How to Make a Recovery CD in Windows XP

By Zach Dexter

When (not if) your Windows installation gets a nasty virus or some other problem, in most cases the simplest solution is to wipe your hard drive and reinstall Windows. A recovery disc is a Windows installation disc that includes all the Service Pack updates and as many of your hardware drivers as will fit, so you don't have to manually re-install all of them. Even if your computer came with its own Windows recovery disc, chances are slim-to-none that that recovery disc is even remotely up to date. Burning your own recovery disc is, therefore, an important skill.

Things You'll Need

  • Windows XP installation CD
  • CD-R drive
  • Blank CD-R
  • Valid XP product key
  • XP Service Pack 2
  • XP Service Pack 3
  • Collection of all your video/audio/Ethernet/Wi-Fi and any other hardware drivers
  • 1 GB free hard drive space
  • CD recovery software (IsoBuster recommended)
  • CD burning software

Step 1

Click "My Computer," then "C:". Right-click and select "New Folder," and name that new folder "xp." Leave this window open.

Step 2

Insert the XP installation CD in the CD-R drive. Open "My Computer" and right-click the installation CD (usually D: or E:), and select "Explore," which opens a window showing the contents of the installion CD.

Step 3

Click "Edit," then "Select All," which highlights all the contents of the XP installation CD. Click and drag the contents of the XP installation CD to the "xp" folder in the other Explorer window. The XP installation CD will now be copied to the "xp" folder, which might take a while.

Step 4

Back in the "C:" window (where the "xp" folder is), create two more folders and name them "sp2" and "sp3." Use a Web browser to go to the Microsoft Download Center and download XP Service Pack 2 sp and XP Service Pack 3 (see Resources), saving them to the "sp2" and "sp3" folders, respectively.

Step 5

Click "Start," then "Programs," then "Accessories," then "Command Prompt" to open the command prompt. In the command prompt, type "c:\sp2\WindowsXP-KB835935-SP2-ENU /integrate:c:\xp" and press Enter. After a few seconds you will get a success message.

Step 6

In the command prompt, type "c:\sp3\WindowsXP-KB936929-SP3-x86-ENU /integrate:c:xp" and press Enter. Again, you will get a success message after a few seconds.

Step 7

In the original XP installation disc, click "Support," then "Tools," then double-click "DEPLOY.CAB," then double-click "Setupmgr.exe." This opens the Windows Setup Manager wizard.

Step 8

In the Windows Setup Manager wizard, select "Create a new answer file" then select "Windows Unattended Installation." Under "User Interaction Level," select "Provide "Defaults." For the Distribution Folder prompt, select "No."

Step 9

In the next window, select "Providing the Product Key," then type your XP product key into the corresponding text box. This will generate the file "unattend.txt." Save "unattend.txt" to the C:/xp folder.

Step 10

In the C:/xp folder, create a new folder and name it "DRIVERS". Inside the "DRIVERS" folder, create subfolders for each type of driver you are slipstreaming. For example, create a folder named "VIDEO" for video drivers, "AUDIO" for audio drivers, or "NETWORK" for network drivers.

Step 11

Save all your hardware drivers to their respective subfolders in C:/xp/DRIVERS. Make sure any .zip or self-extracting files are fully expanded before they are saved to these subfolders. Video and network drivers are highest priority, but throw as many drivers into C:/xp as you can while keeping that folder under 700MB.

Step 12

Use the CD recovery software to extract the boot loader from the original XP installation CD. This will vary according to which software you use, but you're looking for BootImage.img. Save BootImage.img to C:/xp.

Step 13

Use the CD burning software to create a boot-able CD project with the contents of C:/xp. Use BootImage.img for boot image data. For example, in Nero, click the "Boot" tab and select "Image File" under "Source of Boot Image Data," then click "Browse" and select BootImage.img from C:/xp.

Step 14

Burn your new recovery disc.

Tips & Warnings

  • If your recovery disc needs more than 700 MB, it's perfectly fine to use a DVD, as long as you have a DVD burner.