How to Really Create a Startup Disk

Oct 30


Stephen Bucaro

Stephen Bucaro

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How to Really Create a Startup Disk

By Stephen Bucaro

Most people don't consider creating a Startup Disk until
their computer fails to start - then it's too late. A
startup disk will not start Windows, but it will start
your computer in DOS. The most common reasons for a
computer not starting are corrupted files, missing files,
or configuration problems. You can use a Startup Disk to
replace the files or restore the computers configuration.

If your operating system is Windows XP or Windows 2000, it
isn't bootable. With these systems, you use an Emergency
Repair Disk that works with the systems built-in repair
functions. This article focuses on Windows 9x/Me systems.

When you create a Startup Disk, Windows needs to gather
some important system files, so you may be required to
insert your Windows CD. To create a Startup Disk select
Start | Settings | Control Panel. Open the Add/Remove
Programs utility and select the "Startup Disk" tab.
Click on the "Create Disk" button. You will be prompted
to insert a floppy disk into the drive.

=>Windows 95 Users

Note: If your operating system is Windows 95, you will be
missing one important file on your Startup Disk. When
Windows 98 creates a Startup disk, it includes a generic
IDE/ATAPI CD ROM driver on the disk. Windows 95 does not.
On the Startup disk you will need a DOS "real-mode" driver,
not the virtual device driver used while running under
Windows 95.

Windows 95 users will have to locate their CD ROM driver.
At the top of the C: drive, locate a file named config.sys
and open it in Notepad. A line in this file should identify
the name of your CD ROM driver. The drivers file name will
end with a .sys extension, for example NEC_IDE.SYS.

If you cannot determine the name of your real mode CD ROM
driver here, you may have to look on the floppy disk or CD
ROM that came with your Drive or check your computer
manufacturers Web site.

You will also need a copy of the DOS CD ROM driver called
MSCDEX.EXE. This file should be located in your
WindowsCommand folder. Place a copy of both of these
files on your Startup disk.

Next, use Notepad to open the file config.sys on your
startup disk and add the following line, replacing the
name of the driver file shown with the actual name of your
driver. Then save the file.


Use Notepad to open the file autoexec.bat on your Startup
disk. If the disk does not have an autoexec.bat file,
create one. In the autoexec.bat file add the line shown
below. Then save the file.


Now when you boot from the startup disk, your real-mode CD
ROM driver will automatically be installed, allowing you
to read the CD in DOS.

=> Copy These Special Files to Your Startup Disk

On all Windows 9x/Me systems you should copy the important
configuration files system.dat and user.dat from your
Windows folder to your startup disk. First make sure your
system is configured to show hidden files: In Windows
Explorer View menu select the View tab and check the Show
All Files radio button.

The file system.dat is a database for your computer's
hardware. The file user.dat is a database for user
settings. These two files combine to form the elusive
Windows Registry.

The configuration files config.sys, autoexec.bat (directly
under C:), win.ini and system.ini (in the Windows folder)
are legacy files for compatiblility with Windows 3.1. They
are not required for Windows 95 and higher, but if you
find them on your computer it may be because you are
running some older 16 bit software. If you find any of
them on your computer, place a copy on your startup floppy

=> Test Your Startup Disk

When you have completed your Startup Disk, you should test
it. To do that, restart your computer with the floppy disk
in the drive. After your computer starts, you should end
up with the A: prompt on the screen. If it doesn't work,
check the boot order configuration in your computers BIOS
setup. Make sure that the floppy drive is the first boot

Windows 98 displays a menu allowing you to select to start
with or without CD support. It then creates a RAM drive
and assigns it the first avalable drive letter. Therefore,
the drive designation of your CD ROM drive may be different.
The same files available on a Windows 95 startup disk are
then expanded to the RAM drive.

Place any CD ROM disc in your CD ROM drive and type in D:
(or whatever letter is assigned to your CD drive). You
should get the D: prompt. If you get the D: prompt, type
in DIR. You should get a list of the contents of the CD in
the drive.

If your Startup disk worked okay, you now have the
capability to start the computer from the floppy drive in
DOS mode. You may not totally understand how to use the
files on your Startup Disk to restore your computer, but
a technician who helps restore your computer will be glad
you saved them.
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