How to Install Windows From an External Hard Drive

By Larry Amon

Usually, Windows is installed from a CD or possibly over a network if you are an administrator. Installing Windows from a hard drive is not how Windows is made to be installed, but it can be done.

Things You'll Need

  • Boot disk

Step 1

Boot from the external hard drive. You need to go into the BIOS by pressing the key that is listed to be used to enter setup when the computer starts. This can be "Delete" or "F12" or some other key. Look for a menu that lists something called "Boot order". Enter this menu and choose "Floppy" or "CD-ROM" depending if you have a boot disk in floppy or CD format.

Step 2

Copy the Windows CD. You may only need the i386 folder, but to be safe, copy all of the contents of the Windows CD to the external hard drive. Create a folder on the drive something like "WindowsInstall." If you are doing this in DOS, you can use a program like Xcopy to recursively copy all folders and subfolders.

Step 3

Boot your computer with a boot disk. Insert the boot disk and restart your computer. When the computer is up and running, change the drive to the external drive letter. You may have to try several times but type the command "d:" and then "e:" and so on until you come to your external dive. You can check the contents of the drive by typing "dir". Your motherboard will need to be able to read the USB drive outside of Windows if it cant and you don't see the drive listed than you will not be able to install Windows from an external drive.

Step 4

Run a program called smartdrv.exe. This program will need to be downloaded and saved to your external drive. Change to the directory where smartdrv.exe exists by typing "cd directory" where "directory" is the directory name. Type "smartdrv.exe" and smartdrive will now run.

Step 5

Start installing Windows. Change directories to the "WindowsInstall" folder by typing "cd WindowsInstall" or to wherever you saved the Windows files. Go to the "i386" folder by typing "cd i386." Type "winnt" and you will be taken to a screen that will start to load Windows. Follow the on-screen instructions.

References & Resources