How to Install Windows XP From a DOS Prompt

By Meg Jernigan

Updated February 10, 2017

Installing Windows XP to a new hard drive or to an existing drive from MS-DOS is straightforward and requires little user input. Not all computers are compatible with XP, so use the checklist provided with this article to be sure yours is before installing it. Attach pointing devices, printers, scanners and other peripheral hardware that you normally use to your computer before you start installing Windows XP.

Check your BIOS to be sure your computer will boot from a CD. Enter the BIOS setup by pressing the "Delete" or "F12" key, or as directed at the startup screen, immediately after booting. Set the first boot device to "CDROM" or "DVDROM" instead of "hard drive" if it isn't already.


Insert the Windows XP installation CD into your CD or DVD drive and restart the computer. When prompted, choose to start from the MS-DOS command prompt with CD support. The MS-DOS command prompt will appear in a moment.

Start SMARTDRIVE by typing "SMARTDRV" at the DOS prompt and pressing enter. You don't have to run SMARTDRIVE, but copying the files will be much quicker if you do. The computer will display the DOS prompt again.

Enter "CD I386" at the DOS prompt to change to the directory where the setup program starts.

Enter "WINNT" at the prompt to start Windows XP setup. The installation program will copy files to your computer and then display a message requesting to reboot.

Press the "Enter" key to reboot. The setup program will start again and check that your hard drive format is compatible with Windows XP. If not, it will guide you through partitioning and formatting the drive and then ask you to reboot once more.

Press "Enter" to reboot. The computer will restart in Windows XP mode and automatically start the Windows Setup Wizard to detect your hardware and finish the installation.

Items you will need

  • Windows XP CD

  • Computer with Pentium 233 MHz or faster processor

  • Minimum of 64 MB of RAM

  • Minimum of 1.5 GB of hard drive space

  • CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive

  • Video card and monitor with Super VGA resolution