SATA and Windows XP Installation Woes (Cannot Use F6 Because of no Floppy Drive)

If you’ve installed Windows XP before, you probably have seen or heard of the [F6] function where you can load drivers at startup.  The idea is that you press [F6] at the beginning of the installation when the bottom of the screen says “Press F6 if you need to install a third party SCSI or RAID driver …”, then you insert a floppy containing the drivers into your floppy drive, and then all will be well.  That’s the idea, at any rate.

Well, that was all well and good back in 2002 perhaps, but over the years fewer and fewer computers have come with a floppy drive.  In fact, I find it very difficult to even find floppies these days from the local stores, as it is pretty rare to get a new computer that has a built-in floppy drive.  So, how to load those drivers?

Well, here comes nLite to the rescue!  I’ve used it in the past for various things, and frankly there just seem to be some things it isn’t very good at.  For example, even using it for the machine giving me the problem, since it was XP Media Center Edition, the data it asked for would not even fit on a single CD.  This actually was one of the reasons I abandoned using it to begin with.  However, if I created the CD without the Media Center installation, it all fit onto the disk, so that’s the approach I took.  Once XP is loaded, just rerun the installation with the normal disks from Windows XP and choose “upgrade”, and everything will load the way it’s supposed to.

Basically, the direction given at “Integration of NVIDIA’s nForce RAID and AHCI drivers” on the nLite site are geared towards NVIDIA drivers, but you can extrapolate them to any SATA drivers.  If you have NVIDIA drivers, I assume you can just follow the instructions there, although I find the directions jump around a bit.  If you do not and because of the flow of the document, then here are some trimmed down instructions:

  1. Download and install nLite.
  2. Find the proper SATA drivers for your motherboard.  Make sure they are the legacy drivers, text-based drivers, or F6 drivers for Windows XP.  Regular Windows drivers most likely will not work.  Unzip or unpack them as necessary and put them into an easy to find directory (your desktop would be a good place to do this).
  3. Create a directory on your C: drive (or an easily accessible drive with plenty of room) called “nLiteCD” and copy the contents of your original Windows XP disk into it.
  4. Follow the directions on “Integration of NVIDIA’s nForce RAID and AHCI drivers” section “2. Processing with nLite” very carefully.  Be sure you select both the “Integrate Drivers” and “Create Bootable ISO” at the Task Selection screen.  I wasn’t sure for the Intel motherboard I was working on which drivers to use, but Intel nicely gives you “F6 drivers”, so I just selected all of them to include.  Step 10 is worth looking at in detail if you aren’t used to nLite.  It isn’t intuitive, and the “Burn” button isn’t as obvious as “Next”, and if you hit “Next” first, you skip past the CD burn stage!

That, in a nutshell, covers the workaround for loading Windows XP with SATA drivers when no floppy drive is present.