One of the most popular topics among our readers is installing Windows XP on your new Windows Vista computer – sometimes for compatibility reasons, but also because a lot of people just don’t like Vista very much.
The problem that people keep running into left and right is getting
to the point where XP starts to install and getting the message "Setup
did not find any hard disk drives installed in your computer". This
error happens because your new computer has a storage controller that
isn’t supported natively in XP, usually an SATA (Serial
If you don’t have a floppy drive in your computer (who does
anymore), then you’ll need to use a process called slip-streaming to
integrate the storage drivers into your XP installation CD.
It should go without saying that this is an advanced topic, so proceed with caution.
Creating a Custom XP Install
We’ll use a software called nLite
to create a new XP install cd, so you’ll first need to download and
install it. Once it starts up, you’ll be prompted for your Windows
installation, so you’ll want to click the Browse button.
First you’ll be prompted for the "Windows installation", which
really means your XP install CD. Find it and select the root of the
installation, and then click OK to go to the next dialog.
Next you’ll be prompted on where you want to save the temporary
files used during the slip-streaming process. I chose to create a new
directory and called it XPISO, but you can put it wherever you’d like.
I just recommend to use a new directory.
nLite will copy all the necessary files off the XP installation and
into the temporary folder. When it’s done, you’ll see all the
information on which version it is.
Hit the next button until you come to this screen, where you can
select what options you want. Select "Drivers" and then "Bootable ISO".
Side note: You can select any of the other options if you’d like.
nLite will let you bundle updates, set tweaks or automatically remove
components from the installation, but that all goes beyond the scope of
Hit the next button until you get to the screen for selecting
drivers. If you click the Insert button, you can choose between adding
a single driver or adding a folder of drivers. Since we’ll just be
loading a single driver, you can choose that option, but you might want
to first read the section below about finding drivers for XP.
Browse to the directory where you extracted the driver files, and
then select Open. Note that it doesn’t really matter which of the *.inf
files you choose, because it will select all files in the folder
nLite will prompt you to select your driver. If you don’t know
which exact one it is, you can either use Device Manager in Vista to
find the exact model, or you can just select all of them. Just be
careful not to select a 64-bit driver if you are using 32-bit, or the
wrong OS version.�
I would recommend including both Storage and Network drivers, as those are the most common drivers that are missing in XP.
Once you proceed to the next screen, now we can finally finish the
process. You can choose to directly burn the cd here, or you can select
Create Image to create an ISO file that you can burn to a CD using
whatever burning tool you have.
Note: If you chose to create an ISO, make sure to use the "Make ISO" button before you click Next.
At this point you can burn the ISO image to a CD, and then start your XP installation process.
Finding Drivers for XP
The best place to search for drivers for your hardware is at the
manufacturer’s support website. The only problem is that almost every
manufacturer seems to distribute their drivers in floppy disk image
form, even though the computer they are for doesn’t have a floppy
drive. Guess nobody has alerted them to get with the program.
We can still extract the drivers using an application called WinImage. Let’s run through a quick example… Here you can see the Intel SATA controller driver for my HP computer.
I downloaded and ran the executable, which extracted a file called
f6flpy32.exe into a temporary directory. Don’t bother trying to run
this one, because it’ll just prompt you for a floppy drive.
So how to get the drivers out of this file? There are a few options
that you can try, depending on how the manufacturer packed the files.
- You can use Winimage to extract them, which is a shareware software, but you can use it during the trial period for free.
- You can try and use WinRar to extract the file. In many instances
this will extract a *.flp file, which you can mount in a VMware virtual
machine or potentially with some ISO mounting software.
- Some drivers will allow you to automatically extract into a directory. You’ll have to try it and see what happens.
- Other methods? If you’ve got other ideas, leave them in the comments and I’ll add them to this list.
Here’s the list of files that Winimage can handle, which is quite a lot.
Start WinImage and then open the file, and you should see the
contents. Just extract them to a folder, preferably with a useful name
so you can remember it later.
Good luck with your installation, and be sure to leave any support questions on the forum.