Sometimes it's necessary to have a MS-DOS boot disk. Actually, you do not need a bootable floppy disk to install Windows XP, because the XP CD is bootable. However, sometimes it can be very useful to be able to boot from a MS-DOS boot disk. The most important reason to have a MS-DOS boot disk, is to be able to manage your partitions or to make an partition imaging disk, as discussed later. If your XP CD-ROM is not bootable, you need this MS-DOS floppy as well to start the setup.
WINDOWS XP SETUP FROM A MS-DOS BOOT DISK
There is no need to install Windows from MS-DOS, the XP CD-ROM is bootable. If your XP CD-ROM is not bootable, then you can still try a bootable floppy disk. Make sure SMARTDRV.EXE is loaded and go to the folder I386 on your XP CD-ROM and start WINNT. Summarizing you will have to give the following commands: (1) SMARTDRV, (2) D: (if D is the CD-ROM drive with XP), (3) CD\I386, (4) WINNT.
The easiest way to create a MS-DOS boot disk, it to visit the website www.bootdisk.com and download an image file. The page www.bootdisk.com/bootdisk.htm gives you an overview of the different MS-DOS boot disks, I prefer the Windows ME, Custom, No Ramdrive (the Windows ME boot disk supports bigger hard disks with the FDISK command). Download the file and follow the instructions to create your own boot disk.
With the Windows Explorer you can view the floppy content. If you feel the need to, you can add, delete and/or change files. I prefer to add the files EFDISK.EXE (partitioning), MRESCUE.COM (saving and restoring partition information) and MRBOOTER.EXE (multibooting) from MrBooter <this tool is no longer available>.
Have a look at the chapter creating an image of the Windows system if you would like to create a disk for imaging your Windows system.
The customized Windows ME boot disk doesn't have enough space to add more files: you can safely remove SCANDISK.EXE, SCANDISK.INI and SCANREG.EXE. The files starting with XCOPY can be removed as well.
If your computer isn't provided with a floppy drive, but you still would like to boot one, you can always create a bootable MS-DOS CD-ROM on another computer (with floppy drive). With a burning utility like Nero you can choose for a bootable data disk with the floppy as boot image. Of course you can provide the floppy disk and/or CD-ROM with the necessary tools. Notice that the burned CD-ROM appears to be empty, the data has been put on the boot sector. If you boot from this CD-ROM, a virtual drive A: will be created. Only if you provided the floppy with CD-ROM drivers, the CD-ROM drives will be available as well.
TIP: If your floppy disk or CD-ROM doesn't boot, you probably have to make changes in the BIOS settings (most times you have to press F1, F2, F3, F10, F11, F12, DEL or INS at boot). Find the an item which looks like boot sequence or something else with boot.
CREATING A BOOTABLE SYSTEM BACKUP CD-ROM
Note: this procedure makes it possible to create a bootable system backup CD-ROM (needed if you are not provided with a floppy drive).
MS-DOS HELP FUNCTION
If you are not sure what a file is used for in MS-DOS, you can always try the command followed by /?. For example: DELTREE/?
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