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Creating a Windows Boot Disk

Author: Brain
Posted on: 1/29/2001
Discuss: In the forums

Win Me came out around August 2000, and as part of Microsoft's plan for: "World Domination by the NT kernel" they decided to remove all real mode DOS support. The "removing DOS" concept included removing the /s option from the format command. In place of having the ability to format a floppy with system files already on it, Microsoft has only left you the ability to make a "Windows Recovery Disk" under Win ME instead. Win ME ( and 98SE) even include an ERD.cab file as part of the transition to having a "recovery disk" instead of real mode DOS. ERD is short for Emergency Rescue Disk, and it used to be one of those nifty options that were included on the Windows CD that almost no one ever really used.

With the loss of the /s option it was assumed that it would be impossible to make a "custom boot disk", but I'm here to say that isn't exactly the case. This article is written with a slant to the more Novice users but if any Advanced users suffer through my step by step procedure, I hope they are rewarded with something new and useful.

I thought a good place to begin this article was with the stuff I keep on my everyday boot disk, so lets start with a quick listing of the files on my boot disk, and a brief explanation of what each is.
  • ASPICD.SYS - ASPI driver for SCSI cd roms (must have aspi_DOS driver loaded first, but this is only for people with SCSI cd-roms)
  • AUTOEXEC.BAT - batch file that auto runs on bootup
  • CDSETUP.EXE - old file that came with DOS Soundblaster drivers way back in the day(not needed)
  • COMMAND.COM - necessary system file for boot (do not delete)
  • CONFIG.SYS - configuration file that controls loading of device drivers(runs at startup)
  • DEFRAG.EXE - for performing a defrag under DOS (you won't have this one)
  • DELTREE.EXE - command for deleting directories
  • DISKCOPY.COM - com file for disk copy command (floppy disk duplication)
  • DRVSPACE.BIN - windows creates this file when you make a boot disk
  • EDIT.COM - com file controls edit command under DOS (example: edit config.sys)
  • FDISK.EXE - fdisk command for using Fdisk to perform partition management
  • FIND.EXE - find command to perform character searches on a file, path, or drive
  • FORMAT.COM - com file for format command (example: format c: command has many useful switches some of which are covered on this page)
  • IO.SYS - necessary system file for boot (do not delete)
  • MORE.COM - for more switch (example: dir |more  the | is called a pipe. It's [shift]+\)
  • MOUSE.COM - mouse driver file (not used on mine but kept in case I need it)
  • MSDOS.SYS - windows creates this file when you make a boot disk
  • SBCD.SYS - generic DOS CD driver ( got mine from creative and it works with most drives)
  • SBIDE.SYS - DOS CD driver for old Soundblaster cards which have an ide controller built into the card(won't be needed)
  • SCANDISK.EXE - command for performing scandisk
  • SCANDISK.INI - necessary file for scandisk to operate
  • SGIDECD.SYS - OEM card specific DOS CD file (you will not need this)
  • XCOPY32.EXE - for copying files from one location to another

OK, so now you're thinking:
That's a hell of a lot of files for one little boot disk...
Where did you get all that crap?
Do I need all that crap?
And if I do need it how do I get it?

Most of it you won't need very often if ever, but you should still have a lot of these files "just in case".

OK Brain, so WTF? When are you going to tell me what I need? NOW on to Step 1 where we will be creating a "Windows Rescue Disk".

Step 1: Windows Rescue Disk
  1. You want to click the start button, go up and choose SETTINGS then open Control Panel.
  2. Once Control Panel is open, double click to open the "Add Remove Programs" applet.
  3. Once the "Add Remove Programs" window is open look at the 3 tabs across the top. The one on the far right is labeled "Startup Disk". Click on this tab, and you'll be presented with the button that will begin the Windows startup disk creation process.. You'll need a floppy that you aren't storing anything important on for this process.
  4. Put the blank floppy in and click the button, and wait forever for it to work it's magic

Now, you can stop there and just use the crappy Windows boot floppy which has 1.15MB worth of the total 1.44MB of space on the floppy already filled. OR...You can reach in the fridge, grab a cold one, and start some drunken computing like I did. Then you'll have a boot disk you can be proud to show off as a sign of your superior sexual prowess, a boot disk you can show off at bars to impress those hot female bartenders who are always DISSIN' you, and giving you "her number" which turns out to be the box office at Jacobs field....wait, that's an entirely different subject for another article.

Step 2:
  1. OK, if you haven't done this already, you need to open an explorer window, and click on the button named "Tools" at the top of the explorer window.
  2. When the sub menu drops down, you want to choose the entry called "Folder Options".

  3. The folder options window will now be open, and there are a bunch of tabs along the top. Choose the tab labeled "View". When you're there, we need to look at some of the things that are checked in that window. Just make all of the entries in your "View" tab look like the entries in the Pic below:

  4. To finish up with this window we need to hit the "Like Current Window" button, then choose "OK" and we're back to our regular explorer window. One thing to remember is that the settings we just modified will not take affect for all of the folders until you close "Windows Explorer" and reopen it, so go ahead to do that before moving to Step 3.

Step 3:
The next thing you need to do in Explorer is create a new folder and name it: Options.

Then you should create a sub folder under "Options" named: boot disk

You can create these directories on any drive letter that has free space: C, D, E, F . Many computers from OEM's only create one partition on the hard drive. Because of this you may only have the choice of putting this folder on your C drive. IF you have any other partition available to put it on, I would suggest not putting it on the C drive so you can format the C drive when you re-install ( OEM = Original Equipment manufacturers ie, whomever made your computer: Dell, Gateway Compaq..etc)

In fact, you may already even HAVE an "Options" directory created some place with a subfolder called "Cabs". If you do not already have a "Cabs" directory, you can look on this page to see what it is, why you might want one, and how to create one.

New Tricks:
Here is a keyboard shortcut that we are going to use several times:
All you need to do is click on one of the files in any directory to highlight it, then use the keyboard and hold down the [ctrl] key and tap the [A]. This will select all of the files in the directory (The shortcut selects everything in the right side of the explorer window if you're using the "Windows Classic" folder view).

I'll be referring to this as: "the [CTRL]+A trick" whenever we need to select everything in a given directory.

Boot Disk Glory:
  1. In your explorer window, you want to open the C:\windows\command directory.
  2. Do the CTRL+A thing to select all the files.
  3. Do a right click on the selected files and HOLD the button down
  4. Drag the mouse over to your Options directory and release
  5. You'll be presented with 4 choices:
    • Copy here
    • Move here
    • Create shortcut(s) here
    • Cancel
  6. Choose "Copy here" and watch as all the files get copied across
Borrowing From Bill:
You've already made your crappy Windows boot disk, so we're going to move the files off of it into our Options directory.
  1. Use Explorer to view all of the files on the Windows boot disk you created.
  2. Then click on one of the files to select it, and do the CTRL+A trick to select all of the files on the Windows boot disk.
  3. Once again right click, hold, and drag and drop all of the files into your Options directory, and this time choose "MOVE here".

    If a window pops up asking you: "Are you sure you want to"...

    OR... If you get a window telling you that: "This folder already contains a file named"...

    Choose the button "Yes to ALL" to ensure that all of the files will be moved.

  4. After you are sure all of the files have been moved, click on the "Options" directory to view all of the files we have copied there.

Editing Autoexec.bat:
Our next step is to edit the Autoexec.bat file we just moved into the options directory.
  1. You can open the Autoexec.bat file by right clicking on it and choosing "EDIT". This will open a notepad window with the contents of the autoexec.bat file displayed inside.
  2. You'll want to select all of the text, by clicking inside the text, and doing the CTRL+A trick again. This will select all of the text, just like it did to select all of the files.
  3. Once everything is selected, you want to delete everything, so you can type in the following lines:

          REM ------------------- IDE BOOT --------------------------------------
          a:\MSCDEX.EXE /D:MSCD001 /V /M:15 /L:P

  4. When you're done typing that in, choose save and then close notepad.

Editing Config.sys:
Next we want to open the Config.sys file in the options directory.
  1. Win ME had "edit" as part of the right click menu. So, you can open the Config.sys file by right clicking on it and choosing "EDIT". This will open a notepad window with the contents of the Config.sys file displayed inside. If you use Win 98 you will need to right click on it in explorer while holding down the [SHIFT] key. This will present you with the standard right click menu with one new entry: "Open With.."

    Click "Open With.." and a new window will pop up asking what program you wish to open it with.

    Scroll down until you see Notepad and highlight it. Remember to make sure you check the box next to "Always use this program to open these files" so that you can just double click on .sys files in the future to open them in Notepad. Click "OK" and the contents of Config.sys will open in a notepad window.

  2. You want to do the CTRL+A thing again to select all the text.
  3. Delete everything so you can type in the following lines:

        REM ----------------------IDE CD ROM ------------------------
        DEVICE=A:\OAKCDROM.SYS /D:MSCD001 /P:170,15

  4. When you're done typing that in, choose save and then close notepad.

Selecting Files:
If you need more information about the contents of these 2 files you can look at this page. Now we are going to select specific files and copy them over to the Options\boot disk directory.
  1. To do this you want to hold down the [CTRL] key and click on each of the following files listed in your Options directory:
    • autoexec.bat
    • command.com
    • config.sys
    • deltree.exe
    • diskcopy.com
    • edit.com
    • fdisk.exe
    • find.exe
    • format.com
    • io.sys
    • more.com
    • mscdex.exe
    • msdos.sys (Only if you are running Win95/Win98)
    • oakcdrom.sys
    • scandisk.exe
    • scandisk.ini
    • sys.com
    • xcopy32.exe
  2. Once you have them all highlighted, you want to right click, and drag and copy them into the Options/boot disk directory.

Finishing it up:
The Options/boot disk directory will be a permanent home for you're fully configured boot disk files. Any time you need to re-create the boot disk after this all you'll have to do is go through the agony of the "windows boot disk creation", then delete all of the files. Then you'll go to you're options/boot disk directory, select all of the files, and right click and choose "Send To" Then when the popup window opens to the right of that, choose "3 1/2 Floppy (A)".

Which is exactly what we're going to do now.
  1. So change over to the options/boot disk directory.
  2. Do the [CTRL]+A thing to select all of the files.
  3. Then right click and choose "Send To"
  4. Then when the popup window opens to the right of that, choose "3 1/2 Floppy (A)". Make sure that the floppy that we used for our "Windows Boot disk" is still in the floppy drive.

Testing it out:
After all the files are done transferring to the floppy you're ready to test out your new boot floppy.
  1. You want to reboot, and leave the floppy in the A: drive. This should boot you right into DOS From the floppy. The line we put into your autoexec.bat file is setup to make your CD-ROM drive letter P.
  2. Put a CD into your CD-ROM
  3. Change to the P drive by typing:  P:  and hit the enter key
  4. Type:  Dir/w  and hit the enter key. This should give you a list of the files on the CD (this is where you could type setup if you wanted to re-install from CD).

If Everything Didn't Go Smoothly:
If for some reason you had an error, instead of getting CD-ROM support from your boot disk:
  1. Boot back into windows
  2. Open the file manager
  3. Re-edit your Config.sys file to look like this:

          REM ---------------------------IDE CD ROM -------------------------------
          REM DEVICE=A:\OAKCDROM.SYS /D:MSCD001 /P:170,15
          DEVICE=A:\OAKCDROM.SYS /D:MSCD001 /P:1F0,14

  4. After you've edited it and saved it don't forget to copy the changed file into both the Options and the Options/boot disk directories as well.

What Inspired this:
This article came about because I got to talking with someone the other day, and that someone wanted to perform a clean install on their system. I told them all they needed was a boot disk, and their CD. (and maybe a little MSbatch.inf to speed things along but that's for some other time) then all they would need to do is pop both into their computer and re-boot.

To my shock, this person didn't know how to make a boot floppy. Not even the crappy windows boot disk!? So I decided to write a quick article discussing "How to". This article can be used by both WinME and Win98 users with very little difference(I don't have Windows 95 installed, and as such was unable to verify the correct file information for Win95).

Need More Info?
If you feel you need more information about the Autoexec.bat or the Config.sys, OR if you feel you want more information about Cab files, you can look at our addendum to this article. All of the information in the addendum is oriented around being a more in-depth explanation of things covered in this article I did not feel everyone would want to read. This page also contains the format command line switch information I promised to include.

Need More Info?
The work put into making your own boot disk will reward you with a disk that has lots of free space. This will be most notable if you ever need to make a boot disk for updating your bios, for going into DOS to recover something you screwed up, or most importantly...if you ever need to look smart in front of some hottie who knows even less about computers than you do.

Copyright © by LWD All Rights Reserved.

Published on: 2004-02-22 (93914 reads)

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