Boot XP from your USB key

I missed this way back when, but recently stumbled on it and thought it was pretty cool.  Earlier this year, InformationWeek ran an article on how to boot Windows XP from a USB key drive.  This OS feat is possible thanks to Bart Lagerweij’s BartPE, a recent update to USB handling in Windows 2003 that also benefits XP, and work done by other software authors to fix remaining issues.

Before we get too far, it’s worth noting that there are some kinds of boot-from-USB problems that software fixes can’t cure. For example, not all PCs (especially older ones) support boot-from-USB in the first place: If the system doesn’t allow it, it’s game over. (If your PC supports boot-from USB, it’ll be an option in the BIOS setup tool.) There can be compatibility issues with USB 1.0 and 2.0 hardware, and with “High Speed” versus “Full Speed” or “Low Speed” support. And so on.

. . .

Booting XP From A USB Drive, Step By Step
First, if you haven’t already, grab a free copy of BartPE. You’ll find all the information you need on getting and using this tool in “A Must-Have Repair And Recovery Tool.” and at Bart’s site.

Next, you need new versions of two files from Microsoft: “setupldr.bin” and “ramdisk.sys”. These new files are part of the Windows Server 2003 SP1 pack, which you can download from Microsoft no matter what operating system you’re running. So, if you’re not running Server 2003, it’s not a problem.

Here’s what to do:

For the guide with step-by-step instructions and occasional screen captures, hit the story on Information Week‘s web site.

[tags]Boot Windows XP off a USB key, XP on USB key[/tags]