How to Install Windows From an External Hard Drive

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.

Hand with computer mouse and keyboard
You can install Windows from a hard drive if necessary.
credit: Burke/Triolo Productions/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Step

Boot from the external hard drive. First, go into the BIOS by pressing the required function key when the computer starts. Look for the "boot order" menu. Enter this menu and specify the location of a boot disk.

Step

Copy the Windows CD to the external hard drive. 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 with a name like “WindowsInstall.”

Step

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.

Step

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

Start installing Windows. Change directories to the “WindowsInstall” folder by typing “cd WindowsInstall” or 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.