Bootstrap loader

Alternatively referred to as bootstrapping, bootloader, or boot program, a bootstrap loader is a program that resides in the computer's EPROM, ROM, or other non-volatile memory. It is automatically executed by the processor when turning on the computer. The bootstrap loader reads the hard drives boot sector to continue the process of loading the computer's operating system. The term bootstrap comes from the old phrase "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps."

The bootstrap loader is stored in the master boot record (MBR) on the computer's hard drive. When the computer is turned on or restarted, it first performs the power-on self-test, also known as POST. If the POST is successful and no issues are found, the bootstrap loader will load the operating system for the computer into memory. The computer will then be able to quickly access, load, and run the operating system.

The bootstrap loader has been replaced in computers that have an Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) and is now part of the EFI BIOS.

Also see: Boot, BOOTP, EFI, MBR, Operating system terms, VBR