Home > Windows XP Guides > Installing Windows XP in DOS

Installing Windows XP in DOS Over a Previous Windows 9x Installation
Version 1.09 (Revisions)

Windows XP is a cool new operating system. But, no matter how good a product is, it also comes with its own fair share of headaches.

DISCLAIMER: Proceed at your own risk! The information here is accurate to the best of my knowledge. I will not be held responsible if this document causes your computer to explode or burst into flames. In real serious terms, if any corruption of data, hardware damage or any other kind of damage/losses/etc. arises from the use of this document, I will not be responsible for it. If you don't like this, please don't read any further.

This document outlines the steps of how to install Windows XP in a computer with a Win9x operating system. Basically, it shows how to backup stuff, delete the previous OS and install XP without formatting the hard disk.

For those geeks who just want to install XP straight from MS-DOS without the necessary preparations (or if you have done it), go here.

Is this document intended for you?

  1. You want to install a new copy of XP while avoiding formatting and upgrading from your current OS of Win9x/XP.
  2. You don't want to [re]partition your hard disk for backup purpose.

Introduction

Before you begin, please read through the Notes. By now, you probably know that invoking the SETUP.EXE from the DOS Prompt will shoot you with a shocking message "This program cannot be run in DOS Mode". Many people simply install a new OS by just inserting the CD and selecting the Upgrade option. This brings unnecessary problems. Some are even scared of The Command Prompt!

Amazon has some good books on getting to know Windows XP better.

This document outlines the steps of how to install Windows XP in a computer with a Win9x operating system. Basically, it shows how to backup stuff, delete the previous OS and install XP without formatting the hard disk. Started 3rd December 2001.

Many links here point to a file or folder in your hard drive, Internet Explorer will prompt a Download Style dialog box when you click at such a link. If Internet Explorer displays a blank page, it indicates that the folder or file cannot be found. Netscape 4.5 is a tad bit smarter and tells you if the folder or file cannot be found via a dialog box.

If it works for you, congrats. If it didn't work for you, please post your problem in the Windows XP Discussion Forum. You'll be helping future beginners, and I'll be checking often.

Quick Directs

  1. If you want to BACKUP your personal files (Favourites (US - Favourites), Mp3s, Internet downloads) locally, delete your previous OS files and install Windows XP, proceed to Step 1.
  2. If you want to DELETE Windows 9x completely and install Windows XP, proceed to Step 2.
  3. If you want to INSTALL Windows XP from DOS without deleting your previous OS (or you're performing a clean install), proceed to Step 3.

However, it is best to read through Step 1 to 3 to get an idea of the whole process.

1) Backup

  1. BACKUP important files to another hard disk (or a zip disk, CD-R, etc.). You can also backup to files to another folder in your hard disk drive, just ensure the folder is not in Program Files or any other Windows folders. Basic installation guideline for hard disks:
    1. Set the hard disk jumpers to Slave mode (refer to the sticker(or manual) on the HD).
    2. Connect IDE cable (the wide white cable) of any device to the hard disk. Do NOT disconnect the cable from your current hard disk, just connect the black connector at the end or centre to the backup hard disk and a spare power cable.
    3. Start computer, go to BIOS (Usually some key (or combo) needs to be pressed in setup), Auto-Detect IDE Drives, save and restart.
    4. If the hard disk cannot be found, check connections and power. The position of the black connector also matters.
  2. Backup the important program files (popular programs listed here)
    1. Kazaa downloaded and pending downloads (go to Shared Folder of Kazaa, copy the folder contents, this will also copy downloads that hasn't been completed too!)
    2. Mp3s (your mp3 folder, or the My Music folder in My Documents folder)
    3. Favourites (go to the Favourites folder of Internet Explorer and copy the files, for Netscape, I believe there's a Save As feature in the bookmark editing program. There's another way of saving Favourites in IE, click on File, Import and Export and save the Favourites (and cookies if you want) to the backup folder.)
    4. Internet Explorer Cookies (File > Import & Export > Cookies)
    5. My Documents folder (not that necessary, as it is outside of the Windows folder)
    6. Game save games (usually saves are located in a special folder in the game folder in the Program Files folder, copy those). Some are also contained in your My Documents folder.
    7. Icq contact lists (Just copy the 2000b (or 2000a) folder in ICQ. Note: latest version of 2000b stores the contact list in the icq server, but this way, you still save the history and chat files.)
    8. Outlook Express messages. (Start OE, Tools > Options > Maintenance > Store Folder. Copy and paste the link into the Explorer address bar and backup those files)
    9. WebShots photos. (copy the contents of this folder, or go to the Collections folder in the Webshots folder.
    10. Password files such as your website passwords, etc. For WS_FTP Limited Edition, just copy the WS_FTP.INI file from here.
    11. Do NOT backup files to your desktop, save them in a folder that is not within Windows and Program Files, such as a folder called "Backup" in the root of the drive ("C:\").

2) Deleting Windows 9x

  1. DOUBLE-CHECK that you made a backup of the important settings files. This erasing will remove your Program Files folder and Windows folder.
  2. Copy the file DELTREE.EXE from the C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND folder into the root folder ("C:\"). This utility makes it easy to delete whole folders (or directories) and sub-folders (or sub-directories).
  3. Copy the file SMARTDRV.EXE from the C:\WINDOWS folder into the root folder ("C:\"). This utility is used to speed up installations and deletion of large files (up to 500% faster).
  4. Make a boot disk (Windows ME bootdisk recommended). Test it to make sure it allows you to access your CD-ROM Drive, unless you have copied the files in the i386 folder to your hard drive. If you're not installing from hard disk, make sure the boot disk allows you to access your CD-ROM Drive when you use it. Make sure your boot disk WORKS (ie. no read errors or spoilt disks).
  5. With the disk in the floppy drive, restart the computer. Choose CD-ROM Support if you're installing from CD-ROM or the Without CD-ROM Support option if you're installing from your hard disk. If you don't understand, just choose CD-ROM Support.
  6. You should be in the A:\> prompt.
  7. Enter the following commands highlighted in BLUE, after each line, hit Enter.
    1. C: (Changes to your C Drive, substitute C with the drive where it contains the SmartDrive utility if your drive is different)
    2. CD\ (Changes to your root folder, append the folder name if you copied it into some other folder, an example would be CD\UTILITIES, which means you stored Smartdrive in the Utilities folder)
    3. SMARTDRV (Loads SmartDrive to memory, speeds up deleting files and installing Windows XP. On successfully loading, it will just display a blank line. You can type SMARTDRV again and it should show you the status.)
    4. CD\ (to go back to the root folder, if you are in other folders)
    5. DELTREE PROGRA~1 (DELETES your Program Files folder and contents, press Y to the confirmation message)
    6. DELTREE WINDOWS (DELETES your Windows folder and contents, press Y to the confirmation message)
  8. At this point, you've basically deleted windows. But, if you want to further clean up the hard disk, enter DELTREE *.* and press Y to any folder and files that you think you don't need. This includes IO.SYS, MSDOS.SYS, COMMAND.COM and all those files that you were forbidden to delete. Do not delete the backup folders or any other folder you want to protect such as DOS Games, Mp3s and Internet downloads. Try to clean up the Hard disk by deleting useless files and folders that the previous OS dumped.
  9. You're done deleting your previous installation of Windows.

3a) Installing Windows XP (In Bootup)

If you are installing from hard drive, skip to Step 3b.

  1. Insert the Windows XP Cd in the drive.
  2. Remove the floppy and restart your computer. If you know how to set up the BIOS such that it boots from the CD, set it up now. If not just go to the next step.
  3. You should see a prompt "Press any key to boot from CD.." asking to you press a key to enter Setup. Do so. If that prompt does not come, it means the system failed to boot from CD. Proceed to Step 3b.
  4. Perform the installation with the following in mind
    1. When asked to choose the partition to install to, select the C drive.
    2. When asked about the file system choose "Leave the current file system intact (no changes)"
  5. Follow instructions and you're on your way to getting the Windows eXPerience. Happy installing! Do not go to Step 3b.

3b) Installing Windows XP (In DOS)

  1. Restart the system with the floppy in the drive and enabled CD-ROM support.
  2. If you've not done Step 2.7 where it involves loading SmartDrive, load it by:
    1. C: (Changes to your C Drive, replace substitute C with the drive where it contains the SmartDrive utility if your drive is different)
    2. CD\ (Changes to your root folder, append the folder name if you copied it into some other folder, an example would be CD\UTILITIES, which means you stored Smartdrive in the Utilities folder)
    3. CHECK: The prompt should now look like this: C:\>
    4. SMARTDRV (Loads SmartDrive to memory installing Windows XP. On successfully loading, it will just display a blank line. You can type SMARTDRV again and it should show you the status.)
  3. Assuming you're installing from the CD-ROM, enter the following commands highlighted in BLUE, after each line, hit Enter.
    1. E: (Changes to your CD-ROM Drive, substitute E for the drive if it is something else)
    2. CD\I386 (Changes to your Windows XP Setup folder)
    3. CHECK: The prompt should now look like this: E:\I386>
    4. WINNT (Starts the DOS Installation program.)
  4. At this point, Windows XP Setup may complain if you don't have SmartDrive loaded. The CD files will be copied to your hard disk and your computer restarted to the main setup program. Follow instructions and you're on your way to getting the Windows eXPerience. Happy installing!

After the XP installation is completed, play around with the new environment. You have to reinstall the programs back and move the backed up files back. Try to get updated versions of the programs and drivers from the developer's site.

Notes

  1. Microsoft has released a file that creates Boot Disk Floppies for installing Windows XP. There is a special version for Home Edition and for the Professional Edition. I didn't attempt this as it required 6 floppy disks, installing from the CD (or hard drive) is better. However, this (and booting from CD) gives more options in the Setup program, such as formatting your C Drive with NTFS or FAT32 or converting the drive to NTFS.
  2. The SmartDrive utility can be found in your Windows 95/98/ME installation CD.
  3. In the FAT32 and NTFS selecton screen, if you are not sure, stick with NTFS as it gives better performance.
  4. If you're facing problems after installation of Windows XP, check out my Windows XP Frequently Asked Questions.

Revisions

  1. 3 Feb 2006
    • Installing from hard drive works! Make sure you copied the i386 folder fully.
  2. 27 Aug 2005
    • Removed Windows 2000/XP references as this guide cannot be used to reinstall them since most are using NTFS file system.
  3. 02 April 2004
    • Added a faster way of installing from the CD
  4. 5th January 2003 - Version 1.00 - 1.07
    • Added another way of backing up Internet Explorer Favourites.
    • DELTREE.COM should be DELTREE.EXE.
    • Fixing of some spelling errors, highlighting of important points and restructuring of the Introduction.
    • Added support info for Windows 2000 Operating Systems and the new forum link.
  5. 3rd December 2001 - Version 1.00
    • First Release to the public in Bootstrike.Com.

Errors? Omissions? Need Help? Know something? Post your queries in the Windows XP Discussion Forum.

You may be interested in our other Windows XP guides. including a comprehensive FAQ, dual booting with Windows 98 and how to dual boot with formatting.

This document is Copyright(©) 2001-2004 by G.Ganesh.

19 comments RSS of last 10 posts

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Unregistered Anonymous Many thanks for documenting these steps.
posted 8 Jul 2014 - Reply - Permanent Link
Adewale (1 posts) Adewale Thanks for this great tip. I didn't know that smartdrv was in the windows 98 installation CD. I found it and loaded it into RAM.
posted 29 Jul 2011 - Reply - Permanent Link
Muzammal (1 posts) Muzammal the people who are getting extremely slow installation probably missed loading smatrdrv.exe anyhow I have been doing this since winxp was launched because I always run all the .exe files I find and try out their result.

a tip for those who have NTFS partitions is that there is a utility called NTFSDOS.EXE which makes NTFS partitions visible and usable on DOS.

another way is powerquest's PQMAGIC.EXE with which you can convert an NTFS partition into FAT32 partition without any data loss but you will lose some long file names. I do not recommend it because there is NTFSDOS.EXE

by the way I have uploaded all three files on rapid share
posted 18 Mar 2011 - Reply - Permanent Link
Unregistered Anonymous thank aint finished yet but seems to have done the trick im doing it from a usb stick 4gb thanks m8
posted 31 Aug 2009 - Reply - Permanent Link
apri (1 posts) apri thanks mate , you save the day
mine are laptop with no cd or flopy only hdd (kind a wierd because ) very little even from ordinary laptop HDD,
posted 7 Aug 2009 - Reply - Permanent Link
Ben Unregistered Anonymous Thanks... Dude you help me save my trouble
posted 11 Feb 2009 - Reply - Permanent Link
AG Unregistered Anonymous Thanks..........that was a great support !!
posted 7 Sep 2008 - Reply - Permanent Link
Tom Unregistered Anonymous You just helped save my laptop... Thanks :)
posted 22 Jul 2008 - Reply - Permanent Link
dos_mode Unregistered Anonymous it is advisable to use a boot disk created from windows 98
posted 7 Jan 2008 - Reply - Permanent Link
Varitech Unregistered Anonymous oh man, so much thanks, it is so simple, and didn't know it, again thank you
posted 24 Sep 2007 - Reply - Permanent Link
Laptop User Unregistered Anonymous Looks good, I tried the process on the laptop with no HD or floppy. I can't boot USB, PCMCIA either. So I am totally stuck with installing on HD.
I formatted and installed Win98 DOS and copied I386 folder the HD and ran winnt on it.
However the XP install stop at the end finalizing the XP installation process. System just freezes.
I rebooted and same thing happens again from the beginning. Am I missing some other files from the XP install CD? I am using one with the slipstream SP2 package and I am not sure if I needed to copy other files that I am not aware of?
posted 13 Aug 2007 - show 1 replies - Reply - Permanent Link
Alsip Tom Unregistered Anonymous Similar problem here. Wiped he HD. Loaded bare bones 98. Started the XP install from f:\i386\winnt and it stalled after installing ntldr. HD light ON all the time. No CD activity. No file loading update at the bottom right of the screen. Any help would be appreciated. Thx
posted 24 Jul 2008 - Reply - Permanent Link
Alejandro Unregistered Anonymous I searched for smartdrv in WINDOWS, and installation CD without success. Is there anywhere else I can find it??

thanks

ps. my laptop's DVD drive is broken, I need to install from floppy
posted 17 May 2007 - Reply - Permanent Link
testdrive Unregistered Anonymous I've run the "C:\I386>winnt" , but it did not start any installation. Can you please help me?
posted 19 Apr 2007 - show 1 replies - Reply - Permanent Link
Admin Administrator Admin what happens when you press Enter?
posted 19 Apr 2007 - Reply - Permanent Link
KH Unregistered Anonymous I am not quite done with the install becasue it is taking forever, but I would have never gotten this far without the information that your provided. Thanks!
posted 14 Apr 2007 - Reply - Permanent Link
Shaman Unregistered Anonymous A champion article. I'm installing from a HD and it saved me sooo much trouble.
posted 14 Mar 2007 - Reply - Permanent Link

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