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Need to create a bootable Windows XP Setup CD/DVD? How-to within...

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Hi guys, after having untold difficulties getting hold of a Windows XP Setup CD for a 5 year old emachines PC and several failed dodgy attempts (mate's CDs and torrent downloads - I know naughty, but I'm trying to reinstall a completely legal copy of Windows and NO ONE wanted to help me so desperate times...) I've spent literally days trawling the net looking for solutions. Upon finding one (for me at least) I thought I'd share it with this forum as I've received excellent and prompt help on a related matter here regarding PCHealth.

This thread will point you in the right direction to (legally I might add :) ) reinstall Windows XP on a computer that came with it pre-installed, even if you've lost all the recovery CDs that came with the computer and even if you've deleted the recovery partition that manufacturers typically pre-install. I might add, I don't intend to patronise anyone - if you're a tech wizz this may all be old news to you :)


1. You'll search on the internet for an XP recovery CD for your particular model of computer and be presented with a list of companies offering such CDs. If you go to their website, you'll see Microsoft held 'legal meetings' with them in January 2009 and they can no longer provide these CDs. They will offer you driver CDs for not much money, but I wouldn't bother - all drivers can be downloaded from the internet. If you speak to them, they'll point you in the direction of Microsoft...

2. You'll phone Microsoft, who will tell you its not their responsibility or problem and tell you to phone your computer manufacturer.

3. If your manufacturer is emachines, packard bell or acer (I believe) and is one of the PC World brands, good luck. 'The Tech Guys' (or so they like to think they are) will tell you to go to their website that continuously loops on itself when you try to select your manufacturer and gives you an email address. This really wasn't going any where!

anyway moving on to the problem in hand.......


1. Basically you'll find if you try and reinstall windows from the 'WINNT32.EXE' in the 'i386' directory it'll probably result in an error message telling you it 'can't reinstall Windows as the version on your computer is newer than that on the CD' or something along those lines...

2. You're computer won't boot off of any dodgy XP Install CD copy that mates may provide you with. The same applies to recovery CDs that are perfectly legal, but apply to other computers. This was at least the case for me, so I wouldn't even bother going down this route. Additionally...

3. Even if you do get one of the above CDs to install XP, it won't accept the XP Product Key specific to your computer (this is usually found on a sticker somewhere on the base unit of your computer). Again, this was at least the case for me. You'll have to run an illegal copy of XP - not an option in my case. Nor yours :)


1. First, for christ's sake clone a copy of your current HDD onto any old HDD you have lying around assuming its capacity is large enough (I used Norton Ghost 9.0 - there's loads of options; free and not). Even better, treat youreself to a new bigger, badder, better HDD - nows the perfect opportunity to upgrade :) . Shutdown the computer, disconnect the cloned HDD so you can't accidently damage the data stored here and store somewhere safe.

2. SERIOUSLY. Clone that HDD!

3. Goto the following link for a guide of how to create an XP Setup Disk from the leftover files of the original XP installation. How to Create XP Setup Disk

The link is not my work and I can't commend the author enough for his work and the pain it has saved me.

Don't worry if, like me, you don't have a C:\i386\ folder. If you have a C:\Windows\i386\ folder use that instead and follow his instructions. As he says though, DO NOT use any other 'i386' folders - they're likely to be caches and not contain the files you need.

4. If your computer came with SP 1 pre-installed (like mine) but you've since installed SP3 don't worry. Follow his instructions for SP1 (not upto SP2 and then bodge SP3 on the end) and then click here to goto the Microsoft website and download an ISO image of SP3. Burn this image to CD (if you don't know how to burn images, he helpfully tells how to do it in his XP Setup CD guide, but you probably won't have got this far if you don't know how to do that!).

5. Label the CDs and for god's sake keep these safe from now on!

6. Insert your XP Setup CD in the drive, find and write down your XP Product Key and RESTART.

7. Follow instructions. I'd recommend you don't be tempted with the repair option. Just go straight to a complete format and reinstall. Delete the C:\ partition (making sure its the right one) and reinstall within the now unallocated space. Continue to follow instructions. When finished install SP3 from that CD you've created, install drivers needed to get on the internet and then download and install any other necessary drivers.

8. Goto Microsoft Update, install all updates and restart computer.

9. Before installing your software goto System Restore and create a Restore Point.

10. Install the rest of your software.

11. Feel ridiculously smug that you've actually done it, all on your own (ish :) )!

I should add that, of course, you do this at your own risk and I cannot be held responsible for any problems caused following the above. It certainly worked fantastically for me, and I hope it does the same for you. If you've cloned your HDD before following the above, you can at least unplug the new HDD, plug in the old one and start again, no harm caused.

I hope this helps someone, as much as the various people across the internet that offered many suggestions (which I've basically collated here) that ultimately helped me.

Good luck all,

Edited by JKintheUK, 11 February 2009 - 09:33 AM.

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