How to Burn a Windows XP Recovery Disc

By Jack Gerard

Being able to recover from a major operating system crash is important, since it saves you both the time of having to reformat and reinstall your system from scratch. If you have purchased your copy of Windows XP then you can recover using your installation disc, but if your copy of XP was pre-installed on your computer, then you may find yourself without a recovery option. It's possible to make a recovery disc yourself.

Things You'll Need

  • Windows setup disc boot sector
  • CD burning software capable of burning Boot CD's

Step 1

Create a new folder on your Desktop. Name this folder \"Recovery\" or \"Setup.\" This folder will be your work folder for \"building\" the recovery disc, so placing it on your Desktop ensures that you will have access to it.

Step 2

Open Windows Explorer and browse to the hard drive that you have Windows installed on (usually C:/). Locate the folder named \"I386\" installed on that drive. It should be a main folder, so if you're looking in the Windows directory then you should back out to the main drive listing. Copy the C:\\I386 folder and then paste the contents (including the folder) into the Recovery folder on your desktop.

Step 3

Open Notepad and type \"Windows \". Make sure to include the space after the word and the capital W, but don't include the quotation marks, then press Enter to go to the next line. Save this file in ASCII format as \"WIN51\" and include the quotation marks this time to ensure that it doesn't get saved as a .txt file. Make sure to keep the capitalized letters in your Recovery folder.

Step 4

Check to see which version of Windows XP your computer came with. If the computer came with Windows XP Home Edition, copy your WIN51 file and name the new copy WIN51IC. If it came with Windows XP Professional, name the copy WIN51IP instead. You should also check to see which Service Packs (if any) your Windows installation came with; you will need to make an additional copy of the file for each Service Pack that was included on your computer in the original installation.

Step 5

Name the new copies WIN51IC.SP1 or WIN51IP.SP1 for Service Pack 1, WIN51IC.SP2 or WIN51IP.SP2 for Service Pack 2, and WIN51IC.SP3 or WIN51IP.SP3 for Service Pack 3. When finished you will have your original WIN51 file, a WIN51IC or WIN51IP file that corresponds to the version of Windows XP that came installed on your computer, and an additional file for each Service Pack that came installed on your system all in your Recovery folder. Make sure that you don't create the files for any Service Packs that you have installed since purchasing your computer... just create the files for the Service Packs that were on it when it was purchased.

Step 6

Place the file w2ksect.bin from your Windows XP setup disc boot sector into the main directory of your C:\\ drive. It's very important that you place it in the main directory and not in any other folder, since your burning software will look for C:\\w2ksect.bin when it starts creating your recovery disc.

Step 7

Launch your CD burning software and select the option to create a new Boot CD. You will be asked to specify the location of the boot sector that the CD will use; browse and select the C:\\w2ksect.bin file that you previously placed on your C:\\ drive.

Step 8

Specify the Root directory for the Boot CD that you are creating. Select the Recovery folder that you've been working in. All of the files and folders that you will need will already be included in it. You may notice that there most likely isn't a setup.exe file in the directory; since this will be a recovery disc that is just restoring the operating system to its original state and not installing anything new there is actually nothing that would make use of a setup.exe file.

Step 9

Select the Labels option and change the label of your recovery CD. The label will depend on the specific build of Windows XP that you will be recovering to. If the CD is for Windows XP Home, use WXHOEM_EN. For XP Professional, use WXPOEM_EN.

Step 10

Burn the CD. Once you've made the recovery disc, store it in a safe place so that it won't become scratched or otherwise damaged in case you need to use it.

Tips & Warnings

  • Boot your computer with the recovery disc in the drive in order to test it out; make sure that you cancel the recovery installation as soon as the disc boots in order to avoid damaging your current installation, however. This will let you know that there wasn't an error with the disc creation now instead of discovering a problem when you need to use the disc.
  • There are additional labels for the specific Service Packs such as XRMHOEM_EN (Home with SP1) and X1APOEM_EN (Professional with SP2), but as the label isn't a vital step it is easier to simply use the base labels.
  • Make sure to always work with a copy of the C:\\I386 folder and not the folder itself; accidentally deleting or modifying the contents of the folder can cause any boot CD made from it in the future to encounter errors.

References & Resources