Boot to WinPE and install XP from an XP ISO

If the Easy2Boot Windows XP two-step process is not working on some systems, try this WinPE method instead (an alternative method is to boot to WinPE and run WinNTSetup).

With this method you can also automate the install. 

Two ISO files are required:

  • The first ISO is just your Windows XP Install ISO – i.e. the OS that you want to install  (this does NOT need to be contiguous)
  • The second ISO needs to be a 32-bit WinPE v2/3/4 ISO – this can be a whole Vista/Win7/Win8 Install ISO OR just a Vista/7/8 WinPE ISO  (Win8 PE recommended)

A removable-type of USB E2B drive is required on low RAM <1GB systems (or a WinHelper USB Flash drive if using E2B on a USB HDD) – later versions of E2B will work with both Removable and Fixed E2B drives as E2B can use WIMBOOT instead of needing a WinHelper flash drive with E2B Fixed-disk USB drives but usually >1GB of RAM is required. 

Click here for a video demonstration of this procedure. 


  • Vanilla Microsoft XP ISO (unmodified)
  • Can only install to IDE Hard disk (unless nLited ISO is used which includes Mass Storage Drivers)
  • Fast – can be automated with no user input once install starts
  • USB drive can be removed once text-mode setup has completed
  • No 2nd reboot to E2B menu required
  • Vista/7/8 32-bit Windows Install ISO (or WinPE ISO) is also required (Win10 x86 will report a “Basic Disks created by Windows NT 4.0” error and cannot be used).

With this method you only need to boot to the E2B USB drive once and the E2B drive is not required once the initial file copy phase has finished.

In addition, you can use an unattend.txt file to automate the install process. The disadvantage with this method is that if you are installing to an AHCI\SATA\SCSI\RAID system, then you need to use a modified XP Install ISO that contains the correct drivers (i.e. nLited with the correct mass storage driver for the target system). 

This process requires two ISOs, one of which must be a Vista (or later) Install ISO (e.g. Vista Install ISO, Win7 Install ISO, Win8 Install ISO, SVRk2012 Install ISO, SVR2K8 Install ISO) or a WiNPE ISO.

Win10 WinPE cannot be used.

E2B will boot from this ISO to use WinPE. Under WinPE it will load the XP ISO file as a virtual CD and then, after formatting the target hard disk, will run XP winnt32.exe to install XP onto the target partition. 

This method will also work if booting from an exFAT formatted Easy2Boot USB drive using a Win7/8 WinPE or Install DVD.

This method can also be used with XP install ISOs that contain $oem$ folders. 

Although you are asked for a partition size, you can later skip over partitioning and formatting of the drive. If you specify a partition size and an unattend.txt, when you later confirm with Y – the disk will be wiped, re-partitioned, re-formatted and the whole XP build will continue automatically without further user input being required. 

The XP ISO should have any mass storage drivers already integrated (nLite’d) as required by the system (e.g. AHCI drivers). 

Note: There is an example file in \_ISO\Windows\XP\XP_EeePC_Auto_UK.txt for an Asus EeePC install. 

How it works

These installs work in a similar way to Vista/7/8 installs, ImDisk is used to load the XP ISO file as a virtual DVD:
1. Easy2Boot overwrites \AutoUnattend.xml and \Unattend.xml with \_ISO\E2B\FiraDisk\auwinnt.xml 
2. Windows Setup or PE boots 
3. WinPE Setup looks for \AutoUnattend.xml file on any REMOVABLE DRIVE (e.g. USB Flash drive or CD/DVD) – WinPE looks for \Unattend.xml when wpeinit runs. 
4. PE runs the WindowsPE RunSynchronous command from the  .xml file which then looks for and runs LoadIsoW.cmd 
5.  \_ISO\E2B\FiraDisk\LoadIsoW.cmd loads the XP ISO as a virtual drive and then runs \_ISO\E2B\FiraDisk\RUNWINNT.cmd 
6. RUNWINNT.cmd prompts the user and formats, or wipes and partitions the target drive and runs winnt32.exe with the correct command line parameters. 
7. Remove the USB drive and reboot the system to begin the XP Setup text-mode file copy phase which runs from the target hard disk. 

Note: By default, the script will assume you will want to wipe and partition Drive 0, however you can prepare any target drive using DiskPart and install XP onto a different drive and partition. Use 0=Max for the default Drive 0 partition size when asked, but then when asked again later if you want to wipe Drive 0, answer N=No – you can then select a different target volume drive letter.You can change the name of the XP Install ISO files as you wish (but keep the .ISO file extension). 

This method requires two ISO files.

  • The first ISO is just your Windows XP Install ISO – i.e. the OS that you want to install  (this does NOT need to be contiguous)
  • The second ISO needs to be a 32-bit WinPE v2/3/4 ISO – this can be a whole Vista/Win7/Win8 Install ISO OR just a Vista/7/8 WinPE ISO  (Win8 PE recommended)

E2B Fixed Disk?
Later versions of E2B can use ‘WIMBOOT’ instead of needing a WinHelper flash drive with E2B Fixed-disk USB drives.
However, if you are booting Easy2Boot from a USB Hard disk and do not use WIMBOOT, you will also need a WinHelper USB flash drive containing these 3 files –   

  • AutoUnattend.xml (overwritten – required for Win Vista and later OS Install ISOs), 
  • Unattend.xml (overwritten – required for WinPE ISOs)
  • WINHELPER.USB (marker file to find correct USB drive)

These 3 files must be on the root of your USB ‘Helper’ Flash drive.

Note: E2B can install any number of Windows ISOs because it uses a special feature of Vista+ OS’s which looks for a removable media drive such as a USB Flash drive or DVD. If you only want to install ONE Windows Vista/7/8 ISO using E2B from a USB Hard disk then you can accomplish this without the need for a ‘Helper’ Flash drive by simply extracting the whole \sources folder from the Windows Install ISO using 7Zip and copying the \sources folder to the root of your E2B Hard drive. If you delete the \sources\ei.cfg file then all available versions (e.g. Basic, Professional, Ultimate) will be offered. Of course, if you do this, you can then only install the version of Windows that is in the \sources folder on your hard disk. See here for details on installing Win7 in this way.

How to make a WinPE ISO

You can use pretty much any 32-bit WinPE v2/3/4 ISO that you have on your Easy2Boot drive or a Windows Install ISO (e.g. an existing Windows 7 or 8 Install DVD ISO that is already on your E2B drive, but not an XP-based ISO). Windows 10 PE cannot be used as it is incompatible with winnt32.exe. 


You can make a 150MB WinPE ISO by downloading and using the >3GB Windows WAIK (use copype x86 c:\winpe3) and make an iso file using mkfsiso from the Windows command line. 


much easier and fully automated way to obtain a bootable WinPE3 ISO that is also useful as a rescue ISO (a download and then just a few mouse clicks!) is to follow Tutorial 107 and make a Macrium Reflect Rescue ISO. This ISO can then be used with this method to install XP and as a general purpose rescue ISO (you can put it in the \_ISO\MainMenu, \_ISO\MainMenu\MNU or any of the \_ISO\Windows\xxxxx folders). 


1. Ensure you have an XP Install ISO file in the \_ISO\Windows\XP folder (any .iso filename can be used) 

2. Make sure you have a 32-bit Vista, 7 or 8 Install ISO or WinPE v2/3/4 ISO in one of the  \_ISO sub-folders – the WinPE .iso file can have any filename you like. 

3. The file at \_ISO\Windows\WINPE_INST.TAG should be already present (don’t delete it!) –  if you delete it you will not see the ‘Install any ISO using WinPE’ option in the menu! 

4. You can add your own unattend.txt file to the \_ISO\Windows\XP folder (use any suitable filename but it must end in .txt). Use the sample UK .txt file as a template. The sample one provided will run Setup without any user interaction. 

5. Run WinContig  (RMPrepUSB – Ctrl+F2) to ensure the PE ISO file is contiguous 

6. If you are booting from an Easy2Boot USB Hard drive, you may need to prepare and connect an auxiliary ‘WinHelper’ USB Flash drive (see section above for details) 

Using the ‘Install XP using WinPE’ menu option

When you boot from the Easy2Boot USB drive, the Windows XP install menu will have the option: 

3 Install XP using WinPE [X]

When you select this option you will need to answer some user questions before it boots from the ISO file: 

Select a Windows XP ISO – choose the XP ISO you want to actually install 

Which folder is the WinPE ISO in: – choose one of the Windows folders on your Easy2Boot drive that has a WinPE 32-bit ISO file (if using XP 32-bit) 

Enter WinPE ‘Helper’ ISO – choose the helper WinPE ISO (for instance a Windows 7 32-bit install ISO file or a Win8PE 32-bit .iso if installing XP 32-bit) 

Default Disk 0 1st partition size in MB (0=MAX)  :   – You will be asked to confirm this again later on before the disk is wiped, and then you can choose to just format one partition only and not wipe the whole disk or install to a partition without formatting. Use 0 for maximum size. If you are not going to wipe and partition the disk, choose 0 or any size. 

Choose an Unattend.txt file (0=MANUAL INSTALL) :   – You can specify an unattend.txt file (there is one included in the XP folder which you can copy if you like). Press 0 for no unattend.txt file which means you will have to answer all the questions from XP Setup manually.

Booting to WinPE

  1. The system will then boot to WinPE from the Vista/7/8 WinPE ISO and should automatically open a blue console window (the auxiliary USB Flash drive must also be connected if using a USB E2B Hard Disk)
  2. WinPE will detect the xml file, run the section of code inside it and then mount the XP ISO file as a virtual drive.
  3. You will be asked if you want to wipe the internal hard disk and re-partition it. 
    Check the drive list carefully to make sure the correct drive has been selected! You may need to maximise the blue console window.
  4. If you answer N then you will be asked if you want to format a single partition on the hard drive (e.g. C:). This partition will be made active and will become the system partition.
    Note: if you answer N to this question also, the install will stop. If you answer S=Skip then XP will be installed to an existing partition.
  5. Winnt32.exe will then be run (and will use the Unattend.txt file if you specified one to automate the install process) – this will take several minutes…
  6. Press a key to reboot to the internal hard disk and the XP Setup should then proceed – the USB drive(s) can be disconnected.

If you have an XP ISO with integrated AHCI drivers (e.g. using or nLite), then it should work on an AHCI system. 

If possible, use a 32-bit Windows 10 Install ISO as the WinPE installer OS as that will have the widest range of drivers and USB 3.0 support. 

Tip: To automate the process further and remove the final prompt to reboot (see step 6 above), edit the \_ISO\E2B\firadisk\RUNWINNT.cmd file and add REM to the line near the end of the file as shown below:

 echo Press a key and reboot from the internal hard disk to continue Setup...
REM pause > nulwpeutil reboot

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