The standard and most commonly-employed method for installing Windows XP, both Home and Professional, involves...
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booting the installation CD and running the install program from it. Booting from CD is supported by almost every PC capable of running Windows XP. Most CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drives support booting as well, so booting from CD to install is generally not an issue.
In a few cases, however, booting from CD may not be possible or practical -- for instance, if the system in question does not support CD booting, or if the installation image for whatever reason is not bootable. An administrator may have created a custom CD installation image without the bootable portions. If there is no recourse to the original media, then a boot floppy may be the only viable solution.
Windows 2000 has always had the ability to build boot floppies from the CD, to allow an install without needing a CD boot process. Windows XP, however, did not ship with any such ability. After the release of Windows XP, public pressure encouraged Microsoft to create a standalone tool that would create Windows XP installation floppies.
The tool creates a set of four floppies, provided by the user, for starting the Windows XP installation process. (The CD is still required, after the floppies have been loaded.) The utility will work on both Windows XP Home and XP Pro, but floppies built for one operating system are not interchangeable with the other.
Here's the download address for the XP boot-floppy tool.
Those using Windows XP CDs that have been preinstalled with Service Pack 1a should use a different tool, found here.
SP1a setup disks should not be used with non-SP1a installation CDs (and vice versa).
Serdar Yegulalp is the editor of the Windows 2000 Power Users Newsletter. Check out his Windows 2000 blog for his latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators – please share your thoughts as well!