( Copy this page to your hard drive or print it out so you can use it "offline" )
ALL Windows 98 and
Win 95 users (especially PC techs) should read the section titled: Windows
98 Boot Disk: "A Universal Boot Disk?" A Win 98
Boot Disk may even be helpful when working on a Win NT/2000 machine;
especially if the HD was never formatted as an NTFS drive.
[ Caution: NEVER use Win ME (Millennium Edition) boot disks near any machine with another type of operating system!
The Win ME file format and thus some of its util programs are so weird, that they only work correctly with the WinME OS! Trying to use some other OS on a WinME-formatted HD, will keep the OS from ever working properly! So, take note(!), if you ever want to install a different OS onto a Win ME machine (a hard drive that already had WinME installed on it), you must first RE-format the drive with some other kind of boot disk.]
One of the first
things every computer owner should do is make a boot disk. ( I'd
suggest that you also have more than one 'known-good' working copy as well!)
In the event that your Operating System will not operate, you
can often use a boot disk and utility programs that you may have
to add to your boot disk to correct problems with system files,
saving yourself the hassle of going through a complete reinstall and
possibly losing some of your precious data files! (You always remember to
make copies of any important data files, right?) If your OS will not boot
due to a faulty hard drive or some other equipment failure, a boot disk can
be very useful in trying to discover the actual cause of the problem.
Many new computers come with a Boot Disk that is programmed to restore the original files from a CD-ROM. (Actually, your computer's manufacturer may have placed even the system boot files directly on the CD-ROM and set the BIOS to boot the CD-ROM all by itself!)
But you should still make your own boot disk! Why? Because these disks rarely have all the DOS uitility programs necessary to fix your system files in the event that your hard drive will not boot.
Assuming that you're already running
Windows 95 or 98, the method shown here to create a new boot disk
will begin by using the "My Computer" shortcut icon on
[ NOTE: There's a special tab in the "Add/Remove Programs " section of "Control Panel" which creates what Microsoft calls a "Startup Disk." But it requires your Windows installation CD-ROM to make it. Apart from that, if you wanted to make a second boot disk without all of the utiltiy programs on it, you'd have no control over that and would have to sit there erasing them after it finished copying all those files again! ]
Your Boot Disk has been created and
tested. Now it's time to add some utility programs to it. As a
minimum, it should contain your CD-ROM
drive's DOS driver (a file necessary to access the CD-ROM drive from DOS)
and Windows 95 or 98's FDISK.EXE and FORMAT.EXE
programs which are found in the C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND directory (or
folder if you prefer).
[ Note, however, that the Windows 98 Boot Disk comes with a number of generic CD-ROM drivers that should cover just about any drive 'out there.']
Here's a file listing from one of my own Boot Disks:
Volume in drive A is BOOT DISK
Volume Serial Number is 19DF-3D28
Directory of A:\
COMMAND.COM 93,812 08-24-96 11:11a **
FDISK.EXE 63,116 08-24-96 11:11a *
FORMAT.COM 49,543 05-01-97 12:14p *
SYS.COM 18,967 08-24-96 11:11a *
MSCDEX.EXE 25,473 08-24-96 11:11a * (for a CD-ROM Drive)
EDIT.COM 69,886 08-24-96 11:11a *
EDIT.HLP 10,790 08-24-96 11:11a
REGEDIT.EXE 105,984 08-24-96 11:11a *
ATTRIB.EXE 15,252 08-24-96 11:11a *
SCANDISK.EXE 142,353 05-01-97 12:14p
SCANDISK.INI 7,332 08-24-96 11:11a
DEBUG.EXE 20,554 08-24-96 11:11a
CHKDSK.EXE 28,096 08-24-96 11:11a
DOSKEY.COM 15,495 08-24-96 11:11a
DELTREE.EXE 19,019 08-24-96 11:11a
DISKCOPY.COM 21,975 08-24-96 11:11a
MODE.COM 29,271 08-24-96 11:11a
MOVE.EXE 27,235 08-24-96 11:11a
EMM386.EXE 125,495 08-24-96 11:11a M*
HIMEM.SYS 33,191 08-24-96 11:11a M*
MEM.EXE 32,146 08-24-96 11:11a
ATAPI_CD.SYS 28,848 03-31-95 5:19a C* (CD-ROM driver)
** The disk won't boot without COMMAND.COM (or the required "hidden" System
files we discussed above: IO.SYS and MSDOS.SYS ). (Note: If you updated the
Windows 95/98 OS with any Y2K upgrades from Microsoft, make sure that your
COMMAND.COM file on the floppy has the same date as the one on your HD. My
new y2k COMMAND.COM boot file stats are: 93,974 bytes 02-19-99 10:55a .)
* These files are pretty much mandatory for the disk to be much good to anyone!
EDIT is used to make changes to a drive's CONFIG.SYS or AUTOEXEC.BAT files,
for example. ATTRIB and REGEDIT may be helpful for a Registry problem, etc.
M* These files are used to access memory above 640 kb (to install driver files, for
example). If you use any "devicehigh" or "loadhigh" (LH) statements in your
config.sys or autoexec.bat files, you must use these. Having them on the floppy disk
ensures you can boot-up the computer with access to upper and extended memory
even if the hard drive has been damaged.
C* This last file, "ATAPI_CD.SYS," is my DOS CD-ROM driver. You'll have to find
out what driver your CD-ROM drive needs to be accessible from DOS. ( If your
computer came with its own CD-ROM boot disk, start looking for the file there! )
Copy the files listed above from your Windows Directory's COMMAND folder (usually, C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND) onto your Boot Disk. In the Windows Explorer, you can highlight them and drag them onto the A:drive icon (do NOT depress the Shift key while doing so, or you'll erase them from your hard drive!) You can, of course, use one of the many other methods that may be more familiar to you. (Almost everything you need to do with your computer can be done in many different ways!)
There are two more files on my Boot Disk which are very important; especially if you intend to access a CD-ROM drive with it. You guessed it! They are:
AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS
These files (see the examples below!) must
be created by you² with a text editor.
NOTEPAD will work just fine in this case (as long as you make
sure the file extensions are actually saved as: .BAT
and .SYS and not something like
'.BAT.TXT.' Just check the filename
after saving it. [Of course, you'll need to be able to see file extensions
first! You can read this page for help in doing that: Viewing File Extensions.] If you need
to change it, simply highlight the filename, press the F2 key and
edit it as necessary; or choose rename from the File menu... many
different ways to do this as always!) You could also use the DOS editor,
EDIT, which I highly recommend having on your boot disk. (If you've
never used it before, you should set aside some time to learn about its
features soon. Unlike the old one that came with previous versions of
MS-DOS, this one can open multiple files and has a split-screen option!)
The following is a listing of the lines for these two files from my own boot disks (note that the last line in CONFIG.SYS which lists my CD-ROM "driver" must be changed to match your CD-ROM's driver file) :
device=emm386.exe ram /noems
DEVICEHIGH=ATAPI_CD.SYS /D:MSCD001 /P:1E8
MSCDEX.EXE /D:MSCD001 /E /L:D /M:8
If you do have a boot disk from
your manufacturer, look for the lines with "MSCD" in the
CONFIG.SYS file and "MSCDEX" in AUTOEXEC.BAT. It's probably best
if you copy those lines exactly as they are into your own .SYS and .BAT
(batch) files. Hopefully this means you will also find your CD-ROM
"driver" on that disk as well ( look for a .SYS or .DRV file
listed in that "MSCD" line in your CONFIG.SYS file and place a
copy of it onto your new boot disk ).
I consider all the files on my boot disks to be useful. So, what do I do if there's another must have utility I just got and the Boot Disk is already full? Well, simply create another bare BOOT DISK and add the files you don't have on the first one! Making your EXTRA 'emergency disks' bootable too will save you from the hassle of having to swap the disks on those occasions that the computer needs to access the DOS COMMAND file again. (A good PC Tech will probably carry around a bunch of disks full of programs to cover many different situations!)
If you created the files CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT on your floppy disk along with the driver necessary to use your CD-ROM drive, then you should also test your boot disk to make sure you can actually access a CD after booting with the floppy. (Remember, once your hard drive fails to boot, it's too late!)
¹ My reasons for never using a full drive compression program should be obvious: slower access times and the possible risk of not being able to recover any of my files! If you really must save some space on a drive, I suggest that you use some type of archiving program, such as WinZip(R), to compress folders or individual files rather than whole drives.
² If you need more help in creating these files ( CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT ) or understanding them, use the online Feedback Page here to email me.
If you can remember back to the days when Win 3.1 first came out, you know that techs would sometimes boot a computer from a floppy disk without any problems. But when they tried to run a DOS utility from the HD, they'd encounter an error message like "Incorrect MS-DOS version ..." and have to reboot the system again from the HD (if they could), locate the utility program on a floppy disk or hunt for the correct version of DOS on another boot disk! This happened quite often just after Microsoft's releases of DOS 6.2 and DOS 6.22 when a system might have either of these versions, DOS 6.0 or even back when DOS 3.3 was first introduced! This was pretty frustrating when people knew that the COMMAND.COM file wasn't really all that different between some of these versions!
[ By the way, the
COMMAND kernel's file has actually been an EXE program (NOT a .COM) for a long
time now, but DOS doesn't care if you name the file with the .COM suffix; it
checks for an "EXE header" to tell the difference.]
The Windows 98 'Startup Disk' (or EBD --
Emergency Boot Disk) that comes with
many Windows 98 computers is quite different from any earlier Startup Disks.
And for a whole new generation of computer users this will probably be their
first introduction to DOS
Batch files and even RAM-drives! This Disk seems to have a bit of
everything on it... including a Windows Startup Menu in its CONFIG.SYS
file and the extraction of a .CAB file into a RAMdrive!
Here's a copy of the Windows 98 Readme.txt File from the Boot Disk.
Here's a directory listing of all the files on the Win 98 Startup Disk.
Here's a listing of the CONFIG.SYS, AUTOEXEC.BAT and SETRAMD.BAT files from the Win 98 Startup Disk.
But the feature that fascinated me the most is the fact that for the first time in the history of a Microsoft OS version change (as far as I know), the newer DOS kernel was made to be "backwards compatible" with all of the older MS-DOS utility programs! This is the point of my subtitle: 'A Universal Boot Disk?' I know for a fact that you can boot a Windows 95 B computer with the Windows 98 Boot Disk and run the Windows 95 MS-DOS utility programs from the hard drive without any problem. Since there are so many Windows systems with 32-bit FAT HDs these days (Win 95B, 98 and 98SE), this is good news for PC techs who can use a single Win 98 Boot Disk for all of these. ( Ideally, PC techs wish that Microsoft would create a Windows OS that could be started from any DOS version that is able to access the file system on the hard drive. Now, we're closer to that ideal than we've ever been before.)
What may be more interesting to some is the fact that you can swap out the MS-DOS system programs on a Windows 95 B computer ( including the IO.SYS hidden system file! ) with those from a Windows 98 machine and boot up the Windows 95 B OS without any apparent * (See note below) problems. This is because Windows does NOT depend upon the MS-DOS kernel for any of its critical operations. The DOS kernel is simply a means of loading key Windows files from the hard drive until the WINDOWS OS itself is actually running and the way that MS chose to provide all of us 'Command-line Power-Users' access to a Command prompt through DOS-Windows after WINDOWS boots.
[ NOTE: Windows NT/2000 users do NOT use
nor have any access to an underlying MS-DOS program that boots before the OS...
Win NT/2k boots up all by itself! The "DOS-box" in these systems is
a single 32-bit program called CMD.EXE which has quite a few differences in
how it operates compared to the underlying DOSs (DOS 7.0/7.1) of Win 9x! ]
First we booted a Win95 machine after replacing only Command.com from a Win98 disk, then it was booted again after replacing IO.SYS too. This is proof of my contention that the phrases 'Windows 95' and 'Windows 98' inside of the COMMAND.COM kernels should be replaced with the more appropriate terms of 'MS-DOS 7.0, 7.1, etc.' The IO.SYS file, however, appears to be too much of a hybrid to be called only DOS 7.x at this time: Why? Because it contains some code which is specific only to WINDOWS operations!
* Please note that I am *_NOT_* suggesting you should (or even can) replace any Windows 95 DOS files with those from Windows 98 on a critical system! I'm a bit too concerned about the differences I found in the IO.SYS file. This was only an experiment to show just how similar these two versions of MS-DOS are. And even though I used a computer under these conditions -- writing files to the hard drive too, I swapped the files back to their original state a few hours later.
The Starman ( 6 Nov 99 )
(Revised, 28 October 2000.)
Last update: 4 NOV 2002.