Create free bootable Windows XP image disk

Now you know the advantages of creating an image of your Windows system and had a glance on the imaging boot disk on the page about creating a Windows system image, I tell you how to create your own bootable image disk. The bootable image disk needs a MS-DOS boot disk, imaging software Partition Saving and some batch files I wrote, all waiting for your download. Here you get a step by step manual to create the bootable image floppy disk (or CD-ROM).

Step 1: Prepare your hard disk

Of course, this is already done if you followed my partitioning manual. If you didn't, you need to know that a MS-DOS boot disk needs a FAT32 partition to store and read data  (the imaging software is not run within Windows but within MS-DOS). To create an image of your system you need a FAT32 partition which is big enough for the backup files. I prefer to use an E: partition for imaging purposes.

Because MS-DOS can't see NTFS partitions, the system image files will be placed on the first FAT32 partition (this is the C: partition in MS-DOS). The bootable imaging disk described here needs one of the following partition settings (the partition with the image files is called BACKUP):

  1. C: WINDOWS (NTFS)+D: DATA (NTFS)+E: BACKUP (FAT32) or
  2. C: WINDOWS (NTFS)+D: DATA (NTFS)+E: BACKUP (FAT32)+other FAT32/NTFS partitions or
  3. C: WINDOWS (NTFS)+D: DATA (NTFS)+other NTFS partitions+BACKUP (FAT32)

BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR RECOVERY PARTITION, CHANGE THE BATCH FILE

Sometimes your hard disk is provided with a hidden recovery partition: don't delete this partition! If this is the case, you need to change the batch file (more information will follow). With the Disk Management (Control Panel, Administrative Tools, Computer Management, Disk Management) tool you can check if your hard disk is provided with an extra recovery partition.


USE THE FAT32 VERSION IF YOU DON`T HAVE THE NTFS FILE SYSTEM

If you were not able to convert your Windows partition to the NTFS file system, I have created a FAT32 version as well (this version is also applicable to Windows 98/Windows ME). This version needs one of the following partition settings (the BACKUP partition is now called E: within MS-DOS):

  1. C: WINDOWS (FAT32)+D: DATA (FAT32)+E: BACKUP (FAT32)or
  2. C: WINDOWS (FAT32)+D: DATA (FAT32)+E: BACKUP (FAT32)+other partitionsor
  3. C: WINDOWS (FAT32)+D: DATA (FAT32)+NTFS partitions+BACKUP (FAT32)






Step 2: Prepare your bootable MS-DOS floppy disk

Download a MS-DOS boot disk (www.bootdisk.com) and create the bootable MS-DOS floppy disk by executing the downloaded file (I used the Windows ME custom, no ramdrive boot disk). To create some space on the floppy disk for the other files, delete the 3 files starting with SCAN and  the 3 files starting with XCOPY.

TIP: This website contains more information about creating a MS-DOS boot disk.

Step 3: Download the Partition Saving software

Go to the website www.partition-saving.com to download the Partition Saving software. Place the file SAVEPART.EXE on your bootable floppy disk created in step 2.

Step 4: Place the files AUTOEXEC.BAT & CONFIG.SYS on your bootable floppy disk

The bootable floppy and Partition Saving need instructions how to create and restore a system image. These instructions are stored in 2 batch files (CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT) which you can download from this website.

Right click CONFIG.SYS and select Save Target As to save the file on your bootable floppy. Don't forget to change the extension .txt to .sys, change the type to All files to do so (you MUST overwrite the current config.sys file). Do the same for the AUTOEXEC.BAT file. Don't forget to change the extension .txt to .bat, change the type to All files to do so (you MUST overwrite the current autoexec.bat file).

USE THE FAT32 VERSION IF YOU DON`T HAVE THE NTFS FILE SYSTEM

Download the FAT32 version of AUTOEXEC.BAT in case you were not able to covert your Windows partition to the NTFS file system (see step 1). Right click the link and select Save Target As! Don't forget to change the extension .txt to .bat, change the type to All files to do so. You MUST overwrite the current autoexec.bat file.


Step 5: Place the configuration files on your bootable floppy disk

The batch files in step 4 start up the Saving Partition software. The Saving Partitions software uses configuration files which needs to be placed on your bootable floppy as well. Download the configuration files WINBU1.CFG, WINBU2.CFG and WINBU3.CFG from my website and place them on your bootable floppy disk (right click and select Save Target As, change the type to All files!).

USE THE FAT32 VERSION IF YOU DON`T HAVE THE NTFS FILE SYSTEM

Download the FAT32 versions of WINBU1.CFG, WINBU2.CFG and WINBU3.CFG in case you were not able to covert your Windows partition to the NTFS file system (see step 1). Right click the link, select Save Target As, change the type to All files!


Partition Saving makes it possible to save your current partition table, master boot record (MBR) and first sector. To backup those settings with the bootable floppy (you have to chooce option 8 in the menu of the boot disk, see below) you need extra configuration files: MBR.CFG, FIRSTSEC.CFG and PARTTAB.CFG. Same procedure: right click the link, select Save Target As, select your floppy drive, change the type to All files! If you would like to recover this information, you need to do this by starting Partition Saving on a MS-DOS prompt.

Step 6: Boot from the image floppy disk

To test the just created image boot disk, put it in your floppy drive and reboot your computer. Make sure that your computer boots from the floppy and shows the menu below. You have got 30 seconds to make a choice, else you will be directed to the first option: Help about this imaging boot disk.

TIP: If your computer doesn't boot from the floppy, you probably need to change the boot order in your BIOS.

Microsoft Windows Millennium Startup Menu
1. Help about this imaging boot disk.

2. Create system image number 1 (whole partition).
3. Create system image number 2 (occupied sectors only).
4. Create system image number 3 (occupied sectors only).
5. Restore system image number 1.
6. Restore system image number 2.
7. Restore system image number 3.
8. Backup MBR, first sector and partition table.
9. MS-DOS.
Enter a choice: 1  Remaining time: 29
F5=Safe mode  SHIFT+F5=Command prompt
SHIFT+F8=Step-by-step confirmation of every step [N]

WHAT IF YOU DON`T HAVE A FLOPPY DRIVE

If you don't have a floppy drive on your computer (quit normal these days), just create a floppy on another computer as described above. Use a CD burning tool (I prefer Nero) to create a bootable data CD-ROM. Skip the step placing files on the CD-ROM, only use the created floppy as an image for the boot sector of your bootable CD-ROM. If you boot from your CD-ROM, a floppy drive will be emulated.

TIP: If your computer doesn't boot from the CD-ROM, you probably have to change the boot order in the BIOS.


BAD COMMAND OR FILE NAME

If you have chosen a menu item and get the error message BAD COMMAND OR FILE NAME, you have to open and save the autoexec.bat file to fix this problem (you can do this at the MS-DOS prompt). This is done by entering the command EDIT AUTOEXEC.BAT directly after the A: prompt which will appear after the error message. Select SAVE from the FILE item in the menu (use the ALT-key to get there) and overwrite the existing autoexec.bat file.


Step 7: Create and/or restore an image of your Windows partition

The boot menu is straight forward: with the options 2,3 and 4 you are able to create three different system images and with the options 5,6 and 7 you are able to recover those system images. If you select creating system image number 1, you will backup the whole partition (system image 2 and 3 only backup the occupied sectors, which will result in a much faster backup and recover procedure and a much smaller backup file).

If you need help you select option 1, if you only want the MS-DOS console, select option 9. Option 8 enables you to backup the master boot record, partition table and boot sector. You only have to press ENTER a few times to confirm saving the information on your floppy (this doesn't work on a bootable CD-ROM). I advise to do this once, it will save you in case you are in big troubles because of a deleted partition table or if you have to replace your hard disk.

On the page Backup/restore your Windows partition with the bootable image disk you can reed more about using this bootable imaging disk


 
 
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