A boot disk will allow you to boot off a diskette instead of your hard drive, as it normally happens. This can be used to solve various issues and errors, but can also be helpful if you want to load older MS-DOS games.
Do not confuse this diskette with the restore CD or disc you may have received together with your computer. Also, it’s a good idea to write-protect the diskette in order to prevent any malicious software from infecting it.
Creating a Windows 95 boot disk
To create a Windows 96 boot diskette, go to Start -> Settings -> Control Panel. Double-click the Add/Remove programs icons, then click the startup disk and create disk.
How to create a Windows 98 and ME boot disk
You can use Windows to easily create a boot diskette, providing you with all the files you need, as well as CD-ROM support. To create a Windows 98 or ME boot diskette, go to Start -> Settings -> Control Panel. Double-click the Add/Remove programs icon, and once again click the startup disk and create disk.
How to copy additional files
Go to DOS and type the following command: cd\dos to get to the DOS directory. Now insert a diskette, ideally one which doesn’t contain any other files (they will be deleted anyway!).
Now type the following:
FORMAT A:/S (if you are running MS-DOS 6.2, Windows 3.x, Windows 95, Windows 98)
FORMAT A: /360 /S (if you are running MS-DOS 5.0 Type using double density 5.25″ diskettes)
FORMAT A: /4 /S (if you are running MS-DOS 3.11 through 4.0 using double density 5.25″ diskettes)
After the diskette has been formatted and the system has been transferred, you can expect to be taken back to the original directory. Once there, type:
copy format*.* a: [Hit Enter]
copy fdisk*.* a: [Hit Enter]
copy mscdex*.* a: [Hit Enter]
copy sys*.* a: [Hit Enter]
copy edit*.* a: [Hit Enter]
copy qbasic*.* a: [Hit Enter] (If you’re running Win 95/98 you can skip this step)
copy debug*.* a: [Hit Enter]
copy himem*.* a: [Hit Enter]
copy emm386*.* a: [Hit Enter]
If you want to use this diskette in order to load games or you think you are going to need to use a mouse, you will have to copy the mouse driver on the boot diskette. The MS-DOS mouse driver is called mouse.com or mouse.sys.
After copying the files mentioned above, create an autoexec.bat and a config.sys file. Now go to the floppy drive by typing A: and once there type the following:
copy con autoexec.bat [Hit Enter]
@echo off [Hit Enter]
LH A:\MSCDEX.EXE /D:CDROM [Hit Enter] (this command is used for your CD-ROM drive).
LH A:\MOUSE.* [Hit Enter] (skip this command if you did not copy the mouse file; the * stands for either sys or com).
Now press [Ctrl] + [Z] – this should return ^Z. After this appears on the screen, press Enter to copy the file. With this final step you should now have a bootable floppy diskette.
How to create a Windows NT boot disk
In order to do this you need to have access to the i386 directory, which you can find either on your Windows NT CD, or on your hard drive.
First of all, format the floppy diskette you wish to turn into a bootable Windows NT boot disk using the Windows NT computer.
Next, copy boot.ini, ntdetect.com, and ntldr onto the diskette you’ve just formatted.
Note that, if you are using any SCSI devices you think you need access to, you will also need to load their respective drivers to the diskette.
How to create a Windows 2000 boot disk
This time you will need not one, but four 1.44MB diskettes, as well as the Windows 2000 Professional CD.
Go to Start -> Run, and browse to the CD-ROM drive. Now open the BOOTDISK folder, double-click makeboot.exe, and hit OK to start the process of creating the diskette.
You might also want to create an Emergency Repair Disk, which you can do by going to Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools, and finally opening Backup. From this window, click the button which reads Emergency Repair Disk and follow the instructions from there.
How to create a Windows XP boot disk
The Windows XP CD is a bootable CD, so most of the times you will not even need to use a bootable floppy diskette. This means you can use the Windows XP CD to not only (re)install Windows XP, but also for troubleshooting. Nevertheless, in case you will find use for it, here’s how to create a Windows XP bootable diskette:
First, place a diskette into the computer. Then open My Computer, right-click the A: drive and hit Format. Once the window opens, check Create an MS-DOS startup disk and then click Start.
Microsoft has also made downloads available for users who need to create bootable diskettes to install Windows XP, which you can find here.
How to use a boot diskette
The steps outlined below show you how to actually use the boot diskette you’ve just created.
Start by placing the diskette in write-protect mode, which will prevent any viruses present on your computer to infect it. Then insert the diskette into the computer and either restart it or turn it on to begin the boot process. Answer any questions prompted while the computer is booting. Then, at the A:\>, take whatever actions necessary to fix the issue with your computer.