No Windows XP setup disk? Here’s how to create one

Many PCs don’t come with a full bootable Windows Setup CD. Instead they come with a "Recovery CD" or, worse still, no CD but aspecial recovery partition on the hard drive. In most cases running the recovery CD or hard drive program will take the PC back to its original state.

That’s all very well for the PC vendors, but it’s a bad deal for consumers. Often, users want to re-install Windows without reverting the PC to its original state. Similarly, they may want to move their copy of Windows to another PC or engage in a task that requires a Windows Setup CD, such as building a Bart PE Boot Disk. That’s why it’s always useful to have a full Windows Setup CD for your PC.

But there is some good news: with Windows XP it’s usually possible to create a Windows Setup CD from the PC Vendor’s Recovery CD or from files on your hard drive.

If You Don’t Have a Recovery CD

The main requirement is that you have a folder called I386 on your hard drive. This is commonly found at C:I386, but it may be lurking elsewhere. If you can’t find it try using Windows Search to locate it.

If you have such a folder (together with the license key for your copy of Windows) then you are in business; you can create a full bootable Windows XP Setup CD.

It’s not a simple job but it’s well within the capabilities of any experienced user. At this site [1] you will find a step-by-step tutorial that will walk you through the process.

I suggest you read the whole tutorial in advance before you start. That way you’ll be aware of what you will need to complete the job and also have a good feeling for the skill level required.

You Do Have a Recovery CD

If your PC vendor supplied you with a Windows Recovery CD the process is a lot simpler as there is a freeware program called WinFuture XP-ISO-Builder [2] that will do most of the work for you. Furthermore, it works with Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003. The site is partly in German but it’s easy enough to navigate. If you get lost the download page is here [3].

When you have downloaded and installed WinFuture, go to this site [4] where you’ll find a guide showing how to create a Setup CD from your Recovery CD. And yes, it’s in English ;>).

Once you have created your Windows Setup CD I recommend that you then create a Bart PE Boot CD. In the event your PC ever becomes unbootable this will enable you to boot into a Windows environment from the CD and recover your data and/or fix the problem. Every experienced PC user should have such a CD in their toolkit. My favorite Bart PE disk is UBCD4Win. You can find my instructions on how to create a UBCD4Win boot disk here [5] but remember, you’ll need a Windows XP Setup CD to do it.

[1] http://www.howtohaven.com/system/createwindowssetupdisk.shtml
[2] http://www.winfuture.de/xpisobuilder3_en
[3] http://www.winfuture.de/downloadstart,1205486511,1654.html
[4] http://www.ghacks.net/2006/11/07/upgrade-a-windows-xp-recovery-cd-to-a-full-installation-one/
[5] http://techsupportalert.com/issues/issue153.htm#Section_5.1



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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2008-03-20: