Install Windows XP on SATA without a Floppy (F6)

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Do you ever wondered how to install Windows (XP) on SATA driver without having a floppy drive?

These days I have met a new challenge regarding the Windows OS install. I have a five years old Compaq 6820s laptop which, like any laptop that respects itself, ships with a Intel ICH8M chipset (i.e. with a Intel 82801 HEM/HBM SATA AHCI Controller). That’s fine as long you won’t install Windows or you have a floppy drive. What decent laptop comes with a floppy drive anyway? That’s hogwash!

In order to install Windows (XP at least) on a SATA drive whose controller is not included by default on the XP installation media, you have to press F6 key once the installation sequence starts in order to load any 3rd party SATA/RAID driver:


Windows XP Setup – press F6

By doing this the Windows Setup will ask you to insert your support disk into drive A.


Windows XP Setup – insert floppy drive

So, what are the chances to accomplish this task? – I was wondering. Then I discovered this article which states that it’s in fact achievable.

Our problem is that our SATA controller driver not exists (by default) on the Windows CDROM. The main idea is to fix that


  • an original Windows XP CDROM (or its ISO image)
  • an 8GB USB flash drive
  • a PC capable to boot from an USB drive
  • an working Windows instance

But how can we modify the Windows Setup then overwrite the CD-ROM contents, which is in fact a read-only media?

Well, we won’t do that but only the following steps:

  • download the SATA drivers from your manufacturer website
  • create a copy of your CDROM ISO disk image
  • mount that image (as a virtual disk)
  • create a bootable USB flash drive by using the ISO image and a program called NLite
  • boot your Windows from the bootable USB flash drive; floppy not required anymore

If it’s happening that you are on Linux then the simplest way to create the CD ISO image from your Windows CDROM is:

dd if=/dev/cdrom of=/your-path/winxp-cdrom.iso

If you are on Windows then there are many choices, amongst those that are still free is also the ISODisk. It allows you to create an ISO image from CDROM and also to mount your ISO as a virtual disk. Or you can just search the Google for your preferred solution.

On your running Windows instance mount the ISO image and launch the NLite application. In the “Task Selection” screen choose “Drivers” option:

NLite task selection - Drivers

NLite task selection – Drivers

Specify the path of your (deflated) drivers then choose the option to create the bootable ISO image:

NLite task selection - Make bootable ISO

NLite task selection – Make bootable ISO

Once the new ISO image is ready all you have to do is to burn that image either on a new CDROM or on a USB flash drive (at your convenience). There are plenty of software products that helps with that, one I’ve tried is ISO to USB.

Boot your Windows Setup from the media you have burned earlier, no floppy required, SATA drive is automatically recognized by Windows Setup.


About Eugen Mihailescu

Always looking to learn more about *nix world, about the fundamental concepts of arithmetic, algebra and geometry. I am also passionate about programming, database and systems administration.
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