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 Post subject: Installing an OS on a single-spindle laptop
 Post Posted: Wed Nov 28, 2007 1:55 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 04, 2007 1:32 pm
Posts: 225
Happy holidays Scott! Once again I have to ask you directly what I couldn't
find in your laptop book (doesn't mean it's not there). I read The Boot
Process and Removable Storage completely and, still, didn't see what to do
when single spindle notebooks that won't boot require an OS independent
external removable disk drive. I have two Latitude units I want to
reformat. USB obviously needs the OS running. One of these has a parallel
port and somewhere I have a parallel port floppy drive which I'll try when I
find it. The other has a proprietary drive cable available which I can get.
But, it's all a guess for me. What do you think?

Thank you so much


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 Post Posted: Wed Nov 28, 2007 1:56 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 04, 2007 11:44 am
Posts: 6115
Note that a "single-spindle" laptop is one that has only a single drive
built-in, which is a hard disk. With no built-in optical drive, how you do
install an OS such as Windows XP or Vista?

There are two main methods. The easiest is to attach an external USB optical
drive, and boot from it directly. For this to be possible the system must
have Boot-to-USB support.

An alternative method is to attach an external floppy in addition to either
an external USB or SCSI optical drive. In that case you boot from the floppy,
then navigate to the optical drive to start the installation. This method is
more difficult however, as the bootable floppy disk must be configured with
an OS (usually MS-DOS) and proper DOS driver support to enable the optical
drive to function.

This means you would always choose the first method if possible, the only
reason to try the alternative is if the system in question doesn't include
Boot-to-USB support. Most systems built since 2001 support Boot-to-USB in the
BIOS: http://support.intel.com/technology/mag ... t05011.pdf

Systems having Boot-to-USB support can be configured to boot from bootable
USB attached devices or drives in the BIOS Setup. For this to work, you have
to attach the USB device first, then restart the system, enter the BIOS
Setup, and select the proper configuration. In general you need to insure
that Boot-to-USB is enabled, and that the USB device is set to come before
the hard disk or other bootable devices in the boot sequence.

Of course the USB device or drive must itself be bootable as well, meaning it
must contain a MBR (Master Boot Record), a bootable formatted partition, and
a bootable OS in that partition.

The Windows XP or Vista install disc would qualify as a bootable disc, so for
example you could attach an external USB optical drive, insert the Windows
disc, and configure the system to boot from it. Upon booting you could
install the OS directly from the disc, or copy the contents of the disc to
the hard disk and install from there.

If your system is older than 2001 or for some other reason doesn't support
Boot-to-USB, then you can't boot from an external optical drive directly.
Instead you will have to use the alternate method, which is to boot from a
floppy disk containing an OS and drivers necessary to support the optical
drive (and interface).

For example I have an older SCSI based external optical drive that I can
attach to any laptop via an Adaptec PC-Card adapter:
http://www.adaptec.com/en-US/products/s ... /index.htm

To make it work I merely boot the system from a standard Windows 98 or Me
startup floppy, which is pre-configured by Microsoft with all of the DOS
based SCSI host adapter and optical disk drivers by default. If you don't
have a copy of a Windows 98 or Me startup floppy, you can download one from
here: http://bootdisk.com/bootdisk.htm

I recommend using the Windows Me version, as it has MS-DOS 8.0, along with
the latest version of FDISK. This version of DOS will support FAT and FAT32
volumes as-is, if you need to be able to read or write NTFS volumes, you can
add the free NTFS4DOS driver from Avira: http://www.free-av.com

You can do the same thing with a USB attached optical drive, but you will
need to copy a set of DOS USB drivers to the floppy and modify the CONFIG.SYS
and AUTOEXEC.BAT files appropriately in order to load them. Instructions for
doing that can be seen here: http://www.bootdisk.com/usb.htm

I like my SCSI solution because Microsoft integrated all of the correct
drivers for that in the Win99/Me startup disks.

Let me know which method you try, and how it works out, Scott.


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