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USB

Make That USB Drive DOS-Bootable

Eulogies

USB Make That USB Drive DOS-Bootable Eulogies It's a fact that any storage device can be

It's a fact that any storage device can be made bootable. We're used to systems booting from hard disks, floppies, CD-ROMs and even DVDs, but it's only recently that the PC's BIOS has supported booting to a USB device. So if the target system doesn't support USB booting then the following won't work. Time to buy a new system. More on checking the BIOS later.

The easiest way to get the boot files for a bootable USB drive is to steal them from a bootable

floppy. So prepare a boot diskette to the desired specification. Note here we are referring to MS

DOS-based

disks,

like

the

venerable

Windows

98SE

Setup

disk

and

others

of

its

ilk.

The next task is to rip the boot files from this floppy, for which I currently have two methods. Method 1 is more akin to treating a USB drive like a bootable floppy and most users will agree that it is the easiest. However I will leave Method 2 (which treats the USB drive like a bootable CD) below for any users who might have a special reason for needing it.

BACK UP ALL DATA ON THE USB DRIVE BEFORE PROCEEDING IT WILL BE DELETED DURING FORMATTING

Method 1

Download HPUSBFW.EXE [432KB] which is a utility from Hewlett Packard for formatting and making bootable USB drives (thanx Millie!). The file requires no installation and is designed for HP equipment, although it ran on all non-HP equipment and drives tested. The original link for the file is here.

Double clicking on the file runs the app

Note the utility automatically detects the USB drive. Select the FAT file system, give it

Note the utility automatically detects the USB drive. Select the FAT file system, give it a Volume label if required, select Quick Format, select Create a DOS startup disk and point the location to a

bootable

 

floppy

 

on

drive

A:\

The

utility

will

format

the

drive

and

copy

the

boot

files io.sys, msdos.sys and

also command.com to the USB drive

the drive and copy the boot files io.sys , msdos.sys and also command.com to the USB

Note that to view these files under Windows Explorer, go to Tools | Folder Options | View tab | Check Show hidden files and folders, uncheck Hide extensions for known file types and uncheck Hide protected operating system files

types and uncheck Hide protected operating system files Add more DOS files and hardware drivers to

Add more DOS files and hardware drivers to the USB drive, as required. Finally configure the PC's BIOS to boot to the USB drive first.

Method 2

This method uses a little utility called MKBT [29KB] from m'mann Bart Lagerweij over at NU2 Productions (top bloke, that Bart). Open a Command Prompt Window (Start | Run | cmd),

navigate

to

the

directory

where

MKBT

was

extracted,

and

type

the

command:

mkbt

-c

a:

bootsect.bin

thus

D:\Downloads\mkbt20>mkbt

 

-c

a:

bootsect.bin

*

Copy

bootsector

 

mode

 

(-c)

D:\Downloads\mkbt20>

 

Note that "a:" represents the drive which holds the bootable floppy. Once the command prompt returns, there will be a boot sector stored in the file bootsect.bin - coolerino!

Preparing the USB drive

Format the thumb drive in the same format as the floppy disk, which is usually just plain old FAT. FAT32 is better, but many USB thumb drives seem to have an aversion to it. The foul deed can be performed through Windows Explorer - remember formatting destroys all data so copy it elsewhere first. Right click the drive letter of the thumbdrive and select the option Format. Choose the file system of choice (i.e. FAT) and click Start. Goodbye files

Copying the boot sector file to the USB drive

Still got that command prompt window open? Good, 'cos we're back in black once again. This time

the

command

is:

mkbt

-x

bootsect.bin

I:

like this

D:\Downloads\mkbt20>mkbt

-x

bootsect.bin

i:

*

Expert

mode

(-x)

*

Warning

different

filesystem

ID

Size=0bytes

OEM="(=_[sIHC"

VolLabel="NO

NAME"

FileSys=""

D:\Downloads\mkbt20>

 

Don't stuff up the drive letter which is shown above as I:. Yours is likely to be different. All being well, after the smoke has cleared you will have a bootable boot sector on your thumbdrive.

The Last Bit

the equivalent

of io.sys, msdos.sys and command.comall in one neat little .bin file, just like a bootable CD-ROM really. Now add any further usefulexternal DOS command files and utilities and any required drivers. Note that if the donor boot floppy had an autoexec.bat or any other batch (*.bat) files or

The

above

has

basically

given

the

USB

drive

)

and change any commands to the latter. Any reference directly to the A: drive will screw things up

big-time during boot 'cos it won't be the A: drive any more.

a config.sys, check if these files are using absolute paths (i.e. A:\

)

or relative paths (i.e. \

The Last Last Bit (promised BIOS check)

Reboot the computer and go into the BIOS. Such entry is usually granted to those few who can successfully remember the required special keyboard sequence, usually "Del", but popular variations include "F1", "F2", "Insert", "F10" or using all your fingers and toes at once. A bit like Twister but much less fun, especially if you're just playing with yourself

But moving right along, look for a BIOS setting referring to the Boot Order or something similar. For some reason many BIOS's refer to USB/thumb drive as a "USB Removable Floppy Disk" or

"USB Zip Disk" or maybe you will find a uniquely creative variation. Anyway this is the one to be

first

in

the

boot

list.

If, despite your best efforts and considerable fiddling, your PC's BIOS does not seem to support booting to USB, you could check to see if there's an update for the BIOS chip which would confer this functionality. However note that flashing a BIOS is fraught with danger and if not perfomed

exactly as instructed, can result in a thoroughly cactussed BIOS chip (I know, I've been there and

so

have

a

few

chums

-

no

names

of

course.

Ian.)

Have

fun

USB

booting!

of course. Ian.) Have fun USB booting! - A. Put 30.01.2006 | Rev 17.12.2009 | Refresh

- A.

Put 30.01.2006 | Rev 17.12.2009 | Refresh Page |

of course. Ian.) Have fun USB booting! - A. Put 30.01.2006 | Rev 17.12.2009 | Refresh