(updated 12/17/2012)

Creating a bootable USB flash drive...

Many modern computers do not come with a floppy drive, making it difficult to make certain simple DOS-level repairs or perform other useful tasks from a bootable floppy disk, like making small DOS-accessible repairs on a failed operating system, or perhaps running a program like Ghost to clone a hard drive.

As incidental compensation, many of these modern computers (2006 and newer, say) have motherboards with the ability to boot readily from a CD, or external USB or SATA hard drive, or from a USB flash drive.

Two interesting possibilities possibilities arise from having a bootable flash drive: 1) installing an operating sytem on a flash drive, and 2) making repairs and running utilities from a portable USB-bootable device.

Regarding the former...

I'm not yet sure what the benefit would be of having a flash drive with an operating sytem like Windows on it - perhaps some experimentation would be warranted.

Regarding the latter...

Having a bootable flash drive with appropriate tools and common operating system files on it might facilitate tasks such as replacing corrupt or missing boot files, or making "ghosted" copies of a hard drive.


Creating a bootable USB device is relatively easy, if you have a flash drive, a floppy drive in your system, and a bootable floppy disk. (I used an external USB floppy drive and a system disk that I created in it.)

To create a system disk... In Windows XP, open Windows Explorer. Right-click on the floppy drive icon. Choose Format. Choose "Create an MS-DOS startup disk". Insert a usable floppy disk and click Start. The process takes a few minutes.

Note: it is also possible to download system files for all kinds of diferent operating systems from Bootdisk.com. These files can be downloaded and used in the process in lieu of having, or making, a boot disk.

Download HP's USB Disk Storage Tool from any of many Internet sources (search for SP27608.exe) or download here. Install and run the program. You should see this...

Then this...

And, when done, something like this...

To view what you have done, open the flash drive in Windows Explorer. Expect this...

Add whatever you think you might need when you will boot to this device in practice. Add whatever other files you might need as you discover a need for them.


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