How to Run an Old Laptop without HDD from a USB Drive with Windows XP?

Hi all.
I am not very IT savvy and I know that there are a lot of very IT knowledgeable members on Ozbargain so I thought to seek some help.
I need to transfer some old Sony Digital 8 tapes from tape to a electronic file.
I have the Sony Camcorder to play the tapes and the required firewire cable.
I also have a Firewire cardbus card (or PCMCIA)
Now the problem: I have an old laptop (Compaq nx6120) that has the PCMCIA slots, but the laptop has no hard drive. It used to run Windows XP, but now the hard drive is dead.
I wanted to run it from a USB drive and it works with UBUNTO, but UBUNTO does not have the drives for the Cardbus card or for the Sony Camcorder, so I really need to have Windows XP on the USB.
Is there a way to find the right files for Windows XP to copy on the USB drive and run the laptop that way?

Where to get Windows XP to copy on a USB to boot a laptop from it.

Thank you guys!


  • Microsoft have an official tool to create a bootable USB drive:

    Alternatively you can just get an external reader and plug into any PC:,Read-Storage/dp/B07CKWDHZK/

  • Thank you Hybroid.
    I tried that one but is asks to look for a ISO file on the computer which I do not have. Not too sure.
    I was just wanting to download all it is needed on a USB drive and boot the laptop from it.
    I may be missing something…


    Haven't tried it myself. Windows XP Preinstall Environment is what I know will allow booting off an external media.

    I don't know where to find an XP ISO these days.

    Good luck.

  • I am thinking, why would you need XP. Can’t you use windows 7 or 10. You will be able to see your files saved using windows xp. Unless the issue is windows 7 or 10 cannot be run because of minimum system requirement specs. Just a suggestion, not an expert. I learned most my tech stuff of the OZB posts😀

    • I think a Windows XP laptop would really struggle if it even worked with Windows 7 or 10. Had a Vista and tired upgrading to Windows 10 and it was painfully slow at everything. You'll also likely have issues with drivers since the hardware was not designed to run on a newer OS

      • Yes I think it would be better to stick to XP as the laptop is so old and also the drivers for the Sony Camcorder would be very old (it is from 2001) so a newer OS may not be good.
        I wish I kept the old XP discs. I binned them a year or so ago thinking that I had no further use for them!!!

        • You could try a 32 bit version of Windows 7 or Windows 10. In the past I have found that some drivers for Windows XP will work (unofficially) on the 32 bit versions of Windows 7.

  • Look up "portable windows XP on USB" in google, it should give you a lot of material to get you started.

  • I googled it extensively but it is either too techy or it needs a XP ISO.
    I may have to find a functional laptop with Firewire or PCMCIA slots. Or to just use a video capture card/dongle, but I think the video quality would be inferior to firewire digital transfer.

    • You can find it on

      roughly 500 megabyte download.

      It is probably already obvious, but Windows XP has like no security whatsoever so I would suggest not connecting Windows XP to the internet, even to download laptop drivers. There are a variety of worms that attack Windows XP and have the ability to self propagate through a network. do your driver downloads to a USB thumb drive first.

    • Thanks Screamingeagle.
      That would have been the easiest solution. I had researched it and it would not work because apparently Firewire transfers data in packets that are not compatible with usb and this connection is not sufficient to run a Firewire audio interface

  • I don't know if this will help your situation but
    I use one of these to convert old dvd videos to digital (old wedding videos)
    the red yellow white connect to an old vcr player and usb it to the pc
    This will work with windows or linux
    you can get them from ebay not just amazon
    hope it helps

    You can even watch and record TV on a pc if you connect it to a cheap $20/$30 set top box

    • Given he has Digital-8 tapes, they are already in digital/data DV format, so he can get the data from the tapes onto compter without quality degradation.
      To go down the path you suggest will degrade quality.
      Suggest OP sticks to the firewire method

  • I would suggest booting off Hiren's BootCD. Download the ISO and create a bootable USB.
    It essentially runs Windows off a USB, and comes with a lot of other features.
    I have used it before to recover data off old harddrives

  • I did similar thing with a laptop with built in FireWire. The laptop had … Vista!

    So maybe vista can work for you too

  • does the Compaq still have the Windows key sticker on it?
    perhaps get a $10 hdd on marketplace and reinstall windows?

  • I remember running a "dodgy" ISO from the… sea thieves hangout…. it was called WinXP portable or something, was about 700MB in size, but that was in 2013 and I don't remember what it is called at all.

    Ran straight from a CD, no installation required, I used it to update the BIOS on my laptop that had Linux installed, because manufacturer provided only .exe files to update it.

    I wouldn't trust it for sensitive data, but for offline transfer of videos/photos from your camcorder sounds good enough.

  • Run linux