Once a Geek, Always a Geek (or, “How to hack Windows XP out of Virtual PC to Make a Bootable Install CD”)

Dsc04311Lately I’ve tried to stray as far away from my geek roots as possible. Y’know, no coding, no RAM installs (well, one for Mom, but that’s an obvious exception). I’m trying to move higher up the IT food chain, y’know. Like, I’m an analyst, man.

But I suppose it’s just inside some people. And the other night, just after I decided to finally crack that MacBook Pro that’s been hanging around, unopended, in my studio for a while, I had to do it: I had to get Windows onto that Mac. But not just any Windows, man. I had to get that nasty Windows Vista RC1 on my system.

But, y’know, I chickened out. At that last possible moment, as my finger hovered over the button that would change my world forever (check the pic over there) I chickened out and went for XP instead. But, oh and woe for me, that was even more demanding an effort for, you see, the only install I had available to me was trapped inside a copy of Virtual PC 7 (whilst, damn, they’re giving away Vista for free these days: go figure). So I ended up hacking and burning my own slipstream Windows XP SP2 install disk. Not for the feint of heart, my friend.

Read on for the gory details (or just bail out now if you can’t stomach hardcore geek talk; you’ve been warned).

So, actually what this post should have been titled is: “How to hack Windows XP out of Virtual PC to Make a Bootable Install CD”. Or something to that effect.

So, to restate the problem more clearly: within the Virtual PC for Mac installer lies a copy of Windows XP Pro SP2 that gets dumped on your hard drive during the install. Unfortunately, it’s not really just sitting there, y’know, like in a folder that says “Windows XP” or anything. It’s sort of hidden. So, how to get it out?

But then, next: how to prepare whatever you manage to pull out for installation elsewhere in such a way that the Windows XP install goes the way it should?

Well, I started at this web page on Mac OSX Hints, where an anonymous poster explains:

If you’ve upgraded to an Intel Mac, and you’re wondering how to get value out of the Windows XP license you purchased with your now-obsolete copy of VirtualPC, here’s how: You can convert your version of XP into a bootable XP CD-ROM with integrated Service Pack 2 to meet Bootcamp’s requirements. You’ll need to do this on a Windows PC (it may work in Parallels Workstation, but I’m not sure).

First, download Windows XP Service pack 2 from Microsoft’s website. Then follow the instruction on this website to create the bootable CD. The “i386” folder that the instructions refer to are on the second VirtualPC CD. Just copy that folder to the location indicated in the instructions. Be sure to follow the instructions for “slipstreaming” Service Pack 2.

When finished, you’ll have a bootable XP installation CD that will work with the license code provided with Virtual PC.

Okay, so right out of the gate, I was at a disadvantage: I didn’t have a Windows PC. But, hey, I had Virtual PC. So, yes, I used Microsoft’s own software to do some fooling around but, y’know, I’m sure Gates can still keep his mansion screws aligned despite my frolicking.

Second note, you don’t need to download SP2, the Virtual PC Pro install is already at the SP2 level.

Okay, third note, the “i386” folder isn’t on the second install disk. This had me chasing my tail for a while. As LeRoy Wong (is that a real name, you think?) points out, this file is actually on the “Additional Windows System Files” disc. There. That just saved you an hour of your life.

So I got all this stuff identified and copied it into my Virtual PC environment. The next trick was to get an install disk going. Fortunately, some dude named Bart (is that a real name, you think?) has this all laid out too, though his instructions are also a tad sloppy (no disrespect to Mr. Bart).

Basically, you snag his BCD file, which is basically a collection of folders and Windows console scripts (or whateve they call them over in that world) that, if you put the right things in the right places, will build you an XP install disk. Guaranteed!

So, I won’t recount Bart’s dope over here, that’s his gig, I’ll just point out the exceptions.

First, skip almost all of his steps (for my purposes). All you really need to pay attention to are steps 1,2,3, and 8. Yeah, that’s it.

Oh, wait, add a step. Call it, um, 6c, because it refers to the third “Note” in Bart’s step 6.

So, step 6c: “open Notepad and then save the blank file as win51ip.sp2 in the directory above i386 (the Files directory)” (this helpful hint comes from af_weeks (is that a real name, you think?) over at Mac OSX Hints). That’s so Windows: you need a blank file for the install just because of, well, just because. I sometimes wish we had such frivolity over here on the Mac side of the world. Okay; no I don’t.

Anyway, step 8. Bart assumes we all know something about Windows which we (I?) don’t. So here’s the unabridged version of step 8:

Open up the Command Prompt (Start > All Programs > Accessories > Comman Prompt). Pretty, eh?
Change directory to wherever you put the BCD folder you’ve been working on. (Just type “cd” then the full file path leading to that folder; you can copy and paste it from the “Location” bar in a Finder (or whatever they call it over there – you know what I mean) window. Then hit Return.

I was in Virtual PC and for some reason that environment couldn’t use the burner on my Power Mac. Ever the sweetheart, Mr. Bart just saves the ISO disk image to a location on the hard drive. Isn’t that nice? I just dragged and dropped it onto my Mac desktop, double-clicked it to mount it, then opened up Disk Utility to burn the puppy.

Oh yeah! Yeah! Oh yeah! Get down! Yeah! Alright. Enough. In my case, it burned perfectly first shot. Maybe not in your case. If that’s the case, go back, read all this stuff again and troubleshoot. It’s what separates the men from the boys: troubleshooting. Now get out there and troubleshoot!

So, yeah, before too long, this is what I saw:


Zoiks! Scary. Anyway, all went well. A couple of Windows Updates later and I’d successfully stuffed my precious MacBook Pro full of evil Windows Virii.

So, at the end of it all, dear reader, you may wonder why I submitted myself to such geek abuse? Well, I have an explanation that may make sense, even. In a nutshell: I wanted to play Sid Meier’s Civilization IV, which wouldn’t run in the Virtual PC environment. Hah. Go figure. I don’t even dig the game much.

4 thoughts on “Once a Geek, Always a Geek (or, “How to hack Windows XP out of Virtual PC to Make a Bootable Install CD”)

  1. Hi Andrew,

    I’m glad my tip from macosxhints.com helped you a little through this process. I can assure you that is my real name even though it may not adhere to certain stereotypes some people may have of particular names.


  2. Can this be done with Virtual PC 6.1? I realize I need to install sp2 on this, but is the process similar? Thanks

  3. Brilliant! Thanks a ton, worked like a charm. Even though WinXP is selling much cheaper nowadays, it’s the principle of the thing…

    And a big thanks to Kevin (above) for pointing me towards the Archive site!!

    VPC7 with WinXP Pro into VMWare Fusion on a MBP running Leopard. Great instructions but I’d suggest foregoing hunting down the wnaspi32.dll file (not available at Nero anymore) and just copying the bcd.iso file onto a thumbdrive or something and burning it from your Mac (or regular PC CD burning software). Although, if you want to, you can find another version of it here (http://www.nu2.nu/aspi/). All you really need it for is for BCD to talk to your cd burner.


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