How To Make a Win 95 or 98 Boot Disk and
"What Programs/Files Should Be On It?"


If you’ve found yourself in the highly unlikely circumstance of being able to download files from one type of computer, but have no access at all to the type you need to make a boot disk for, then visit this following link.  An excellent source of boot disks for all Windows™ platforms, etc., is this web site:  All Boot Disks .


[ 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 utility 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 has/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 utility 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 your Desktop:

[ 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 utility 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! ]


  • Place a floppy disk in your floppy drive. ( Make sure there are NO files on it that you want to keep!  Any files on the floppy disk will be erased.)

  • Open "My Computer" from its icon on the Desktop.

  • In the window that opens, double-click on the icon for the A:\ drive; usually labeled: "3½ Floppy (A:)"

    At this point, you will see either:

    a.  A Dialog box that reads: "The disk in drive A is not formatted. Do you want to format it now"?
    If you do see this dialog box, press the "Yes" button and skip to step  #4  below.   or :

    b.  A window either with nothing in it or the names of some files you forgot were on the disk. (If it’s OK to erase these files, just leave them. If you want to save them, you’ll have to copy them elsewhere. If you decide to change the disk, close the window and start over again!)

    When you’re ready to erase anything that might be on the disk, proceed as follows: Back up to the previous display (use the yellow folder button with an ’up arrow’ on the toolbar or press the BACKSPACE key). Once you’re at the top level of "My computer" again, highlight the "3½ Floppy(A:)" icon (only ONE click), click on "File" and select the word "Format" from the menu that pops up.

  • You should now see a window like this one:

    Format


    Make the selections shown in the illustration above, then press the "Start" button. The progress will be displayed in a bar at the bottom of the window.

    Finally, you’ll see a window similar to this one (if you had the "Display summary when finished" box checked ) :

    Results


    The algorithm for assigning a ’serial number’ to a disk makes use of the system’s time and date, so it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever see the same serial number!

    Furthermore, I was using a Windows 98 installation for this display. If your system files have the same date/time as mine, then the values shown above for ’bytes used by system files’ and ’bytes available on disk’ should be the same too.

    All the other values should be the same regardless of which Windows version you are using.
    After your floppy disk was formatted, the following system files should have been installed on it:
      IO.SYS, MSDOS.SYS, COMMAND.COM and DRVSPACE.BIN .

    [ If you don’t have "Show all files" checked (under"View" -->"Options" in either My Computer or the file Explorer), then you won’t see any ’hidden’ .SYS files listed].

    (Note: Since I never use the Drive Space program to compress  drives, I always delete  or rename  the DRVSPACE.BIN file on my boot disks.¹ )

  • Testing the Boot Disk:

    • Leave your new Boot Disk in the floppy drive.
    • Shut Down " Windows™ making sure to select the option " Restart the computer?" before pressing the " Yes" button, or whatever method you would normally use to shut-down Windows and re-boot your computer.
    • After the usual messages from your BIOS are displayed, you should see the line: "Starting Windows 95 (or 98)..." on your screen. (Don’t be fooled by this misnomer! What your computer is really booting at this point is only a    D isk O perating S ystem similar to MS-DOS 6.22 for those of you who remember that. This phrase, however, is actually produced by code within the IO.SYS file.) This will eventually be followed by:

      Microsoft(R)    Windows 95 (or 98)
       (C)Copyright  Microsoft Corp 1981-1996 (or 1998).


      When you see " A:\>" on your screen, you’ll know that the boot disk has worked correctly; you are now at a real DOS prompt on the A:\ drive, and all of the "internal" DOS commands  are available for you to use.  (A more suitable and accurate title for this version of DOS would be: MS-DOS 7.)

      As an example of the type of commands you can execute at this prompt, try the following :   dir /a  (don’t forget to press the ENTER key!) to see a list of all the files on the floppy disk -- including the hidden system files.  But in order for your boot disk to be of any practical help to you, we must add many of the DOS "external" commands to it as well! These are separate program files in your COMMAND folder.

    • Another item you should know about your computer is whether or not you have the files CONFIG.SYS and/or AUTOEXEC.BAT on your hard drive. Do you know? If not, carry out this simple procedure:

      At the DOS prompt, enter :   dir c:\config.sys   Was it listed? Now look for the batch file. Enter :   dir c:\autoexec.bat  ( If either of these files appears to be absent, you might want to check the spelling just to make sure!) These files were essential to the operation of MS-DOS and Windows 3.1, but are not necessary to boot many recent Windows™ 95/98 machines. The Registry now lists most of the .SYS, .DLL and other files that Windows needs to load in order to run.

    • Getting back to Windows™: Unfortunately, the makers of Win 95/98 apparently didn’t want the average person to run Windows after booting from a floppy! Why? I really don’t know! If you ever used Windows 3.1 or 3.11, you should know it’s very easy to start Windows 3.x from any boot-up routine by simply executing win.com at the DOS prompt. If you try that with a standard Win 95 floppy boot disk, you might see a fleeting message saying the "Registry File was not found". But then a BLUE SCREEN (A.K.A. "BSOD" or Blue Screen Of Death) will appear stating " System halted". So, don’t even bother trying this. THERE IS A WAY TO DO IT, if you’re really interested!


    [This section is only for those interested in the technical details of booting Windows from a floppy! New computer users should skip down to the next section: "Remove the boot disk..." ]
    Here’s the answer:
    Make a copy  of the file MSDOS.SYS found in the Root Directory of your computer’s hard drive. Edit the copy (It’s a TEXT file even though the extension is .SYS, so you can use NOTEPAD on it) so the following lines under the " [Options] " section have these values:

    BootMenu=1   ( This makes the Win 95 boot menu appear. )
    BootGUI=0     ( These lines make sure you ...
    BootWin=0       ... don’t boot directly into Windows. )
    BootMenuDefault=5 (or 6)    (This must be the "Command Prompt Only" item on the boot menu.)

    If you can’t find one of these option lines in the copy you made, then add it to the file. Save the file and copy it to your boot floppy disk. Change the name of this file on your floppy back to MSDOS.SYS and make sure the  attributes  of the file are: READ-ONLY, ARCHIVE, HIDDEN and SYSTEM. This can be done at a DOS-Window prompt using the ATTRIB program. Just enter:

    ATTRIB   +R +A +S +H   A:\MSDOS.SYS     at the DOS prompt.
    I’ve made a copy of  my own MSDOS.SYS file here  for you to examine. You will notice the line "Logo=0" (sans quotes) in the [Options] section ... this stops the Windows™ Logo from appearing at boot up.

    NOTE. If you do decide to change the MSDOS.SYS file on your floppy Boot Disk, I would recommend having one of each kind: A disk you can use to boot into Windows 95 (or 98) later if all goes well (the special boot disk being described here), _AND_ one that does NOT depend upon any files from the hard drive (a standard  Win 95/98 floppy boot disk.)

    Remove the boot disk from the floppy drive, and press the RESET button. If you don’t have a Reset, then press down and hold one of the two sets of <CRTL> and <ALT> keys and then press the <DEL> (Delete) key before releasing all three! This is called a "warm boot" and it saves you the trouble of having to power-down, wait a few moments and power-up again. (I don’t want anyone accusing me of telling them to flip that switch as fast as they can!)

    If your computer becomes "hung up" (due to a program crash or memory overrun) it often ’locks-up’ the keyboard as well. Thus, making it necessary to power-down before restarting (this is called a "cold boot").

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   **
 FDISK.EXE   *
 FORMAT.COM   *
 SYS.COM   *
 MSCDEX.EXE   * (for a CD-ROM Drive)
 EDIT.COM   *
 EDIT.HLP  
 REGEDIT.EXE *
 ATTRIB.EXE   *
 SCANDISK.EXE
 SCANDISK.INI   
 DEBUG.EXE  
 CHKDSK.EXE  
 DOSKEY.COM  
 DELTREE.EXE  
 DISKCOPY.COM  
 MODE.COM  
 MOVE.EXE  
 EMM386.EXE  M*
 HIMEM.SYS   M*
 MEM.EXE  
 ATAPI_CD.SYS    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! )

Note:  Do   NOT  place the following characters or letters in the boot disk files:  *,  * (for a CD-ROM Drive),  **,  M*,  C* (CD-ROM driver),  these are for reference only.


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 you  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 the 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):

2 CONFIG.SYS
===============
DEVICE=HIMEM.SYS /TESTMEM:ON
device=emm386.exe ram /noems
DOS=HIGH,UMB
DEVICEHIGH=ATAPI_CD.SYS /D:MSCD001 /P:1E8


AUTOEXEC.BAT
===============
@ECHO OFF
MSCDEX.EXE /D:MSCD001 /E /L:D /M:8
PROMPT $e[1;40;33m$p ...


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 an assortment 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 These two files are for reference only.