No Windows CD

Published on 28 January 2006 in , , ,

What really annoys me about new computers is when they don’t come with a Windows CD. Yes, okay, I use Linux, but having a Windows setup on my machine is occasionally useful, so I’d prefer to have a copy of it just in case anything ever goes wrong with the machine. Merely being able to “repair” from the hard drive is no good if your hard drive gets trashed!

So with that in mind, I found out that you can burn a backup of your Windows install via the i386 directory, and using Bart’s way to create bootable CD-Roms I could apparently make it bootable too.

Cool, I thought, so I gave it a go.

First attempt was missing some files. Well actually most of the files. I’d forgotten to turn off that annoying setting in Windows which hides certain files. First coaster CD.

Second attempt was missing some more files. Cue more fiddling trying to work out where the files where. Second coaster CD.

After the third attempt I realised that I was using the Windows XP Home configuration, when actually I should have been using Windows XP Pro configuration – my PC has Windows XP Media Center installed, and not being a Windows expert any more, I didn’t realise that Media Center is based on XP Pro. Third coaster CD.

On the fourth attempt, I realised I’d forgotten to add the files to ensure it didn’t ask me to insert any disks into Drive A (durr). Fourth coaster CD.

Fifth attempt and yet more files are missing. Somehow Windows had managed to hide about 5000 files from me and I didn’t actually have a clue how it had managed it! They just appeared out of nowhere. Fifth coaster CD.

At this point I discovered Bart’s PE Builder which adds a nice Windows GUI rather than using command line (I hate the command prompt in Windows). Unfortunately every time I tried to create anything from it, it managed to get even fewer files than I’d managed to get in the first attempt! Thankfully I noticed that it had only picked up 150Meg before burning six.

Back to the command line, at which point I realised that, what with the extra files, I now needed a DVD rather than a CD. There’s now 1.1Gb of data in the i386 rather than the 570meg there was before. Bonkers.

Unfortunately the software Dell supplied with my PC doesn’t seem to stretch to a DVD burner that can burn isos – well the programme says it can but it refuses when I try – so I saved the iso out, booted into Linux and wrote the DVD there.

Bang. Sixth attempt and no coaster! I boot up my PC. Except we hit another snag – the bios won’t allow me to boot from my DVD drive, only my CD drive. Quick pop into the old bios to disable the CD drive, and all is fine. And more importantly, the DVD loads, and install appears to work correctly. I say appears cos I didn’t actually re-install Windows, but the install programme didn’t spew any errors up this time.

So there you go. Sixth time lucky… Now I just have to hope the DVD doesn’t disintegrate within five seconds…


  • Carl-Erik says:

    I tried finding a follow-up, to no avail. Did it actually work? And would you care to elaborate on the actual process of using the i386 to create this cd, or post a link to the place where you found this info? Been searching for a looong time. Have an Acer-computer that only has a restore-partition – no cd, and would also like a copy.

  • Andrew Bowden says:

    I can’t remember for sure, but I think it was literally a case of following the instructions on the Bart’s PE Builder website and then burning them to disk – nothing more complex than that. I’ve never actually used the disks, although I’ve obviously put them in my PC to check they work.