Booting XP from external USB drive


New Member

I am a complete n000b to EasyBCD but am looking for a solution to boot XP from an external USB drive. I have Windows XP already installed on the external hd, and my computer (Vista OS) supports booting from USB, at least my external hd is detected during start up. Maybe EasyBCD doesn't support what I'm trying to do? Here's my scenario:

The external hd is my old hd, with XP and all my installs and data. I've tried booting from it already, but I get the BSOD everytime and an error that flashes up for a millisecond(or however short it is, it's way too quick for me to read). So I presume my system supports booting from USB.

I donwloaded EasyBCD, made a new entry using EasyBSD, when I start up my computer, I have the option to boot Windows Vista or Windows (XP), as expected. I assigned Windows XP to my J: drive, which is the external USB drive where my Windows XP install resides. However, when I try to boot Windows XP from the prompt, the boot automatically fails over and restarts my computer.

Does EasyBCD support creating a boot entry that will boot from an external USB drive, or is it only for booting from disk partitions? If it supports creating entries to boot from USB drives, if there something specific I need to do that isn't listed in the EasyBCD docs?

Thanks for any help,
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Hi Chipleh, welcome to NST.
When you boot XP from Vista, the XP boot files need to be copied onto the Vista root, and boot.ini points to XP (not the BCD entry). The XP entry you created in EasyBCD should point to the XP boot files(ie Vista's root)
Please read the sticky thread for all the relevant info and links.
As to whether your XP will run, from an external HDD, is another matter. Windows is not designed to run in such a way. It's linked to the hardware layout of the PC for validation of the licence serial number, to prevent it being used on multiple systems.
I believe I remember a link being posted in a thread some time ago, to an external site where someone had got it to work, but it was not just a staightforward install. It required some creative manipulation.
Use the search facility to see if you can find the link (or it might be quicker to google the web generally)
Your system may support booting from USB, but Windows doesn't. There are some various workarounds on the internet for making it work, but generally it is not possible and I cannot confirm thier accuracy. They do this primarly as another piracy safeguard, so I don't see them supporting it at least for a few more years until everyone is taking their systems with them on a portable drive.
Windows *XP* supports booting from an external drive, Vista doesn't.

To be more accurate, XP doesn't care if you're booting from an external or local disk - it doesn't check. But whether or not it'll boot depends wholly on how your BIOS deals with external drives... so it's linked to the hardware you use.
Windows *XP* supports booting from an external drive, Vista doesn't.

Does Win 7 support booting from an external drive, though? I'm asking because I was thinking of putting my newly-downloaded Win 7 on an external HDD, but if it wont work, then I would definitely like to know beforehand. :wink:

I've only seen articles for XP though there might be stuff for Vista now thats it been out for awhile. I don't have any links (didn't have 'em bookmarked). Tried to find the article I saw but its been awhile. Sent cool a pm with a search I did to pull up some pages that might be able to explain the proccess in further detail, but once again, I have not tried any of them myself to confirm that they work.

XP "does" care whether its on usb or normal internal hard drive for some systems depending on the BIOS like mentioned here. Most systems during the installation well cause an error to display where the installation will fail to continue if it thinks you're trying to install XP to a usb device. Windows 2000 in comparison does not display any error and acts like everythings fine, but upon reboot it crashes. I got PE on a usb flash drive where it worked on my laptop but not on my desktop until I found a posting on the net of a patched file that solved my problem (the default one caused BSODs which I suspect are the only barrier after you've managed to get XP's files on the drive and made it bootable). I have not tried it, but assuming you can get passed the install requirements of the installer it might be possible to use a patched file to achieve booting normal XP or Windows 2000 off a usb device.


Does Win 7 support booting from an external drive, though? I'm asking because I was thinking of putting my newly-downloaded Win 7 on an external HDD, but if it wont work, then I would definitely like to know beforehand. :wink:


@CG: In regard to vhd files from the other thread new with Windows 7 well you be able to add entries using bcdedit/EasyBCD 2.0 for one to Vista's bootloader come via future updates or SP2 if its not already supported? I already asked there but maybe these files could be stored and booted from USB devices?

@cool: If this is all true you might be able to do it w/ Win 7...
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EasyBCD can do some really cool magic.

I've got it able to boot Windows off *another PC* at home - though I don't think I'll be publicly releasing that feature; it'd be a nightmare to support.

I'll keep booting VHDs off of external drives at the top of my list; let me see how it goes.
Boot Windows from another PC?

That would be a nightmare to support...

Sounds awesome though... maybe a seperate version for the techies?
I have just such a sytem - or very similar - is it a desktop set up?
My old disk is a SATA so I have an eSATA port on the case, plug in to that and it can boot from it as if it were an internal drive. If I didn't have a pucker eSATA I'd just poke a sata cable and power supply out through a spare card slot. (The eSATA is just a "pass through" card plate) - effectivly a direct connection to the mobo.
Prior to that my old drive was IDE and I DID have an IDE cable and power supply poked through a spare card slot so I could plug in the old drive and boot from that (and indeed carry on working normally if a tiny bit more slowy) if ever I had a problem with windows on my main drive. (I could then work on the problem when convenient, rather than have to stop work and sort it).

If it's a desktop forget external via USB and make it an "internal" on the outside :smile:
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