How to create a boot disk

Bootable floppy disketteA boot disk allows you to boot off of a diskette instead of your hard drive. This diskette can be used to fix issues that may arise during the lifetime of your computer or to help load older MS-DOS games. Keep in mind this diskette is completely different than a Restore CD or Disc that may have been included with your computer.

Tip: After you have created a boot diskette, it is highly recommended that you write-protect the diskette to prevent possible computer virus infection and to help the diskette from being erased.

Creating a MS-DOS boot disk
Creating a Windows 3.x boot disk
Creating a Windows 95 boot disk
Creating a Windows 98 or ME boot disk
Creating a Windows NT boot disk
Creating a Windows 2000 boot disk
Creating a Windows XP boot disk
Copying additional files
How to use a boot disk
Troubleshooting

Creating a MS-DOS boot disk

Note: These steps are for users who have MS-DOS installed on the computer. If you have any version of Windows follow the steps below for your version of Windows.

To create a MS-DOS diskette, begin by getting to the DOS directory by typing:

cd\dos

Once at the C:\DOS directory, skip to copying files.

Creating a Windows 3.X boot disk

Note: These steps are for users who have Windows 3.x installed on the computer.

To create a Windows 3.x diskette, from Windows Program manager, click File and then choose the option to Exit Windows, which will get you to a prompt; at the prompt, type:

cd\dos

Once at the C:\DOS directory, skip to copying files.

Creating a Windows 95 boot disk

Note: These steps are for users who have Windows 95 installed on the computer.

In Windows 95, Microsoft has created a new method of creating a bootable recovery diskette. Unfortunately, however, this diskette does not support CD-ROM support and is missing a few recommended files. To do this, click Start, Settings, Control Panel, double-click the Add/Remove programs icon, click the Startup Disk and create disk.

Alternatively, to create a Windows 95 boot diskette manually from Windows, click Start, Shutdown, and choose the option to restart the computer in a MS-DOS prompt. At the prompt, type:

cd\windows\command

Once at the C:\DOS directory, skip to copying files.

Creating a Windows 98 and ME boot disk

Note: These steps are for users who have Windows 98 or Windows ME installed on the computer.

An excellent feature of Windows 98 and ME is its boot diskette. Using Windows to create you a Windows 98 boot diskette gives you all the needed files as well as CD-ROM support. To create a Windows 98 boot diskette, click Start, Settings, Control Panel, double-click the Add Remove programs icon, click the Startup Disk and create disk.

Alternatively, to create a Windows 98 boot diskette manually from Windows, click Start, Shutdown, and choose the option to restart the computer in a MS-DOS prompt. At the prompt, type:

cd\windows\command

Once at the C:\DOS directory, skip to copying files.

Copying additional files

Note: When making a boot disk, if you are running "Stacker" or some kind of a DoubleSpace or drive swapper program, this could not work

Once you are in DOS and at the correct directory as instructed in the above sections by operating system, you are ready to create your bootable diskette. Insert a diskette that does not contain any information (it will be erased).

At the prompt, if you have MS-DOS 6.2, Windows 3.x, Windows 95, Windows 98, type:

FORMAT A:/S

If you have MS-DOS 5.0 Type using double density 5.25" diskettes type:

FORMAT A: /360 /S

If you have MS- DOS 3.11 through 4.0 using double density 5.25" diskettes, type:

FORMAT A: /4 /S

Once the diskette has been formatted and the system has been transferred, you should be returned to your original directory. In this directory, type:

copy format*.* a: [PRESS ENTER]
copy fdisk*.* a: [PRESS ENTER]
copy mscdex*.* a: [PRESS ENTER]
copy sys*.* a: [PRESS ENTER]
copy edit*.* a: [PRESS ENTER]
copy qbasic*.* a: [PRESS ENTER] (Win 95/98 users skip this line)
copy debug*.* a: [PRESS ENTER]
copy himem*.* a: [PRESS ENTER]
copy emm386*.* a: [PRESS ENTER]

If you are planning to use this diskette as a diskette to load games or you feel that you need mouse support, you will need to copy the mouse driver onto the boot diskette. The MS-DOS mouse driver is mouse.com or mouse.sys. Locate this file and copy it to your bootable diskette.

For CD-ROM support, visit our CD-ROM drivers page for information on loading your CD-ROM driver.

Once you have copied the above files, create an autoexec.bat and a config.sys. Get to the floppy drive by typing A:, once at the floppy drive, type:

copy con autoexec.bat [PRESS ENTER]
@echo off [PRESS ENTER]
LH A:\MSCDEX.EXE /D:CDROM [PRESS ENTER] (this line is used for your CD-ROM drive).
LH A:\MOUSE.* [PRESS ENTER] (skip line if you did not copy mouse file, the * is either sys or com).

Press and hold CTRL + Z - this should return ^Z. Once this is displayed, press enter to copy the file.

copy con config.sys [PRESS ENTER]
device=a:\himem.sys
dos=high,umb
device=a:\emm386.exe noems
files=30
buffers=20
devicehigh=a:\oakcdrom.sys /d:CDROM (this line is used for your CD-ROM drive).

Press and hold CTRL + Z - this should return ^Z. Once this is displayed, press enter to copy the file.

Congratulations, after completing the above steps you should now have a bootable floppy diskette.

Creating a Windows NT boot disk

To create a boot diskette you must have access to the i386 directory located on your Windows NT CD or possibly your hard drive.

Format the floppy diskette you want to make a bootable Windows NT boot disk using the Windows NT machine.

Copy boot.ini, ntdetect.com, and ntldr to the floppy diskette just formatted.

If you are using any SCSI devices that you need access to, you also need to load these drivers onto the diskette.

Creating a Windows 2000 boot disk

To create a Windows 2000 Professional bootable diskette you will need four 1.44MB diskettes and the Windows 2000 Professional CD.

Click Start, Run, browse to the CD-ROM drive.
Open the "BOOTDISK" folder and double-click makeboot.exe and click ok to launch the program to create the diskette.

Users can also create an Emergency Repair Disk by clicking Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and opening Backup. From the Backup window, click the button for Emergency Repair Disk and follow each of the steps. 

Creating a Windows XP boot disk

Note: The Microsoft Windows XP CD is a bootable CD and in many cases you should not need a bootable floppy diskette. Booting from the Windows XP CD allows you to not only install or re-install Windows XP, but also allows you to troubleshoot.

Create MS-DOS bootable diskette

When formatting a floppy diskette, users have the option of creating a MS-DOS startup disk, follow the steps below to do this.

  1. Place diskette in the computer.
  2. Open My Computer, right-click the A: drive and click Format.
  3. In the Format window, check Create an MS-DOS startup disk.
  4. Click Start

Create Windows XP Setup diskettes

Microsoft is beginning to phase out bootable floppy diskettes in favor of bootable CD discs and has not included a method of creating a bootable floppy diskette in Windows XP or from the CD. However, Microsoft has downloads available for users who still need to create bootable diskettes to install (not upgrade) Windows XP. These downloads can be found through KB310994.

How to use a boot diskette

Once the bootable diskette has been successfully created, following the steps below you will be able to boot from the diskette.

  1. Place the diskette into write-protect mode (in case a virus is on the computer, this will not allow the virus to transfer itself onto the diskette).
  2. Insert the diskette into the computer and reset or turn on the computer to begin the boot process.
  3. As the computer is booting, answer the questions prompted (if any).
  4. Once at the A:\> take the appropriate actions depending upon the situation of the computer.
  5. If you are unfamiliar with MS-DOS or the command line we recommend the MS-DOS page.

Troubleshooting

Reference Question
Floppy Additional information and help with the floppy disk drive.
CH000012 Receiving error "Missing command interpreter"
CH000280 How to create a Windows ERD.
CH000432 What files are needed to boot a PC computer?
CH000433 How do I get a boot diskette?
CH000434 Can a NTFS partition be accessed using a bootable diskette?
CH000566 Unable to restore computer using restore disk.
CH000669 How to make a bootable CD.
Forum If your question is not listed on this page, try our online forum.

Additional information

  • See our boot disk definition for further information and related links on this term.