How to Install Windows XP Using Pxe

Written by matthew ruane
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How to Install Windows XP Using Pxe
(David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images)

There are times when a computer does not have the necessary hardware to do a normal install of Windows XP. For instance, the CD/DVD drive could be defective or nonexistent. For this purpose, using PXE to boot into a Windows XP install allows the OS to be installed without conventional methods. This method is for advanced users who have a technical understanding of networking and operating system functions.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Windows XP CD
  • PC running Windows XP
  • Laptop capable of booting over PXE
  • Tftpd32
  • Bart Network Boot Disk
  • Windows XP shared folder
  • Working router

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    Install Windows XP with PXE

  1. 1

    Create a shared folder--for example at c:\windowsinstall--then copy the entire i386 folder from the Windows XP CD and SMARTDRV.EXE to this folder.

  2. 2

    Write down your computer name found by right-clicking "My Computer," then clicking "Properties" and clicking the "Computer Name" tab.

  3. 3

    Create a folder to boot PXE from; for example, c:\output. This folder is essential.

  4. 4

    Download and install TFTPD, then create a folder in c:\output called "pxelinux.cfg." Download pxelinux.0, memdisk menu.c32, and bartdisk.IMA into c:\output. Create a text file named default in c:\output \pxelinux.cfg\ containing the following:

    DEFAULT menu.c32

    TIMEOUT 300


    PROMPT 0

    MENU TITLE PXE Boot System

    LABEL BartBoot

    MENU LABEL ^Bart Network Disk

    kernel memdisk

    append initrd=bartdisk.IMA

    LABEL BootNormal

    MENU LABEL ^Boot Normal


  5. 5

    Run TFTPD, set the current directory to c:\output, and set the server interface to Go to the DHCP Server tab and configure your network set-up. Type "pxelinux.0" as the boot file. Save your configuration.

  6. 6

    Configure the computer you wish to boot from PXE to boot from the Bart Network Disk

    by entering the BIOS and setting the boot priority so that it looks for a bootable network

    first. Accept all the default options once booted.

  7. 7

    Change directories by typing "c:" then "fdisk." Choose the third option and delete any previous partitions. Then, choose the option 1 to create a new partition, and choose option 1 once more to create a primary DOS partition. Enter the size of the drive in megabytes, then choose option 2, making the partition active.

  8. 8

    Select your partition number, then press "Esc" to exit fdisk. Restart the computer and boot from the Bart Network Disk again. Leave everything at its default setting until you come to "Identification Settings." Using Tab, select "lmhosts," then enable it with the spacebar. Go to "OK."

  9. 9

    Enter the IP address of your server, then press tab once and enter your computer name. Save the file and quit by simultaneously pressing the "Alt" and "X" keys.

  10. 10

    Press "Enter" to continue through the rest of the questions, accepting their default values.

    Enter the command "format c:/Q" once you get to the command prompt. Enter the command "net use x:\YOUR-COMPUTER-NAME\windowsinstall" once the format is complete. Replace YOUR-COMPUTER-NAME with the computer name you wrote down in Step 2.

  11. 11

    Change directories by typing "x:" then "SMARTDRV.EXE." Change directories again by typing "cd i386," then type "winnt" to copy the files from the shared folder onto the hard drive, beginning the Windows install. Proceed through the Windows XP install as normal.

Tips and warnings

  • If you do not know about IP addresses, or how to create subnets, find someone who does.
  • Make sure your spelling is precise when entering commands.
  • The fdisk command is very powerful, and provides a text-only interface. Be careful, as misuse of this command could result in unwanted data loss.

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