(updated 12/16/2012)

To make a "system disk" for DOS 6.x and Windows 3.1x machines...

For hard drives that have been setup without the use of Disk Manager software, which compensates for incompatibility issues between operating systems, hard drives and BIOSes, follow this procedure...

1) In Windows FILE MANAGER, choose "Disk", then "Format Disk", then "Make System Disk" to format a 3½" diskette "with the system". Outside of Windows, use the FORMAT command. At the C: prompt, type FORMAT A: /S to accomplish this.

2) With this done, copy the following files from the C: drive to the same floppy : SYS.COM, FORMAT.COM, FDISK.EXE, HIMEM.EXE, EDIT.COM, and perhaps SCANDISK.EXE. Use FILE MANAGER in Windows or the COPY command at the C: prompt to accomplish this.

3) Go to the next section to follow steps 3 through 8. Be sure to read the important information in the notes.

To make a "system disk" for Windows 95, 98 and Millennium Edition machines...

For hard drives that have been setup without the use of Disk Manager software, which compensates for incompatibility issues between operating systems, hard drives and BIOSes, follow this procedure...

1) In Windows EXPLORER, right-click on the A: drive (with usable disk inserted), choose FORMAT and format a diskette with the "Copy system files" option. Outside of Windows, use the FORMAT command. At the C: prompt, type FORMAT A: /S to accomplish this.

2) With this done, copy the following files from the C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND directory to the same floppy : SYS.COM, FORMAT.COM, FDISK.EXE, HIMEM.EXE, EDIT.COM, and perhaps SCANDISK.EXE. Use EXPLORER in Windows or the COPY command at the C: prompt to accomplish this.

3) Using NOTEPAD.EXE in Windows, or the EDIT command in DOS, open and read C:\CONFIG.SYS and C:\AUTOEXEC.BAT, to identify any other files that should be on the system disk. These other files may be those required for a video card, sound card or mouse. Limit your selection to only those drivers that need be loaded on startup for basic funtionality in DOS. References to components of WINDOWS can be ignored : these references can be restored by re-installing WINDOWS.

4) Make a copy of the machine's C:\AUTOEXEC.BAT and C:\CONFIG.SYS files on the system disk. Make a second copy of AUTOEXEC.BAT on the system disk (called AUTO), and a second copy of CONFIG.SYS (called CONFIG) for potential use later.

5) Open the newly-created A:\AUTOEXEC.BAT and A:\CONFIG.SYS using either NOTEPAD.EXE or EDIT.COM and take out the C: drive path references to any commands which have them. For example, change a line like "C:\WINDOWS\MSCDEX.EXE /D:CDROM001" to read "A:\MSCDEX.EXE /D:CDROM001".

6) For a CDROM to be accessible in DOS, you will absolutely need MSCDEX.EXE and the CDROM driver (perhaps OAKCDROM.SYS). Make sure copies of these files are on your system disk. Check to see that you have a statement like this in your CONFIG.SYS file which will load your CDROM driver: DEVICE=A:\OAKCDROM.SYS /D:CDROM001 (where OAKCDROM.SYS is the filename of the CDROM driver, and CDROM001 will be the system's internal device/drive name for your CDROM). The companion statement, which must also be present, is found in your AUTOEXEC.BAT file: A:\MSCDEX.EXE /D:CDROM001. The device/drive name must be identical in both statements (CDROM001, in this case) for the drive to be made available.

7) If the last line in AUTOEXEC.BAT invokes Windows, "REM" it out by adding "REM " at the beginning of that line. This way you will be held in DOS until you wish to proceed further.

Note : for a "clean" boot with CDROM access only, you need only have the CDROM driver statements in CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT active. No other statements are required - especially for such operations as re-formatting the hard drive or reinstalling Windows.

8) Test the system disk by first changing the BIOS BOOT DEVICE in your BIOS to be the A: drive and by having the disk in your floppy drive when you "warm boot" or "cold boot" your system. Your system should start, and sequentially load all the necessary drivers, then be waiting at the "A:\" prompt for you to issue your next command. If you have been successful, make a copy of this disk and keep both of them handy in case something happens that keeps your machine from booting normally from the hard drive. Remember to restore the BIOS BOOT DEVICE choice to be the C: drive once you are done.

For hard drives setup with Disk Manager software, run the Disk Manager software and follow the instructions for creating a boot disk there. Skip step one. Be forewarned that, due to differences in structure and format, a hard drive set up with Disk Manager will not be as manageable through the use of the standard Microsoft low level access programs like FDISK.EXE, SYS.COM or FORMAT.COM. Making changes with these programs may cause you to lose all the data on the hard drive.

Note : to access the BIOS in a modern clone, start it and hit DEL when prompted. If you miss the prompt, the PC will simply load your OS and you will have to try again. (Tapping on the DEL key while you start the PC will usually get you where you want to go.) If you are using an Intel motherboard, try F2 instead of DEL. If your machine is different somehow, and you see no prompt and have no documentation, you may have to experiment to figure out what the BIOS entry key is. F1, F2, F3, F10 and the combinations CTRL-ALT-ESC and CTRL-ALT-S are popular BIOS entry keys.


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