How to build a really difficult system

If Tim Burton made PCs… here’s the spec:
  • Epson touch-screen till (SFF motherboard)
  • 1 x 2.5" hdd
  • No optical drive
  • Doesn’t allow bootable USB
  • Doesn’t allow PXE
  • And no, sysprepping a Windows installation made on another machine doesn’t work (boot failure/ BSOD).


  • A multi-port IDE/ SATA-to-USB cable adapter;
  • WinPE (well… actually I used BartPE but WinPE might work. ?)
  • Another working system with lots of USB connectivity and capable of installing Bart (or Win) PE.
  • I’ve never, ever used WinPE so can’t vouch that it’ll work.

First thing: it helps to have another 2.5" drive spare. But you need to wipe the drive you’re going to use, the adapter we used had two usb connectors at the opposite end to all the IDE/ SATA ports, both USB connectors had to be attached to the PC to power up the 2.5"drive.

Plug the hard disk into your "other" PC via the adapter cable. Wipe any existing partitions on it (with prior backup if necessary) and then create two partitions; sizing is only important on tiny drives (strangely, like the one we were using- a 5GB model) so we ended up with a 4.2 GB partition (primary) and the a 700MB partition, roughly speaking. Having a 700MB secondary partiton enabled us to squeeze the XP Pro installation CD on, just. This is really important.

Next, install BartPE and grab your XP CD; you’re going to use BartPE to install a bootable copy of XP to the 2.5" drive (CDs are useless, remember). I can’t quite remember how to do this but I’m sure it’s an obvious choice at some point. Once you’re happy the (nightmare) mini-ATX system can at least boot to this partiton, copy the entire XP CD to the (smaller) second partiton using the "workhorse" PC. Swap the drive back the mini system, boot BartPE and then you should be able to run winnt (or winnt32) from a command prompt, at which point the real XP Setup starts and- on a system as slow as the one we used- 4 days later XP will finally bring up bliss.bmp.

DISCLAIMER: I have no idea what licensing implications installing a system in this way has, but- once XP is up and running properly- you can delete anything relating to BartPE and the XP installation CD files so it shouldn’t cause any problems. 


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