Bootstrapping Windows 2000 without a CD-ROM

by Volker Weber

I have Ernie, the Thinkpad 240, running under Windows 2000 again. That was a first time: Installing Microsoft Windows 2000 on a machine that does not have a CD-ROM, and only connects to the network via PCMCIA. I have had tremendous problems doing so.

The machine once came installed with Windows 98 which I later replaced with Windows 2000 (without upgrading). After two years of heavy use, Windows was so bloated that it needed a reinstall. Instead of doing that, I chose to install RedHat across the network, which is extremly easy and convenient. RedHat was having some difficulties with wireless LAN adapters, I had to replace a network card but other than that it was running nicely. But I needed better wireless support ...

I planned to replace RedHat with SuSE Linux this weekend and failed miserably, although I tried seven different network cards. I then decided to call it quits and to try a fresh install of Windows 2000.

Question: How do you bootstrap this with a clean harddisk?

I decided to partition and format the disk with DOS (a.k.a. Windows 98 SE). BTW: Windows ME does not let you sys the drive so you cannot make it bootable. Earlier versions of DOS/Windows don't support large FAT partitions.

Once I had the partition formatted and sys'ed, it was still not bootable. GRUB was still sitting in the master boot record. The undocumented fdisk parameter /mbr fixed that. Now I could boot into DOS just fine.

But how would I get all the 300 MB of install files onto the machine? Tried a PC-Card DVD-drive that has DOS drivers but could not get the card and socket services running to support it. Then I dug out some 80's software like LapLink but it threw too many timeouts to be of any use. Next on the agenda was a parallel port network adapter without the need of card and socket services. While looking for the trusty old Xircom adapter I stumbled across my ZIP Plus drive. Finally a solution !

I dumped the Windows install files on four ZIP drives which was rather quick via SCSI and then connected the drive to Ernie's parallel port. I took quite a while to pull the files in through the port. Then I was finally able to bootstrap the install process. Pfeeew.


You could have tried sorting out DOS drivers for your network card and copying/installing the files that way - however for many PCMCIA network cards, this is sometimes more trouble than its worth - I think your ZIP drive technique was the best way to go.

On my machines old machines I used to create a small DOS partition and throw i386 in there however these days I have a vanilla Win2000 system image (no apps, no service packs, just Win2000) built with Norton Ghost and boot disks sorted for network/USB imaging - very fast to get a standard Win2000 system up and running these days.

Colin Williams, 2003-01-12

Right, I did not even think about those DOS network card drivers. And I should check out Norton Ghost. On second thought: I do not intend to do this again. :-)

Volker Weber, 2003-01-13

i have windows 98 se .i want to clean up my machine and install windows 2000. ..thank you

abdeljalil, 2003-09-22

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