How to Reinstall XP on a Netbook with No Optical Drive

I have a great little netbook that I use when I'm travelling.  I much prefer it to a full-size laptop because it's small and light, but is perfectly adequate for web browsing and note-taking.  

However, in the year that I've had it, the machine had become a little sluggish.  It was time for the annual format-and-reinstall operation that I like to do with all my computers whenever I get the chance.  I dug out the Windows XP factory restore disc and settled down with a nice cup of coffee.  And then, of course, I realised that this wasn't going to be as easy as I'd assumed.  Because I needed to boot from the XP disk, and the netbook doesn't have a CD-ROM drive.

It does, though, have lots of USB ports.  Surely it can't be that hard to make a USB pen drive bootable, and copy the XP installation CD to it in a format that actually works?

Suffice it to say, it *is* that hard.  I must have tried a dozen different methods, and all but one of them simply didn't work.

So, here's the thing.  If you have the Windows XP CD that came with your netbook and you want to do a reinstall of the OS, head on over to and follow the instructions therein.  The download that it points you to (WinSetupFromUSB) is only 3 MB, runs perfectly on XP upwards (I happened to run it under Windows 7), and it managed to copy my XP CD-ROM to a USB stick, and make it bootable, with no problems at all. 

Now I just need to reinstall the network drivers, then I can leave the machine to update itself with all the relevant service packs and other stuff that it desires.  While I get on with the work that I should have started this morning.



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by alexxx46 on 15. November 2012 - 11:36  (102358)

Kioskea points to a red WOT site
Then you get an infected 'download manager', instead of WinSetupFromUSB (according to Malwarebytes, the malware is Affiliate.Downloader).

[Red rated WOT link removed - please read the rules before posting. MC - Site Manager.]

by MidnightCowboy on 15. November 2012 - 11:37  (102360)
by alexxx46 on 15. November 2012 - 11:42  (102361)

MC, I unticked the 'Use our download manager and get recommended downloads' checkbox, and yet got the infected file.

by darren (not verified) on 15. November 2012 - 10:01  (102355)

Hi guys,

This same thing happened to me. I went through all the steps as posted and everything seemed to be proceeding properly up until the reboot. Now, no matter how I try to boot, it stops at AVG watchdog screen. Any ideas on how to bypass this?


by ozeck super22 on 12. September 2012 - 19:55  (99173)

Stupidly simple corner...
How to install XP on a Packard Bell PAV 80 net book the easy way.

(This might work on any make of net book,but don't quote me)

I received a net book,Packard Bell PAV 80,these don't come with an optical drive,the HDD was functional,i wanted to install XP as i had no Win 7 disc,
I had tried to install XP with a USB CD ROM external drive,but it wouldn't play ball:(

So this is how to install windows XP on a Packard Bell PAV 80 net book.with no optical drive.

I tried this with Windows XP Home,the retail edition,i don't think an OEM version of windows will work this way.

First turn the power off,then take the HDD out of the net book (you may have to dismantle the net book to do this)and put it into a note book(Laptop)

Install XP as usual,then when finished,as in the install is complete,the familar clouds and grass desktop appears,turn off the laptop and remove HDD and re insert into the Packard Bell netbook.

With a 2nd fully functioning PC with internet access go to the website of your makers of netbook and find the relevant drivers such as WiFi and chip set drivers.

Stick the drivers on a USB stick then dump them on the net books HDD.

Activation of XP is mandatory,so go on line and follow the prompts,it worked fine and XP had no problems being installed on a laptop then being put on a net book.
This only works with XP retail,not OEM like a Dell or HP version,good luck:)

[Moderator's note : edited out make-specific link and content, and replaced with general content]

by jbtutor on 13. June 2012 - 18:32  (94805)

Registered to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I was really pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to install xp back onto a net book that I put windows 7 on and slowed WAY down. Have an awesome day.

by JenR (not verified) on 22. March 2012 - 21:57  (90997)

Thank you thank you. I thought I was loosing my mind! Now I have to replace the hard drive that I have now determined is actually the root cause of my Windows error. Bummer. But I will need to install the OS from the USB stick anyways.

by LutherianX (not verified) on 5. March 2012 - 13:25  (89946)

>> "Now I just need to reinstall the network drivers, then I can leave the machine to update itself with all the relevant service packs and other stuff that it desires."

That's why I love linux.
No drivers - just drop the install file onto the usb and boot.
*Everthing* works - no drivers or updates required.
Heck, if I wanted ... I could run the whole OS off the flashdrive if I wanted.

>>"However, in the year that I've had it, the machine had become a little sluggish. It was time for the annual format-and-reinstall operation"

An OS shouldn't do that. I've had Linux Mint on my NetBook for 3.5 years - no slowdown ... sometimes I leave it running overnight when downloading etc.

Not anti-Microsoft, just saying that maybe MS isn't suited for netbooks, and to be fair ... XP is an old OS - netbooks didn't even exist when it came out ... I'm interested to see what Windows 8 offers .. time will tell

by M.Mohsin (not verified) on 14. January 2012 - 18:59  (87177)

Please please help me.... My hard drive is not detecting where the partition process takes place during installation of widows xp...
I have mini laptop notebook 110-3800, kindly help me and tell me that what should i do...???

by MidnightCowboy on 15. January 2012 - 5:26  (87196)

Sorry, but we are unable to offer individual support here in the comments. Please post your question in our forum.

by Alexoukos (not verified) on 24. December 2011 - 14:06  (85892)

Hey guys! I have a Toshiba netbook and i got hasn't a disc driver and i don't know how to reformat it..please show me how in a simple way please because i am not experienced in this staff..
Thank you and please reply soon

by MidnightCowboy on 24. December 2011 - 15:17  (85900)

Sorry but we are unable to provide individual support here in the comments. Please post details of your issue in our forum.

by Lillie (not verified) on 6. July 2010 - 19:01  (53860)

My grandson got a new netbook for his birthday; I believe it comes from China. I am trying to install a different OS on it via use of the USB drive. However, I've tried all different keys and methods and can't get into the bios set up. Anyone have any experience with this?

by bucsly (not verified) on 7. July 2010 - 18:20  (53903)

try this if you are trying to install a linux derivative
it worked flawlessly for me

by kola (not verified) on 5. July 2010 - 14:00  (53783)

Well, I didn't get a Windows XP CD with my netbook. It came with a pre-installed Windows Starter 7. How I regret not having XP on it, but the thought of having to locate drivers and so forth is a bit daunting. Anyway, am I the only person who doesn't much like netbooks? I find them fiddly and mickey mouse, everything's so mini. Maybe I've been too long on full-size units. Tho' I'm sure the netbook comes into its own when one's travelling. One of the reasons I grabbed it while it was going at a discounted price was for its matte screen. I can't endure the eye-hurting glare of the glossy screens most come with these days.

I'm very fond of the idea of making an image or clone of the drive to a USB external drive while the netbook is still young and forgiving and working efficiently then using it to restore from later if need be.

by Rob (not verified) on 5. July 2010 - 0:27  (53761)

Just to match the credentials of other who post here I have been in "the trade" for over 20 years.

Netbooks are of course relatively new. My own advice for when you get your netbook running just the way you like it with all the software you regularly use nicely installed, is to use Acronis or similar and make an image to be used if/when you need to restore to the "out of box" state.

Having been down the path of USB boot and install, I tend to opt for the USB DVD/CD drive since I need this while travelling. I also use this where a computer to be restored has a faulty optical drive and the owner does not want to bother having it replaced due to never using it anyway.

I purchased a Samsung N210 with Win 7 starter. This proved near useless for my purpose and I installed an OEM Windows XP SP3 without issue. All required drivers and software packages were available from the Samsung site despite dire warnings from many forum users that Samsung was not up to scratch.

The N210 performs admirably with my Quickbooks, Thumbsplus 7, Microsoft PictureIt 2000, Firefox, Thunderbird and Microsoft Office 2000. I use DivX to play movies.

by robert.schifreen on 4. July 2010 - 19:19  (53750)

Thanks for the comments guys. As it happens, this netbook is often used for reviewing and testing software, including fairly low-level stuff like web servers and PHP. So there's no easy way to do routine maintenance except to wipe the machine and start again. Which, considering I don't keep anything of importance on it, seems to me to be the best way to operate. Your mileage may vary, as they say, but it works great for me.

As to the amount of RAM required, this one does have 1 GB. Which is plenty for XP. And I don't know what you mean about having to copy SP3 to a USB stick. It downloaded just fine, via the netbook itself. Which is now back to full speed.

by eikelein on 6. July 2010 - 16:11  (53818)

Thanks for your comment. And yes, everybody's mileage does vary.

Did you overlook the part "...after July 13 2010..."? Microsoft has repeatedly said that after that day WinXP SP2 and older do not get updates from their update web site any more.

I figure you better download the ca. 215MB XP SP3 stand-alone installer program NOW. Here is the link:


by eikelein on 4. July 2010 - 13:00  (53732)

Well, I am always amazed at what troubles people like r.schifreen and many others go through. For me it is much simpler: Preventive maintenance, preventive maintenance ...

What follows now I say out of eight years experience with WinXP alone, six of those fixing supposedly "broken" home computers.

In my experience 99 out of 100 cases WinXP gets slow because of three reasons:

. 1. Malicious software.
. 2. Too many programs running in the background.
. 3. Too little RAM (main memory).

In all these years I truly have seen only two or three machines where the C: drive was 99.x% full and the box was slow because of that.

Re #1: 99.9% of all malicious software can be loss-less removed and cleaned up. All necessary know-how is available for free on the Internet.

Re #2: Watch what installers and updates do to your box. Eventually remove extraneous stuff right away, don't let it pile up.

Re #3: What was good two or three years ago is not necessarily good enough anymore. Point in this case: Four or five years ago an upgrade from 256MB of RAM to 512MB would do miracles on some systems. WinXP has grown over time (new functionality, more security a.s.o.) and now the upgrade of a 256MB machine should go to 768MB or even better 1GB for a similar effect.

I expect this to start a wild discussion; but my extensive experience with not maintained home user PCs shows over and over again that regular maintenance is cheaper, safer and surely easier than re-installing the OS.

Another aspect: After July 13 2010 you will NOT GET ANY UPDATES from Microsoft if you re-installed WinXP SP2 or even older! Now IMNSHO that's a bummer.

Even if you have or can get a CD with the SP3 upgrade, on a netbook you've got to copy it to an USB stick and so on, and so on...

by DaveB (not verified) on 4. July 2010 - 10:59  (53729)

Another option is to buy a USB CD/DVD drive, which would come in handy for other uses like listening to CDs or watching videos on a netbook as well. They've come down considerably in price, and aren't all that much more expensive than a good-sized thumb drive.

by Joshua (not verified) on 6. July 2010 - 17:44  (53855)

Agree. Just try to get one that also draws energy from the USB port. One less wire to handle and plug to find.

by Century22 on 4. July 2010 - 3:42  (53715)

This may be a new article, but the technique is not new.
I did it two years ago on my Eee PC.

How To: Slipstream Windows XP SP3 and Vista SP1

Installation of Windows XP on an ASUS Eee PC

nLite for WinXP ( or Vista)

by AnonymousXL (not verified) on 6. July 2010 - 15:17  (53851)

I agree. Why would you "leave the machine to update itself with all the relevant service packs and other stuff that it desires" when it is trivial to slipstream - especially if you're not even burning a CD?

Last time I used Autopatcher (yeah, they're still around, sort of) to download all the subsequent XP updates of importance and used nLite to slipstream those in, too.

by CJ (not verified) on 4. July 2010 - 0:37  (53711)

Whoa! You will not believe just how uncanny timely this is. My wife asked me about reformatting her netbook just yesterday, and I said, "I'll look into this over the weekend on Gizmo's site. There must be a way to do it with a usb drive." didn't get around to it yet, because of World Cup distractions but the mountain came to me, as it were, getting this notice via email. You made my day. Thank you, kindly. From both of us.

Will get on it when I can have access to her machine.


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