Thursday, December 31, 2009

Installing Windows XP on AHCI or Nvidia raid system without floppy drive

I just had to do this to install XP on my quadcore AMD rig which doesn't have a floppy drive and it was a pain in the but so here's how you do it:
The problem:
None of the Pre-Vista Windows Operating Systems do support the S-ATA Controller features RAID ("Redundant Array of Independent Disks") and AHCI ("Advanced Host Controller Interface"). Unless the suitable nForce Sata/PataRAID or AHCI drivers are separately presented by the user, the OS installation fails, because the OS Setup doesn't find the related RAID/AHCI drives and their partitions.
The traditional method to provide the needed drivers by F6/floppy has some severe disadvantages:

1. A floppy drive is needed, but not available at many actual desktop computers and notebooks.
2. Floppy disks are the worst data storage media regarding the file integrity. Bad floppy disks are the main reason for corrupted driver files.
3. The F6/floppy method doesn't work at all with some "LEGACY mode" nForce RAID systems. Even if the user loads the correct nForce drivers and the RAID is detected by Windows Setup, the OS installation may end with a BSOD and endless reboot loops.

The better alternative is the integration of the needed textmode drivers into a bootable OS CD. Only this way the user can be sure to succeed with the installation of the OS onto an nForce RAID or AHCI system. Nevertheless the developers of the driver integration method had to solve the above specified problem (see point 3). Until 2005 the correct installation of the nForce S-ATA/P-ATA Controllers and drivers needed addtional manual work of the user. They only succeeded after having created special folders and edited some SIF and/or OEM files.

Basically you need to install latest version of Nlite and have a current XP disc or image (make sure it already has SP3 integrated since you really don't want to have to update to that) and latest nforce drivers from Nvidia for you motherboard chipset.
Oh and make sure you select single driver in nlite instead of multiple since that just caused strange error for me. Also make sure to select make iso so you can burn a new XP disc with the nvidia nforce drivers integrated into them.

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