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You Made Your Bootable Floppy, But Wait! There's More!

Bootable Floppy but do you have a drive to run it in?

You have your bootable floppy now you need some utilities to actually do stuff with it.

Ok, here is a short list of things you can do with a one:

  • Create a partition on a hard drive
  • Format the partition on a hard drive
  • Check the structure of the partition on a hard drive
  • Scan the hard drive for viruses
  • Clean a virus from the hard drive
  • Do benchmark testing
  • Run diagnostics at the hardware level
  • Attach to a network server

Run DOS based programs such as:

  • Spreadsheets
  • Text editors
  • Hex editors
  • Compile programs
  • Use network connected Applications
  • Test the hardware
  • Use a modem
  • Play a Game!

But for the most part using DOS is a little boring, don't get me wrong I have used DOS to fix a lot of problems.

The problem is that most of those programs are gone now, I did a search for a program for a customer of my e-book  where he wanted to know how to access a Windows NTFS partition from DOS.

The programs I found were to large to fit a bootable floppy, 1.6 and 1.8 meg, a floppy only has space for 1.44 meg of files. Presents a small problem, no?

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If you are using a floppy yes, but who says you have to use a floppy? Why not use one of those old 4, 8, 16 MB or larger pen / flash drives for you bootable device?

Most computers made in the last four years have a USB boot option, yes you may have to go in to the BIOS to set it but the option is there.

I looked at one (I have several, always have a back up!) pen drive, an old SanDisk 32 MB and with all the files for DOS on it the space used is less than 20 mega bytes, that leaves me 12 MB to put other programs.

You are saying wow! 8 MB isn't very much space, ah but DOS programs are very small, the largest amount of memory that a DOS program can occupy is less than 600 K (Kilobytes!). Remember the DOS environment is 640 K with a 340 K of high mem. Quoting a famous CEO: "You will NEVER need more than 640 K of memory in a computer!" Ya, right, then he helped write Windows 3... Bill Gates.

What you do is using Windows File Manager or Explorer you format your floppy and be sure to check the box where it says "Create an MS-DOS startup disk", then the format program will format the disk, write the boot sector, add the startup files. Cool.

You now have a bootable floppy.

Then (What? You say your computer doesn't have a floppy drive? Well that presents a problem, no? - Use a floppy drive emulator or Virtual Floppy to mount your Bootable Floppy) using a program such as Win To Flash to make your USB drive bootable with the boot floppy as the source for the boot files.

Once you have you USB drive bootable then add all the files you think you would need to do things in DOS such as the list above.

Which brings me back to the program that I would use to check a Windows volume from DOS: NTFSDOS

Back in the day before Microsoft bought a lot of small successful business there were programs that would fit on a floppy that you could use to access a NTFS partition, make an image of a NTFS partition, replace a damaged NTFS partition and they all fit on a floppy, maybe only one program on a floppy but it was a floppy that had 1.44 MB of storage.

Those programs are hard to find such as:

Ghost 3, 4, and 5 (version 6 was a Microsoft product)

Winternals, there were a lot of small programs that could access a NTFS partition or boot in to a Pre installation environment to fix problems with the Windows NT / 2000 / XP / Windows 7 installation.

These programs are tools that any good Systems Admin ( see my IT Tool Box) would have with them at all times to fix different problems that would arise when people did stupid things to their Operating System environment.

And now I eat some crow: I said awhile back that you couldn't make a DOS Boot Disk (Bootable Floppy) with Windows 7, I was in error because you can format a disk and put the MS DOS boot files on the disk. My error was in that I was using the free Demo of Windows 7 when I tested the OS. My apologies if anyone took this for gospel.

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