Driver Search

CD Roms
Sound Cards

Favourite Sites
search for drivers
List & backup your drivers free
Add this search box to your site

Click Here for Device Driver and System Development
Click Here for Device Driver and System Development

FAQ: How do I make a boot disk for Windows 2000/XP

By Tom Cumming


To answer this question fully, I need to start by giving a bit of background. Up until quite recently, the Windows operating system has been based upon an old text-based operating system called MS-DOS. This was true of Windows ME, 98, 95 and everything earlier, but it is not true of any versions of Windows NT, which include Windows 2000 and Windows XP. As MS-DOS dates from before the days when all computers had hard drives, it is possible to load it from a single floppy disk. Microsoft have always encouraged users in their documentation to create such a disk and keep it somewhere safe, so that if something goes wrong with Windows, we can still load MS-DOS using the disk, to gain access to our hard drives, rescue data and try to fix whatever might have gone wrong.

However, when Windows NT arrived, this would not work any more. Firstly, Windows was no longer based on MS-DOS, but more importantly, it used a new disk filing system, NTFS, which MS-DOS does not understand.

So, the traditional MS-DOS based boot disk is nowhere near as useful with Windows NT based machines as they were with other versions. However, they are not completely useless - they still give access to drives other than the hard drive, in order to run Windows setup or other programs from CD-ROM or floppy disk. Plus, the new NTFS filing system is only optional - later versions of Windows can still be installed using the older FAT32 system, though the vast majority of systems do use the new NTFS standard.

Windows XP does still allow us to create the old-style MS-DOS boot disks, for what use they are.
1. Open "My Computer", from the start menu or the desktop icon.
2. Insert a blank high-density floppy disk, or one that has nothing on it that you need.
3. Click on the floppy disk icon with the right mouse button, and select "format" from the drop down menu.
4. In the window that appears, tick the box at the bottom that says "Create an MS-DOS startup disk".
5. Click on Start.

There are also various third party programs that allow MS-DOS to understand the NTFS filing system to a limited extent. See HERE for more information on this.

As I have explained however, these boot disks are not particularly useful in many circumstances. Because of this, Microsoft have provided us with an alternative: the Recovery Console. The Recovery Console is an environment that looks a bit like MS-DOS, has lots of built in commands for fixing dead/dying installations, and built in help facilities so you can look up which command does what. In most circumstances this is the best option, and far more useful than an MS-DOS boot disk.

There are three different ways you can access the Recovery Console:

1. You can boot into the recovery console from the Windows XP CD. Put the CD-ROM in your CD-ROM drive and restart your computer, and you should be given an option to boot from the CD, then to go into the recovery console. However, this option does depend on your system having a CD-ROM drive that can be booted from, and that this feature is turned on. If it does not work, refer to your motherboard manual (and the CD-ROM's specifications) to find out whether your system is capable of booting from the CD-ROM, and if so, how to turn it on. It normally involves a setting in the BIOS to be turned on.

2. If you cannot boot from the CD-ROM, you can boot from floppy disks. However, it takes six disks, and takes quite a long time to load once you have fed them all in, so booting from the CD-ROM is preferable. For instructions on how to do this, see HERE

3. You can also install it on your hard drive, and will be given the option to load it every time your computer starts. For instructions on how to do this (and loads of other useful stuff about the recovery console see HERE You should make sure that you have either (1) or (2) above working as well, as if something goes wrong with your hard drive that causes you to need the recovery console, then you might not be able to use it by this method.

Copyright © 2001-2006 © Copyright Karl Davis.

No part of this site may be reproduced in any format.All documents author acknowledged are copyright retained by the author.

Dead links or Errors ? Please email the Webmaster

Back to Top

Karl's Forums

PC Help
Internet & Telecoms
PC Chat

Virus help and InfoSec

General Chat
Photo Corner
Test Forum

Feedback and Announcements
PC Help Archives