How 2 add 2nd copy of XP to my external drive

Microsoft Windows xp professional with s...
September 24, 2010 at 11:00:53
Specs: Windows XP, 1.6Ghz Pentium 4; 640MB ram
[Edit: despite the description above, it's actually XP SP3, not SP2 -- guess I can't change that descrip.]

I have two situations going on, and I think I need to deal with both, relatively quickly. First, my ancient (9-year-old) internal system drive seems to be on it's way out. SMART diagnostics warning of failed seek-time values and power-on hours. It still works, but copies etc are very slow, it's gonna die soon, I'm sure. Second, my Windows installation is getting goofy. For example, I'm unable to boot into Safe Mode, and the Search function (from the Start Menu) hasn't worked in years. I've never re-installed Windows since I've had the computer, December 2001, so I guess I've done good to make it this far. I'm planning on getting a new computer soon, but until then, I think I better do what I can to avoid disaster.

I want to install a (fresh, non-goofy) copy of Windows on my external USB drive, so that I have that available if my regular system bites the dust, and also so that when I get a new computer it will be easier to transfer all my essential programs and data to the new computer.

My question is: will the process of installing XP on the external drive cause my system to always want to boot from that drive after I do the installation, instead of from my internal drive as it does now?? I really don't want that - I just want to have XP installed on the USB drive for emergency situations (ie, if my internal drive dies).

A related question I'm curious about is will the installation of XP on the external drive alter the MBR of the INTERNAL hard disk (telling it that there's a copy of XP on the external drive that it should boot from now), or is it only the MBR of the USB hard disk that gets affected by the installation of an additional OS there? I'm curious about that even if it is NOT related -- tho I think it must be, if anyone can answer that.

Am I correct in thinking that after installing XP on my USB drive I would also have to use a boot manager to be able to select either USB or regular internal drive to boot from? My BIOS is so old that it doesn't have an option to boot from USB, but after some research it looks like I could still do that if I use the PLoP Boot Manager, which I can run from CD. Is that what I'd have to do?

Thanks so much for any assistance with this.

Robert (from Boston, just for your interest).
PS My system is a Dell Dimension 4400, in case that makes any difference.

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September 24, 2010 at 11:16:17
If you manage to properly install XP on a USB drive, it will not affect your present installation and XP will boot from the internal HDD.
It's only if the external drive is connected and you instructed the BIOS to boot from USB before the internal HDD that the machine will use your other copy.

In your case, I would make sure the HDD is the primary boot drive, leave the USB always connected and use some software to take a regular backup of my data & settings on it.

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September 24, 2010 at 11:25:38
Firstly, it is not easy to install & run xp from a usb drive. Google for some answers to this

here is an example

Personally, I think you need to clone you present hard drive to an external drive.
I use Paragon free.

Then get an new internal drive, install windows fresh, to this. Or, image the new drive from the usb.

A thank you would be nice, if I have helped.

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September 24, 2010 at 12:56:57
I would suggest you download a hard drive fitness test from the manufacturer of your brand of drive and run it to determine what is going on with the drive.

If the drive is going out, I agree with clive that installing a new hard drive would be worthwhile.

Do you have Dell WinXP restore disks for that computer?

I would suggest you simply install the new drive internally and then install WinXP to it. Do this while the original drive is disconnected. Then reconnect the original drive and copy over all your personal files. Then you can remove the old drive and take a hammer to it.

You probably need to buy an IDE type drive of less than 127GB in capacity. Look at the link below for a some choices.

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Related Solutions

September 24, 2010 at 13:21:03
Microsoft does not support installing Windows to an external drive, and will in fact tell you that it is impossible. It can be done (at least with some systems) but it isn't easy. My advice would be to not attempt it but rather install XP to an internal drive.

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September 24, 2010 at 14:17:31
"so that when I get a new computer it will be easier to transfer all my essential programs and data to the new computer. "

Be aware you will not be able to boot your present xp on an external drive attached to a new system due to different system drivers
You will not be able to transfer your programs. Those will have to be installed on the new pc.
You will be able to transfer the data

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October 11, 2010 at 15:16:56

Thanks so much for your time in assisting with this issue. I've been out of town for a while, but the computer seems to be still marginally hobbling along.

Otteppinno - thanks for answering my concern re would the computer try to boot from the USB drive if I managed to get a copy of Windows installed on it. I had suspected what you confirmed, but just didn't want to get the system even more messed up than it currently is if I attempted to do that.

Clive - the information you referred me to re installing Windows on an external drive was pretty interesting. Seemed a bit daunting initially and I'm going to save it to investigate at some point after pursuing what seems to be the smarter move of getting a working OS onto a regular internal drive, as you suggested. Curiosity kills cats, hopefully if I do experiment with installing onto my USB drive it won't kill my system too. I'll report back, either way. Thank you! Re using Paragon: I like their programs. I have a couple flavors of them with slightly higher than the free version capabilities, which they make available from time to time on GiveawayOfTheDay, and they should do the trick.

OtheHill -- I have no doubt that the drive is dying. SMART reports from different HD diagnostic/report programs agree there. I can't find my original Maxtor diagnostics disk that came with the HD (nine years ago!), and I vaguely remember using the currently available Seatools that Seagate now has available, which as I remember was a bit of a pain to use for some reason and turned out not to be very informative, so I'm just going to go ahead and replace the drive. As you, Clive, and LMiller suggest, a new internal drive will be living here shortly.

Wanderer -- thanks for the reminder about needing new drivers if I install to a new computer (or to a more modern OS than Win XP). Some of the Paragon programs have "adaptive restore" facilities that assist with installing to different machines, and that may ease the process.

So... it seems the most reasonable battle plan is just to keep reasonably up to date images of the disk on the USB drive until I get another internal HD, then reinstall Windows on the new HD and reinstall my programs and transfer the data files.

Being that my original Windows installation disk is from 2001, before even Service Pack 1, updating it to post-SP 3 condition seems like it might be a nightmare. Question: I believe Microsoft makes copies of XP available that are updated to SP 3. Would I just install that and use my original installation key from my 2001 copy of XP? Is that how that works?? If not, I'd might opt to just continue with an imaged copy of my current system, transferred to a new internal HD, even tho I'd still have a crippled Safe Mode, which makes me a bit uncomfortable.

Thank you ALL for taking the time to help me with this. On my own, I know just about enough to screw it up royally if I had just launched into this without some guidance from you all.

PS. This is a bit embarrassing, but I had a very hard time finding my way back to this post. Not clear to me if this is a different forum than the Tom's Hardware forum, or the same one, differently organized or something. Once I did find myself back here I had a difficult time navigating back to this post, basically found it almost by mistake. Is there a navigation help file or something similar out here anywhere??

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October 11, 2010 at 15:22:18
I would suggest you bookmark this. Usually in the upper right quadrant of the screen you have your subscribed posts listed. This one of yours should be there.

Concerning the sp1 issue: web search slipstream service pack 3 xp for the how to create an xp install disk that is updated to sp3

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October 12, 2010 at 09:43:42
Thanks for the info on slipstreaming. My limited knowledge is moving from anthill to molehill. Much appreciated...

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October 12, 2010 at 11:42:33
RE, slipstreaming

Autostreamer is a simple slipstreaming app.

For more involved ss try nlite, that is able to integrate drivers & create automatic installation cd's

One side note, I don't think you can integrate sp3 directly with sp1, I THINK you need sp1a, then you can go straight to sp3 missing out sp2.

A thank you would be nice, if I have helped.

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November 6, 2010 at 14:06:29
Gracias for that added note re nlite and autostreamer, Clive!

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