Workstation 6.5 -- An easier way to install Windows XP with FAT32 virtual disk?


Aug 9, 2006
I am using VMWare Workstation 6.5. I have checked the site and have ran into references that a manual operating system installation should be used if you DO NOT want to install Windows XP using NTFS.

However, the easy setup wizard used in Workstation doesn't really have a toggle to allow you to choose the FAT32 partition method vs. NTFS. One you put in the key, attached your ISO to the CD-ROM, the setup wizard lauches right into installing the OS. I haven't found a method in which you can attache a drive, set the size and then make the format a FAT32 partition.

Any thoughts?

I did find a method that does allow you to get a FAT32 partition but it is a very long process. The reason why I am doing this is for a proof of concept virtual machine that is setup with an enctriped hard drive with an outer layer "fake" OS and a innter layered "real" OS that only you knows exists.

One of the requirements is that the Outer layered "fake" OS has to be using FAT32. The inner layered OS can use FAT32 or NTFS.
try booting to a DOS boot CD..ISO image and formatting the hdd that way
Apparently one of the root issues is that XP will support any size FAT32 partition, but it can only create FAT32 partitions up to 32GB. If you have a disk larger than that, XP Setup may not give you the option to create a FAT32 partition (I'm not sure, as it's been ages since I've used FAT32). I seem to remember the FAT option being there during Setup sometimes, but not other times, which would support the idea that it's blocked when the disk is bigger than 32GB (a large number of our systems use 20GB or 40GB drives).

fat32format was created specifically to deal with this. The only issue is that you have to run it from an existing OS (i.e. not during XP Setup). This might work well with BartPE. You're going to end up having to format the drive as a separate, prerequisite step to installing though.

If it's less than 32GB, then I think XP Setup should give you the option to format as FAT. You'll just have to do a manual install rather than using the VMware wizard (as your first sentence states). If you don't use the wizard, it's exactly the same as booting a hardware PC with an unformatted disk and an XP CD in the drive, which should, barring other limitations, give you the option to create a volume and format it.
I haven't found a way to just get the "manual" installation to start from the get go when going through the new VM creation wizard.

What I did was do the normal setup, make the drive size 30GB and let the Windows XP setup do it's thing.
Installation of the OS completes and it boots into windows. I shut down the VM.
I will edit the VM and create a 2nd drive that is also 30GB. Format into FAT32 and then shut down the VM.
Remove the 1st NTFS hardrive with the boot partiton.
Add the 2nd FAT32 hard drive to the VM.
Re-configure the Windows ISO in preparation to install windows again.

I also noticed that when you re-start the VM you will get the no NTLDR is missing error messages. I didn't realize you had to go in and change boot options during this process. So, the boot loader options are confirged as such: removable drive, hard drive and CD-ROM. You have to time pressing the "esc" button exactly in order to change this option. Once boot CD-ROM is the 1st boot option you can continue.

This time when the setup starts, it is in manual mode and it's just answering the questions like any other vanilla computer OS installation process. I am prompted with using the existing FAT32 partition and answering the regional question etc. Once everything is done you end up getting a drive that thinks it is connected to the secondary IDE controller but I'm using SCSI drives...??

So that is the very long process getting a FAT32 drive and I hope there is a better eay.
Last edited:
IIRC, all you have to do is unmount/remove the floppy drive from your VM settings. You'll notice when you create Windows VMs there's a mounted floppy image called "automate.flp" or along those lines. It's been awhile since I've used VMware Workstation and I don't have it installed at this moment so I can't check on my own.
when you create Windows VMs there's a mounted floppy image called "automate.flp" or along those lines.

Hey alright I appreciate the tip! I didn't notice that floppy image during the new VM creation because I always toggled the start VM once the wizard completes. During one of the dialog windows you can review the floppy drive and there is no image connected to it.

It is only if you do not start the new VM and finish the wizard that you can go back to the floppy drive and see the "automate.flp" image that kicks off the Windows installation process.

Thanks a lot. Now time to go rebuild from scratch and make it right the first time.
During the whole "fake" operating system and the "real" operating system you just need to start out with FAT32. It's just the way the DriveCrypt software was designed. During the hidden OS operation you can then choose to format the FAT32 partition to use NTFS which is the preferred method.

I wasn't able to complete the whole process though because DriveCrypt doesn't allow the trial version to create hidden OS'es until you buy it. So, I will have to look into TrueCrypts ability to use hidden OS'es and also see if you must comply with using FAT32 beforehad as well.