the i386 folder to your PEbuilder folder.

(click image for larger view)

If you try to do the same copy and paste with ramdisk.sys, it won't work; instead you'll find a file called "ramdisk.sy_" in the i386 folder. The trailing underscore is Microsoft's way of telling you it's a compressed version of the file, which must be expanded before use.

Screen Seven shows how: I opened a command window in the i386 folder, and used the command "expand -r ramdisk.sy_ E:\pebuilder313\srsp1" (without the quotes) to decompress the ramdisk file, and write it to the E:\pebuilder\srsp1 folder.


Screen Seven
The 'expand -r' command lets you decompress ramdisk.sy_ into ramdisk.sys; and also to move it to the PEbuilder folder.

(click image for larger view)

The 'expand -r' command lets you decompress ramdisk.sy_ into ramdisk.sys; and also to move it to the PEbuilder folder.

The successful completion of the expand/move command is shown in Screen Eight.

If the decompress/move operation completes normally, you'll see results something like this.
Screen Eight
If the decompress/move operation completes normally, you'll see results something like this.

(click image for larger view)

Once you have the setupldr.bin and ramdisk.sys in your pebuilder\srsp1 folder, you can then delete the other SP1 files, if you wish; including all the files in the i386 unpacking directory, and the original download file (e.g., "WindowsServer2003-KB889101-SP1-x86-ENU.exe," or whatever it was called when you downloaded it.)

Build The Custom Version Of XP
Use PEbuilder normally, following the directions that came with the software; or the illustrated, step-by-step directions in "A Must-Have Repair And Recovery Tool."

Note that the PEbuilder "output folder" should remain the default "BartPE" called for in the PEbuilder instructions. But because these files will soon be copied to your USB drive, you don't need to create or burn an ISO image for now. Just leave those options unchecked, when they're offered to you.

Prepare The USB Drive
The USB installer script "pe2usb" included in your PEbuilder folder is the key to formatting your USB drive and setting up the XP files there. It's easy to use -- you just need to know what drive letter your USB device is using. In my case, I had a USB drive installed as drive K: on my system, so, following Bart's instructions, I entered the command "pe2usb -f K:" (without the quotes) from my PEbuilder folder, as shown in Screen Nine. (The "-f" ensures that the USB drive is formatted before the files are copied to the device.)


Screen Nine
Here, the USB installer script (pe2usb) is being used to format (-f) the USB drive as part of the installation process. The USB drive is K: in this setup, but may have a different letter on your system.

(click image for larger view)

Here, the USB installer script (pe2usb) is being used to format (-f) the USB drive as part of the installation process. The USB drive is K: in this setup, but may have a different letter on your system.

Once the USB installer is running, it checks to make sure you really want to reformat the USB drive (as shown in Screen Ten); if you concur, it runs to completion as shown in Screen Eleven.

The USB installer script (pe2usb) takes a few minutes to run, but communicates fairly well with you during the process, via on-screen text messages.
The USB installer script (pe2usb) takes a few minutes to run, but communicates fairly well with you during the process, via on-screen text messages.
Screens Ten and Eleven
The USB installer script (pe2usb) takes a few minutes to run, but communicates fairly well with you during the process, via on-screen text messages.

(click images for larger view)

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