Make a Bootable USB drive
With the demise of the floppy disk we turned to CDs and DVDS for booting up and installing operating systems. While optical discs are still useful, a bootable USB drive offers the ultimate in flexibility and increasing capacity.
The decision to make your USB drive bootable depends on what you want to do with it. There are a multitude of apps that can run from a booted USB drive including file recovery, password hacking, disk partitioning and imaging utilities.
With the arrival of live CD/DVD discs, whole operating systems can now also be run from a USB drive. The first and main decision is what operating system to install onto the USB and this generally boils down to variations of DOS or Linux. This article covers making a DOS-bootable USB drive. DOS still has its uses..
DOS on USB
If you don't need a full blown graphical user interface - or don't have much room on your USB drive - then DOS is a good way to go. You will need a utility to make the USB bootable such as the Bootable USB Drive Creator Tool and the boot files, either FreeDOS or MS-DOS.
Extract the zip files and note that the Boot Drive Creator will format your USB drive, deleting all exisiting files, so copy all essential files from the USB drive to a backup source and copy them back afterwards.
- Select File system - FAT32 and give the drive a name if required
- Select Quick Format if you're sure your USB drive doesn't need a full format
- Click Create Bootable Drive and use the dotted button to point to the folder containing the extracted boot files
- Click Start
When the utility is finished the USB drive will contain the boot files. The drive can otherwise be used as normal and any backed up files can be copied back.
Although older computers did not allow booting to a USB drive, all new systems support USB booting. On boot-up, look for a menu option, such as F8 to select the bootable USB device. Alternatively the USB drive can be prioritised to boot from within the system BIOS settings.
Note that you can't just copy the boot files to a USB in the usual way. Some kind of bootable USB drive creator tool is required to place the boot files in a specific physical location on the USB drive (the boot sector) where they will be found by the host system.
The MS-DOS files used are a version called DOS7 which came with Windows 9.x versions. The boot file IO.SYS contains an embedded bitmap image of Windows98 which flashes up on boot. To prevent this from happening, manually copy the file LOGO.SYS from the extracted MS-DOS boot files directory to the root of the bootable USB drive.
Further menus, drivers and options can be included on the USB drive - see below.
DOS and USB Articles